George Steinbrenner suggested years ago that if he died he wanted the following put on his on his tombstone, "He never stopped trying." Sadly, he'll get his wish.
Today Steinbrenner died of a massive heart attack at the age 80 just over a week after his birthday. The leader of the "Evil Empire" New York Yankees without question lived, lead and owned in a massive way.
Steinbrenner once said, "Winning is first, next to oxygen." Steinbrenner, the larger than life owner of the New York Yankees, never stopped trying as he amassed 7 World Series titles in his tenure as the face of the New York Yankees.
When Steinbrenner took over the Yankees in 1973, it was truly a "one man gang." He was "the" man who ruled with an iron fist and consulted with no one. Steinbrenner was nothing short of a dictator who wanted to win right away.
If you look at any owner in modern day sports, what owner has put their team in position to win more than the New York Yankees? Much of that winning came by way of free agency. No other franchise in sports has taken advantage of free agency the way Steinbrenner has.
Personally, there were times I was at odds with bringing so many hired guns at the expense of grooming players in the farm system. But when you look at things in their totality, it was all in the name of winning.
In the 1970's the Yankees racked up two World Series titles in 1977 and 1978 with a cast of characters titled the "Bronx Zoo." Players like Thurman Munson, Craig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Mickey Rivers, Dave Winfield and the flashy Reggie Jackson. Jackson proclaimed himself as "the straw that stirs the drink" and he was.
There was consistent theatre amongst the latter players that were managed by the one of the Yankee true-blue players from back in the day, Billy Martin. Martin is the only manager who stood up to Steinbrenner in a way that he respected. I guess that's why Steinbrenner fired and rehired the venerable Martin a stunning five times.
The decade of the 1980's for the Yankees started with losing the 1981 World Series and finishing last in after 1990 season. Steinbrenner signed mega-star Dave Winfield to a 10-year 23 million dollar contract after the 1980 season. Steinbrenner became disenchanted with Winfield after the star player sued him for not donating a promised $300,000 dollars to Winfield's foundation. Steinbrenner paid a small-time gambler 40,000 to get some "dirt" on Winfield which resulted in him being banned from running the Yankees by Commissioner Fay Vincent for three years.
When Steinbrenner emerged from banishment he was more relaxed. He allowed the personnel he hired to actually do their jobs. He wasn't as hands on as he was when he first acquired the team in 1973.
Even though the 1990's started with the team finishing last, they ended the decade in winning World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Even though the Yankees were in position to win titles after the 2000 season, they failed to win another until last season.
In being a Yankee fan I must say I've not agreed with everything "The Boss" has done from his handling of managers, free agency to being too hands on. But at the end of the day he did it Frank Sinatra style -- he did it his way in the name of winning.
Now he can finally be laid to rest, yet his memory will forever linger in sports as the most competitive owner who never stopped "trying" to "win" until his last breath.