The most influential Yankee of all-time never threw a pitch. Hell, he never even took an at-bat. George M. Steinbrenner III completely revolutionized professional sports and set a blue print for all professional sports owners to follow. To me, George Steinbrenner is the most influential Yankee of all-time and here’s why…
When sports fans think about the New York Yankees, they picture Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. Fans think about dominance, a winning culture, and an ‘evil’ mastermind leading the charge. What most people forget is, that Yankee mystique was completely non-exist during the mid 1960s until the 1970s. For the first time in their history, the Yankees were the bottom feeders of the American League. The team hit rock bottom in 1966 when they finished in last place. Their eight year agony would continue until 1973 when Mr. Steinbrenner bought the team from CBS for a measly $8.4 million dollars. From that moment on, Mr. Steinbrenner changed the culture of the team and brought it back to prominence.
Steinbrenner’s first vision was to renovate the archaic Yankee Stadium. Steinbrenner’s plan came full circle in 1976 when major renovations were completed. With those renovations came a tireless work ethic to field the best possible team in baseball. Steinbrenner got the ball rolling by signing free agent pitcher, Catfish Hunter. Steinbrenner would also add slugging outfielder, Reggie Jackson to the mix and the team claimed their first championship in 16 years during the 1977 season. The Yankees would end up repeating in 1978, but it came with much drama.
The infamous ‘Bronx Zoo’ unfolded between Jackson, Steinbrenner, and Yankee manager, Billy Martin. Steinbrenner would ultimately fire Martin five different times during his Yankee managing career. Steinbrenner’s obsession with winning would cloud his logic, but what more could you ask for form an owner?
The Yankees struggled during the 1980s, but came full circle in 1996. Steinbrenner hired ‘Clueless’ Joe Torre to manage the Yankees. Torre went on to win four World Championships and led the Yankees to the playoffs during every year in his twelve year Yankee career.
Let’s not forget about free agency during the 1990s and 2000s. Steinbrenner’s massive return on his initial Yankee investment allowed him to choose whatever free agents he desired. Players like David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia all helped Steinbrenner collect championships. Steinbrenner also realized the importance of home-grown talent, relishing in the services of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada.
From a business standpoint, Steinbrenner captivated fans with the construction of the present day ‘New Yankee Stadium’ and the inception of the YES Network. Both investments have increased the Yankees overall net worth by two billion dollars while providing comprehensive entertainment. Mr. Steinbrenner was a pioneer in this aspect.
Any person who purchases a professional sports team is very, very wealthy. Each owner has the ability to spend the necessary amount to field a champion. However, a goal and system needs to be in place. Present day, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins have poured in tons of money to their respective teams, but neither has won in over 15 years. Steinbrenner’s vision and desire for perfection has shaped the Yankees into the powerhouse business it is today.
By no means was Mr. Steinbrenner perfect. Yes, he was suspended in 1991. Yes, he did have a rumored affair with Barbara Walters. Hell, he couldn’t even decide on a manager in the 1970s. However, his blue-print for winning is second-to-none.
Present day, we live in a fast-paced society. People want instant answers, instant food, instant success. Before the iPhone, text messaging, or even instant meals came into existence, Mr. Steinbrenner wanted instant winning. He wanted a championship every season. He wanted the best ball players. Ultimately, he wanted fans to have the best experience possible.
So when you are upset that your team isn’t pulling down championships each and every year, thank Mr. Steinbrenner for that ‘Win Now’ and ‘Win Often’ mentality. With every team-based television network that is launched, part of it belongs to Mr. Steinbrenner. Did your team just pull down one of the top free agents? Thank Mr. S. His relentless passion for perfection has forever changed the landscape of sports. It’s the reason why sports are as profitable and enjoyable as they are today.