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National views on Steinbrenner’s legacy

07.13.10 at 12:38 pm ET
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George Steinbrenner was often in the public eye, here posing with Billy Martin (left) and Lou Piniella (right). (AP)

Only nine days after celebrating his 80th birthday on July 4, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack at his home in Tampa, Fla. Steinbrenner’s death also comes just two days after the death of former longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard. Steinbrenner bought the franchise for $8.7 million in 1973 and built it to where it is worth around $1 billion today. Under his reign, the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes that the Yankees were unstable and changing under the rule of Steinbrenner. He feuded with managers and players, such as Reggie Jackson, Lou Piniella, Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles and Sparky Lyle. After his team won back-to-back World Series championship in 1977 and 1978, the Yankees owner compromised the farm system and focused on excessive free agent signings. Nevertheless, even after all of Steinbrenner’s controversial endeavors, he had success and the Yankees became one of the most coveted franchises in all of sports.

The New York Post staff writes that “The Boss” was both loved and loathed. Even though he received negative publicity, he was passionate and committed to winning. He was a unique businessman and pioneered strategies with his innovative mentality. With his health deteriorating, Steinbrenner fell back into the shadows and became less and less involved with franchise operations.

Richard Goldstein of The New York Times writes that Steinbrenner’s “aura endured despite his frailty.” He was one of the most powerful and influential owners in all of sports and liberally spent money on free agents. Steinbrenner made players trim their hair and be clean-shaven when playing for his team. Running the franchise mainly through fear in his earlier days, Steinbrenner mellowed and faded out of the baseball scene as he aged.

Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork writes that Steinbrenner belongs in Cooperstown, for better or worse. It’s impossible to tell the story of the Yankees without mentioning his name alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter. Steinbrenner should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but the last two times the committee met to discuss the qualities needed for a baseball executive to be voted in, his name was not on the ballot. Even though Steinbrenner was not the most popular person in baseball, limiting the Hall of Fame to exemplary human beings would make it an empty place.

Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew, a Yahoo! Sports blog, writes that the shipbuilder from Cleveland was a true American original and the landscape of baseball will be a much less interesting place. Though some of the criticisms of Steinbrenner being egotistical and greedy will be valid, there’s no doubt that he was unorthodox in accomplishing his main goal: winning.

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