George Steinbrenner: The man who built the Yankees

Steinbrenner started the wave of high spending for players in free agency, and continued to spend freely through the Yankees’ revival in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, passed away on Tuesday 13th July after suffering a heart attack. He was 80. Steinbrenner’s death ended the longest period of active ownership in baseball; more than 37 years. During his tenure the Yankees won seven World Series championships and 11 pennants, the latest coming last season when victory over the Philadelphia Phillies secured the championship and generated a reported US$60 million for the New York City economy. As well as becoming the most successful $     Š  2:  <# Baseball expanded the playoffs in 1995, the 6”          /‹ $   /‘ Š 4%  over the growth of the Yankees into the most famous sports brand in the world. Remarkably he bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for only US$8.7 million; latest # ##      ;4Ÿ billion with the next closest organisation in baseball, the Boston Red Sox, valued at US$870 million. Though Steinbrenner insisted when he bought the team that he would not be active in the day-to-day operations of the Yankees, he ended up becoming perhaps the most active owner in the history of sports. In the process of building the Yankees franchise into its current lofty position, Steinbrenner pioneered several sports business practices now seen as commonplace in the industry. In the 1980s, he started the Yankees hat day, a promotional giveaway that Steinbrenner saw as a simple marketing technique, through which he could send thousands of fans back on to the streets of New York City wearing his team’s logo. It was a phenomenal success, proved to this day by the way that Yankees merchandise has % $  $     #  5 York, commonly worn by visitors to the city from all corners of the world who have no interest in or knowledge of baseball. Not for nothing did Harvey Schiller, the longtime sports industry executive who worked with Steinbrenner, call him “an absolutely fabulous promoter”. GEORGE STEINBRENNER: THE MAN WHO BUILT THE YANKEES Yankee Stadium paid tribute to George Steinbrenner, the man who had masterminded its construction adjacent to the franchise’s old ballpark, on Friday 16th July OBITUARY | BASEBALL SportsPro Magazine | 39 Steinbrenner started the wave of high spending for players in free agency, and continued to spend freely through the Yankees’ revival in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In /’’/!  6”-   ;4Ÿ> $   was only slightly above the league average. Since that time, the franchise has pursued the biggest names in baseball, and, at the time of / (# ?!     #     2<9    ! $   %  Alex Rodriguez, whose US$33 million salary this season would have exceeded any team’s   :   #  /   $”  /   season that the Yankees have had the highest   2<9 + 6”-  &$ ;4Ÿ/ $    $   ! and the team paid out millions in luxury tax and revenue-sharing with small-market teams. Under Steinbrenner it was not unusual for the Yankees to outspend the poorest teams in  2<9 %  $      &  •  !  !  6”     2  /7   Steinbrenner found new and lucrative  $  $ %    !    #$    2  4  * š24*›  ”  !  ! with the creation of the Yankees’ own YES network, a regional sports network which broadcast its games. The franchise also engineered lucrative marketing deals, notably a 10-year, US$95 million apparel agreement with Adidas in 1997. “George took the franchise and absolutely globalised it,” said Jeff Idelson, Hall of Fame president and a former Yankees media relations director. “And I think about values like work ethic and accountability that were paramount when I was there and always were  $•    %#   -   taken with me.” 6” 4$   $:  renovation in the mid-1970s, but that did not satisfy Steinbrenner who frequently complained about its crumbling appearance and lack of revenue-potential, especially in comparison to ballparks being erected elsewhere by rival franchises. He looked  %   5 0  2! % ultimately built a US$1.5 billion stadium in the Bronx, alongside the original stadium. 5 6” 4$   ’ Predictably it set new standards. Steinbrenner often admitted himself that he ruled his franchise through fear. “Some guys can lead through real, genuine respect,” he told a Cleveland magazine in 1974, “but I’m not that kind of a leader.” +”     $:    brought to the franchise, Steinbrenner was often portrayed by the media as the head of an ‘evil empire’, since he had the money and power to hoover up the best players in the game. He was also no stranger to controversy. In 1974 he was suspended for two years % 2<9  $$  9  =! after pleading guilty to two charges, on a felony, related to conspiring to making illegal corporate contributions to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. Steinbrenner   ;4Ÿ/‘!      /’’!   2<9  $$ !  Vincent, ordered Steinbrenner to step aside as the Yankee’s managing partner for making a US$40,000 payment to a confessed gambler. He resumed control of the franchise three years later. Despite his earlier statements that he would be a hands-off owner Steinbrenner will also be remembered for his notorious lack of patience with team managers. By 1990, Steinbrenner had switched managers 18 times and hired 13 general managers. In the latter years of his life Steinbrenner, by now in failing health, ceded control of  6”   #  ! Œ Š  $  $  5 $% >  !  began to show his softer side, though his public appearances were increasingly rare. In one of his last, during the opening game at  6” 4$  ’! 4% received a standing ovation as he toured the new venue in a golf cart. “This is a very important thing that we hold the string to,” he said of the Yankees, his voice cracking. “This is the people’s team.” Despite the many controversies and the odd scandal, Steinbrenner will always be remembered for building the Yankees franchise into a fabulously successful and exceedingly lucrative enterprise. Quite simply, he was responsible for building one of the greatest sports franchises the world has ever seen. 38 2010 09 {filedir_26}SportsProMag_issue25_38-39.pdf [8080] [sportspro_september_2010] SportsPro September 2010