The New York Yankees lost a legend today with the death of owner George Steinbrenner. As with everything done by the flamboyant King of New York, he went out in grand fashion on the day of the All Star game and just a few days before the Yankees were to meet for the annual old timers game.
The Boss bought the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million when they were in a streak of mediocrity, rare for the most successful sports franchise in the world, and rebuild the Bronx Bombers into the world champions where they belonged.
Under George the Yankees not only remained the most successful sports franchise in the world, with a value this year of over $1.6 billion, but they added 7 more World Series Championships and 11 American League Championships to their glorious legacy, giving them 27 World Series titles and 40 league championships since they were one of the 8 charter teams of Major League Baseball in 1901.
Hard nosed but loyal to his players, as long as the players were giving 100% effort, George made the Yankees the class act of baseball and the most popular and historic team in baseball history. There is simply no other team in any sport like the Yankees.
I was born a Yankee's fan, even though I lived in Iowa. One of the most fascinating trips in my life was going to NYC during the World's Fair in 1964 and having a press pass to the Yankees dugout. I spent most of two weeks hanging out with the players and watching practice from the dugout and during an Old Timers reunion I even got to meet and take pictures of Yankee legends Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel.
When I worked for the governor of New Jersey in the 1980's I got to be friends with Jersey natives Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto and at one reception even got to meet Steinbrenner. He dominated any room. He set out to rebuild the greatest franchise in baseball and did just that, with his Yankees winning the World Series the last year of his life.
Among the many things few people knew about Steinbrenner was that he paid for the college education of every child of New York City police officers killed in the line of duty and his Yankees Foundation has been involved in many NYC activities.
Yet another Yankee legend was lost just days ago, Bob Sheppard, the famed announcer of the Yankees who was known as the Voice of the Yankees, the Voice of Baseball -- even the Voice of God. Bob spent nearly six decades as the voice of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.