The Boss has passed away. For years now, the patriarch of the Yankee family has suffered from a myriad of illnesses that all but rendered him a figment of the past, but still, the passing of George M. Steinbrenner III has hit the baseball world with a great emotional impact.
At the heart of Steinbrenner’s years captaining the Yankees ship was a great love for the historic franchise that he “rescued” from the rocks of neglect in 1973. On July 13, 2010, that heart finally gave out. Only days after the passing of Bob Sheppard marked another symbolic end to an era, the entire curtain has finally come down. The old elephant has finally left the tent.
Over the next several days, weeks and months, the life and times of Steinbrenner will be rehashed, and the final assessment of his legacy will begin. There will be highs and lows to weigh as well as contradictions to reconcile, but through it all, most will agree that there will never be another owner like him.
In a recent biography of Steinbrenner, The Last Lion of Baseball, Bill Madden provided a glimpse into the childhood of Steinbrenner and the often cold relationship he shared with his father. Throughout his childhood and much of his adult life, Steinbrenner strived for his father’s approval, but never found it to be forthcoming. As a result, Steinbrenner adopted his father’s unrelenting and demanding ways, but mollified them with equal parts generosity and sympathy. It was that perverse dichotomy that allowed Steinbrenner to fire an employee one day, and then rehire him with a raise the next. By combining his father’s tough love with the warmth he so often sought, Steinbrenner did more than just build a sports empire, he also built a family.
As the members of that family have passed, the Yankees have almost retreated back to the corporate structure implemented by Colonels Ruppert and Huston during the early days of the team’s ascension to baseball royalty. Although that structure is probably best suited to maintaining the team’s success on the field, the family approach will be missed.
What will always be remembered, however, is the larger than life presence of the Boss, who will take his rightful place alongside the Babe, Larupin’ Lou, Joe D., the Mick and every other legend in Yankees’ history. In fact, the unveiling of a new monument honoring Steinbrenner should be the team’s next course of action. The old Yankee Stadium was the House that Ruth Built, but the new one was undoubtedly the House that Steinbrenner built. Two Georges…two less than perfect men…two larger than life figures…two legends.
Life without the Boss has been a reality for some time now, but still, it feels as if things will never be the same. Hopefully, a posthumous enshrinement in the Hall of Fame will be forthcoming, but that really isn’t necessary to cement his legacy. As a fan growing up in the 1980s, George M. Steinbrenner’s prominence was undeniable. Even when his meddling and short temper worked to the detriment of the team, Yankees fans always knew that he loved the team and, above all else, wanted to win. In that sense, he was more than just the owner…even more than just the Boss…he was a tried and true, die hard Yankee fan. More than any other honor bestowed upon him, that designation seems most fitting, and is probably the one the Boss would welcome most.
With the All Star Game tonight, it seems likely that a large part of the festivities will include a celebration of Steinbrenner’s life. Similarly, the two day break after the game should give the Yankees the chance to send the Boss off with the pomp and circumstances he deserves. No word has been issued about whether he will lay in state at Yankee Stadium, but before the great Bob Sheppard gets the chance to announce his arrival in heaven, Yankees fans should get one last chance to say goodbye.
Rest in peace, Boss, and thanks for taking care of our Mona Lisa.