Book review: Steinbrenner – The Last Lion of Baseball

In 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent booted Steinbrenner out of baseball for two years.

There was a recent Daily Double on the game show JEOPARDY, in the category PARDONER: Ronald Reagan pardoned this owner for illegal campaign contributions in 1989–the Gipper a Yankees fan?

The contestant guessed George Steinbrenner and was, of course, correct. What other owner of that American League franchise could many people name? And which other owner would be in need of Presidential absolution?

Steinbrenner – The Last Lion of Baseball was written by Bill Madden, a well-regarded writer who had a “mostly pleasant working relationship with George in his “capacity as a baseball writer” for UPI and then the New York Daily News. But Madden was furious when he had been fed some bogus story by Steinbrenner about how Lou Pinella, a manager George fired, was trying to steal the furniture.

Steinbrenner was always firing managers, publicity directors, and general managers, who presumably run the day-to-day operations of a team. But it was difficult for all of them because he was a hands-on owner, luring or aggravating the players.

George grew up in Ohio and made his wealth first by reviving the family-owned Kinsman Marine Transit Company, then purchasing it from his family. He later was a co-owner of the American Shipbuilding Company, and, in 1967, he became its chairman and chief executive officer. By 1972, the company’s gross sales were more than $100 million annually.

CBS bought the New York Yankees in 1965, but it was not a good fit. Early in 1973, Steinbrenner, who had tried and failed to buy the Cleveland Indians in 1971, led a group of investors in purchasing the Yankees for $10 million. However, part of the price was two parking garages that CBS bought back the garages for $1.2 million, so the net cost was $8.8 million.

One of my friends recently told me that, though he grew up as a Yankees fan, he changed allegiances, and it was entirely because of the massive amounts Steinbrenner spent in trying to buy championships. I get that. During his 37-year ownership from 1973 to his death in July 2010, the Yankees did earn seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants.

Madden’s book was exceedingly thorough and obviously well researched. I was feeling a bit exhausted, though, about three-quarters of the way through the 430-page book. Oh, yeah, ANOTHER manager fired – he hired and fired former Yankee infielder Billy Martin FIVE times as manager!

Or dissing one of his players; in 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent booted Steinbrenner out of baseball “for having paid a two-bit gambler to dig up dirt on the Dave Winfield Foundation.” George once dubbed Winfield Mr. May for a poor post-season.

In many ways, George Steinbrenner was a loud, pompous, opinionated, stubborn rich fellow who reminded me of a current part-time DC resident. At least George could play the stadium organ. Oh, yeah, Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner for his really minor financial role in the Watergate scandal.

Enjoying Aussie interaction: sports edition

The Blue Jays lead grew to 8-1 in the top of the 7th when Tommy Kahnle from Albany County, NY, the fourth of seven Yankee pitchers, gave up three runs in only 2/3 of an inning.

Making only my second trip to the new Yankee Stadium, Marconi and I took Metro North from Poughkeepsie (halfway between Albany and NYC) to see the New York Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, September 15, 2018. I’ve only known him since September 12, 1971, so not very long.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the two empty seats on the aisle nearest us were filled by this young couple from Australia, in the City for a couple weeks. She was wearing a borrowed Blue Jays top, while he was nominally a Yankees fan.

Soon after they arrived, the Yankees starting pitcher, the usually reliable CC Sabathia, had given up five runs in only 2 1/3 innings, including two solo home runs by right fielder Randal Grichuk. CC was taken out of the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had opportunities to score, twice with the bases loaded, and once with runs on second and third base, but failed to do so. This really deflated the home team crowd.

We, mostly I, since I was closer, answered some of the idiosyncrasies of the game, such as the foul ball rule and how the defensive positions are numbered.

Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 6th, and the female Aussie frowned. “You still have a big lead.” I also coaxed her into acknowledging that he had made a great basket catch over second base.

The Blue Jays lead grew to 8-1 in the top of the 7th when Tommy Kahnle from Albany County, NY, the fourth of seven Yankee pitchers, gave up three runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Toronto had the bases loaded and no outs, and the Aussie guy was savvy enough to know that the situation was still perilous for the Yankees even when the lead runner was thrown out at the plate.

In in the bottom of the 7th, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (I explained the DH) and Gregorious hit solo homers, and pinch hitter Miguel Andújar hit a grand slam. Suddenly Toronto was up by only 8-7, and the Aussie woman fretted. But that’s the way the game turned out.

The scoreboard displayed narratives of what the batters had done earlier in the game. But in the latter stages, it showed scorecard shorthand. F7 meant flying out to the left fielder. The Aussie guy was bemused to know that a forward K meant struck out swinging while a backward K meant struck out looking.

“How do you KNOW these things?” he asked. “I’ve been only going to games since I was eight.” “So 20 years.” HA! A splendid time was had by Aussies and at least these two Americans.

Oh, I was in Washington, DC at the beginning of September. I was starving one muggy evening, and I ended up at a tavern/restaurant. I sat at the bar, got a burger and a drink, and had a nice conversation with an Aussie woman currently working in the US. She mostly bemoaned the leadership of her home country and her current one as we watched the US Open tennis on TV.

January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess

‘I feel like a dime among nickels.’

Abe Vigoda.Spidey

I received one of those recorded scam IRS phone calls this month, threatening to put me in jail. Mine came from the Syracuse, NY area from a known scam phone number.

2015 Was Hottest Year in Recorded History.

No boots on the ground… What does it mean?

Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy: 4,000 Years of Reproductive Rights History.

No relation: The Green brothers explain January 1 and Oregon “militia” Continue reading “January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess”

O is for Old-Timers’ Day

This was the first time I had been in the new Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009 to replace “the house that Ruth built.

willie randolphThe day before Father’s Day, my father-in-law and I took a bus, along with a bunch of other folks, from Oneonta in upstate New York to the Bronx in New York City, NY to see the New York Yankees play a night game versus the Detroit Tigers.

So why did we leave a little after 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game? It was Old-Timers’ Day. Former Yankees come back and get recognized; think of it like a family reunion. There is a certain relational connection, too; six widows of former Yankees were noted as well.

Before that ceremony, fans got a chance to visit Monument Park, beyond the center field fences, where former Yankee greats, such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, are honored with plaques.

It had been long announced that Willie Randolph Continue reading “O is for Old-Timers’ Day”

Sporting news: Earl Weaver, Stan Musial, Lance Armstrong

I’m less distressed by Lance Armstrong’s cheating, and the inevitable lying that he did, but really bothered by the bullying threats to those who would dare besmirch his name.

I was a big New York Yankees fan when I was a child. But when the Bronx Bombers went into a tailspin after the 1964 World Series, and were frankly terrible for close to a decade, I had to find a secondary American League team to support. That franchise was the Baltimore Orioles with the Robinson “brothers,” Brooks and Frank, fine pitchers such as Jim Palmer, and their feisty Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who died this week at the age of 82. He was thrown out of more Major League Baseball games than any other manager; he could be quite entertaining.

Not that I ALWAYS rooted for the Orioles in the World Series. Continue reading “Sporting news: Earl Weaver, Stan Musial, Lance Armstrong”