Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A New York native and Tampa resident remembers the George Steinbrenner soap opera

Posted By on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:13 PM

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I approach the passing of Geroge Steinbrenner from a somewhat unique perspective. I was born and raised in New York and have called Tampa home for some years now.

Like many Tampa residents I can't help but applaud the many good deeds and uncounted dollars charitably spent for this city and its people.

And like many native New Yorkers who followed the Yankees in the '80s, I will remember his tenure as "The Boss" as a mixed bag.

If the George Steinbrenner Yankees of the 1970's were the Bronx Zoo, the '80s teams were the Great Soap Opera. A different manager every year (with Billy Martin on a rotating plan), endless bickering, elevator brawls and passive-aggressive notes sent from the owner's box -- it was all par for the course. As a young baseball fan growing up watching Don Mattingly (my childhood hero) get more attention from Steinbrenner for the length his mustache than for his bat I learned to take The Boss with a grain of salt.

Or how about the Dave Winfield saga? Winfield hits poorly in the '81 World Series -- Steinbrenner dubs him "Mr. May." That would have been enough, but the rest of the tale seems near implausible. When the player refused a trade out of New York, Steinbrenner leaked insulting (and untrue) stories about him to the press and hired a private detective to dig up dirt on him.

And let's not forget Steinbrenner being suspended from Major League Baseball, not one, but twice.

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Still, the man had a thirst for greatness, and in the end it translated into a new baseball dynasty in the mid-1990s, one that saw the team reach the postseason 13 straight years, while winning four championships (that this new dynasty of core players were incubated in the Yankees system precisely at the time when Steinbrenner was, by rule, not allowed to interfere with the team and thus trade them away for washed-up veterans is an argument for another day). They added another championship just last year, their 7th under Steinbrenner, the first in their new $2.3 billion stadium (another mixed bag) and the last the owner would get to see.

With his death comes some questions, both for the Yankees organization and the city of Tampa. Will his sons continue to own the team, or, with dad now gone, will they think of selling? Will the team continue to base itself in Tampa when it's most prevalent connection to the city was its owners residency there? We should get some answers in the coming seasons, but one thing we'll likely never see again in the sport of baseball is a figure as tirelessly dedicated and maddeningly controversial as this.

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