George Steinbrenner (1930 - 2010)

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NEW YORK (AP) - George Steinbrenner, whose big wallet and win-at-all-cost attitude whipped the New York Yankees into a billion-dollar sports empire, died Tuesday morning. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday on July 4th.

Steinbrenner had a heart attack, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and died at about 6:30 a.m.

"George was 'The Boss,' make no mistake," Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. "He built the Yankees into champions, and that's something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn't? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."

In 37-plus seasons as owner, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.< /P>

"He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered."

Steinbrenner's death on the day of the All-Star game was the second in three days to rock the Yankees. Bob Sheppard, the team's revered public address announcer from 1951-07, died Sunday at 99.

New York was 11 years removed from its last championship when Steinbrenner headed a group that bought the team from CBS Inc. on Jan. 3, 1973, for about $10 million.

He revolutionized the franchise - and sports - by starting his own television network and ballpark food company. Forbes now values the Yankees at $1.6 billion, trailing only Manchester United ($1.8 billion) and the Dallas Cowboys ($1.65 billion).

"He was an incredible and charitable man," his family said in a statement. "He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again."

While the Yankees' roster continually changed, so did the team's front office. However, the one constant for most of Steinbrenner's time was winning. Asked his formula for success, he said: "Work as hard as you ask others to. Strive for what you believe is right, no matter the odds. Learn that mistakes can be the best teacher."

In addition to his sons, Steinbrenner is survived by his wife, Joan, daughters Jennifer and Jessica and 13 grandchildren.

Published in The Bradenton Herald from July 13 to July 17, 2010
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