And having Steinbrenner, who had such a larger-than-life person, in charge of the team I rooted for helped shape the way I view sports. I grew up reading the New York tabloids, but I didn't know enough at that age to realize that the Boss/Billy/Reggie squabbles I read about every day were not exactly normal for baseball. But what I did get from that was how much Steinbrenner cared about the Yankees - and about winning. Unlike owners who are content to just use teams as cash cows, George was all about the rings, even if it meant that spending extra on the players - both on salaries and amenties - might take away a little from the bottom line.
There are so many memories I have of Steinbrenner - from the fiery Bronx Zoo years, to him being almost like a benevolent father figure in the recent dynasty years. The last great memory of The Boss I have was in April 2004, when fans serenaded him with "Thank you, George" and "We love you, George" chants on Opening Day as he was interviewed by Warner Wolf. The Boss got teary-eyed as he pointed to the bleachers and said:
"This is the people's team. The desire to win was instilled on me by the people, like those people out there."It's gut-wrenching to think of the later years in Steinbrenner's life, with all the health problems, and what he and his family went through. My late father had similar health issues, so it really rings home to me. When my dad died, it was hard to take, but he hadn't been himself for several years. The last time I saw him alive, lying in a hospital bed in my parents' home, the ravages of aging on his brain were so bad that he literally did not know who I was. But when my dad died, I could remember the good times, and what he once was, and not just remember those sad days in the twilight of his life.
I hope people remember the good times with George Steinbrenner today. The owner who would cry tears of joy when his team won the World Series. The man who was willing to give troubled players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden second chances. And the generous - and often anonymous - benefactor of countless charitable endeavors.
Yes, I know The Boss wasn't perfect. But there's a time and place to talk about that, and today isn't it. Today, I just want to say, "Thank you, George" for making the Yankees great again. And again.
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