Thursday, July 15, 2010

George Steinbrenner, Joel Sherman, and what it means to be a great man

Longtime reader Uncle Mike weighed in regarding my squawk about sportswriter Joel Sherman discounting George Steinbrenner's philanthropy. Mike made some really good points in the comments section about the nature of philanthropy: such good points, I thought, that I'm doing this post so everybody could read them. Here's Uncle Mike:

When Sherman wrote "Birth of a Dynasty," about the 1996 Yankees, he wrote like one of the classic baseball writers, like Red Smith or Roger Kahn. When he writes anything else, he writes like a New York Post employee. And I don't mean Jimmy Cannon, an example of the former, because Cannon died before Rupert Murdoch turned the Post from the people's paper into the crazy people's paper.

Are we not supposed to go to a library because it was endowed by Andrew Carnegie, who authorized the cold-blooded murder of unionized employees at his mines and mills? Are we not supposed to go to a museum because it was endowed by John D. Rockefeller, who did the same?

Lots of people have done a lot more wrong, and far worse things, than George Steinbrenner did. Most of his wrongs were less "How dare you?" and more "What were you thinking?"

We're not talking about Walter O'Malley here. What did he ever do for kids, or sick people, or old acquaintances in trouble? And anything he ever did that helped the game of baseball, he did it first, foremost, and often only because it was going to help himself. Face it, if he thought he could make more money in Japan than in Los Angeles, the Yankees would have played some World Series against the Tokyo Dodgers.

George Steinbrenner could have taken the Cornelius Vanderbilt attitude of "The public be damned." Instead, he took the Carnegie attitude of "I have to make amends." Even if we don't like him -- and no one is required to like him -- we should at least respect his willingness to change for the better, and to act on that change. No, he was no saint. But show me one person who ever owned a sports team who was.

1 comment:

Jonmouk71 said...

I've read both Madden books on Steinbrenner and the Yankees ("Damned Yankees" and "The Last Lion") and George was a complex individual. He was not the kind of guy you would have wanted for a boss (or as a father-in-law, for that matter) and he certainly was flawed. But the HOF? I don't know - but Yawkey is in and he employed a known racist as manager and GM; so is O'Malley and he broke Brooklyn's heart in the pursuit of money (although Robert Moses and Mayor Wagner get big assists on that).

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