Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner has died after suffering a massive heart attack. The Tampa, Fla., resident was 80 years old, reports USA Today. Numerous sources indicate that the once controversial owner had been in poor health since at least 2008, the year he released his controlling interest in the Yankees to his sons Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. From the time he took control of the team in 1973 to the day he relinquished ownership because of his failing health, George Steinbrenner was perhaps the most involved team owner in baseball history. His willingness to win at all costs not only helped maintain the legend of the New York Yankees, but it forever changed the business landscape of baseball.
The reason they called George Steinbrenner ‘The Boss’
Players and managers had a love-hate relationship with former shipping magnate George Steinbrenner. He was an indomitable man whose open checkbook paved the way for 11 pennants and seven World Series for the New York Yankees. Subpar performance was both painful and embarrassing to him, and he thought nothing of embarrassing his charges publicly if he thought they weren’t giving their best effort.
Despite his team’s success and his personal notoriety following a long string of public feuds with employees, George Steinbrenner is perhaps best known for the role he played in shaping the business of baseball, namely making the first major player signings in the era of free agency. Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, who both ended up in the Hall of Fame, signed in 1974 and 1977 for $3.35 million and $3.5 million, respectively — sums that were unheard of at the time. It was a sign of things to come as teams began to bid against each other for the services of free agents. Today, salaries exceeding $10 million per season or more for established stars are common.
Steinbrenner also revolutionized baseball TV broadcasting
According to Bill Madden’s book “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” George Steinbrenner was the first owner in Major League Baseball history to sell cable television rights to broadcast games. This was quickly copied by owners throughout baseball and has proven to be a multi-billion-dollar windfall for teams, particularly those in large media markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago (not coincidentally, the top three Nielsen markets). Not only that, but Steinbrenner created the YES Network, the cable TV home of the Yankees, which is now worth more than the entire New York Yankees team, the richest team in all of sports at $1.2 billion. This move has prompted MLB teams to create their own regional cable networks, as the income potential is simply too great to ignore.
How much did George Steinbrenner pay for the Yankees?
With an investment group, George Steinbrenner put up $8 million to buy the team from CBS in 1973. That included only $100,000 of personal capital. Considering the New York Yankees’ current value, it seems George Steinbrenner, his family and the other investors did quite well for themselves.
‘My Way,’ as George Steinbrenner told Ed Bradley in 1987:
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