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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One of the first things I thought when I learned that George Steinbrenner had died was that the guy had managed to seize the spotlight one last time. Timing is everything, and now the All-Star game was going to be about The Boss. I'm not so sure that it always had to be about The Boss, but I was reminded of the famous phantom elevator altercation that followed the Yankees' World Series Game 3 loss to the Dodgers in 1981. That's unfair, I know, but that's how it always went with George-- even Yankee fans never knew exactly how to feel about him. In the end Yogi forgave him, and so did Dave Winfield, and probably so did everyone else he feuded with over the years. As Alan Barra points out in his Voice obit the guy was big enough to admit when he was wrong, and was loyal and generous as well. In the end you'd have to say he was good for baseball, and great for baseball players. It is odd that people tend to side with management in sports, but Steinbrenner made that nearly impossible: he was such a gigantic ego that the huge money he spent on players was dwarfed by the force of his personality. In a funny way this probably made it easier for the players to take the money.

Charley Pierce reports that his illegal campaign contribution conviction came about because Maurice Stans threatened to set IRS after his shipping company. I'd never heard that before, but I believe it, and if it is true than it is a credit to Steinbrenner that he didn't whine about it in public. He look his lumps, and was ultimately pardoned, and that seems in character.

Fans of other teams accused him of buying pennants, but that's unfair. He put the money he made with the team back into the team. Twins fans, among many others, had good reason to be jealous of that.

Still, timing is everything. He bought the Yankees for $8.7 million; the team is said to be worth $1.6 billion now, and he died in a year where there is no inheritance tax. You can't buy estate planning like that.

UPDATE: WSJ reckons that his estate may have saved $600 million. "Forbes recently estimated the Yankees owner’s net worth at $1.1 billion, largely from the YES network. The New York Yankees, which he acquired in 1973 for $10 million, are now worth $1.6 billion but are 95% leveraged due to debt from the new Yankee Stadium."

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