George Steinbrenner – arguably the most famous owner in professional sports history – died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack. He was 80.
This marks the second Yankee legend to die in three days. Legendary PA man Bob Sheppard passed away Sunday at the age of 99.
They may have been with the same organization, but the two men could not have evoked more different feelings from baseball fans during their lives.
The common reaction today from your average baseball fan seems to be, "I didn’t like the Yankees and didn’t care much for Steinbrenner, but you can’t deny the presence he had or impact he made." At least, those are the comments I seem to be running across the most. And that pretty much sums up how I feel.
I’m too young to remember the "Bronx Zoo" era of the 1970s, so I’m guessing fans of that generation have a much different take on Steinbrenner than I do.
The Steinbrenner that came I knew growing up appeared much more laid-back than the one that started out in Major League Baseball. I wasn’t around for the Billy Martin, "You’re fired. You’re hired," merry-go-round. And I was too young to remember the Yogi Berra firing.
What I do know is that Steinbrenner was the most recognizable owner in professional sports. And everyone seemed to have an opinion of him.
He transcended the game, too. He hosted "Saturday Night Live" and was impersonated on "Seinfeld." He’s still one of my favorite characters from that show.
If anything, though, I think Steinbrenner helped usher in a new era of pro sports ownership. Did he set the tone for others like Ted Turner or Mark Cuban to become sports stars too? I think he did.