I wrote an obituary on The Boss for Sports Illustrated.com:
George M. Steinbrenner III, the most visible, vilified and successful baseball owner of the free-agency era, died on Tuesday morning following a massive heart attack.
In his heyday he was known as many things — most notably, as a bad loser — but there is no denying that he made the Yankees into a winner. He was the shipbuilding magnate who bought the ball club for a relative pittance ($10 million in 1973) from CBS and restored the Yankee brand to its former glory. During his reign as owner, Steinbrenner’s Yankees won 11 American League pennants and seven world championships, more than any other team in that span. The franchise’s value soared into more than a billion as it became the staple product of its own cable network while still leading the big leagues in attendance year after year.
Along the way he exerted his will in an indomitable fashion, displaying legendary impatience and volatility. He bought out his 13 limited partners by the end of his first decade as owner, prompting John McMullen, who later owned the Houston Astros, to say, “Nothing is more limited than being a limited partner of George’s.” During his first 20 years with the Yankees, Steinbrenner hired and fired 21 managers, including Billy Martin five times. Before the 1982 season, Steinbrenner announced that manager Bob Lemon should feel secure in his job; Lemon was fired 14 games into the season. Two years later, Steinbrenner talked about his manager, Yogi Berra, before the season again and said “Yogi will be the manager the entire season, win or lose.” After 16 games, Berra was fired. He would not return to Yankee Stadium for 14 years.
…One former employee of the Yankees told Steinbrenner biographer Dick Schaap, “George Steinbrenner doesn’t want to be loved, and he doesn’t want to be hated, George Steinbrenner wants to be feared.”
“Sometimes,” Steinbrenner once told a reporter, “as much as I don’t want to — I have to inflict pain. But I also inflict some joy.”
There will never be another like him. It is somehow fitting that George died on the day of the All Star Game. The man always did have a nose for publicity, didn’t he?
Over at ESPN.com, the great Bill Nack gives his take.