I Will Miss “The Boss”, My Baseball Friend

 


 

I was sadden today when I heard of the passing of a true modern gladiator. A man who befriended me years ago, who always greeted me with a handshake and a smile. A great business tycoon who always had the heart of a true baseball fan. In life we sometimes meet people who leave a lasting mark on us inside forever just by their warmth and love for the game of baseball. I can honestly say that George Steinbrenner is the only Yankee fan I admire and respect for his devotion and strides to change the face of baseball for the betterment of the fans and the league as a whole.


Steinbrenner sometimes got a raw deal because of his deep and passionate drive towards his love of the game. His devotion and commitment to the game of baseball is as legendary as his strife within his own Yankee organization. I could easily see him being the man to quote, “You got to break a few eggs to make a perfect omelete”. But even through that period of strife, there was a respect and admiration for a man who could spin a simple blue pinstripe into Mida’s gold.

I can not imagine or fathom what the New York Yankees might have evolved into if Steinbrenner had not taken the team’s reigns and lead them through their rough years. But even with numerous stories of turmoil and bitter fighting, the team became a stronger unit, a beacon in the baseball marketplace, and ultimately, an International baseball icon. All of this was done under a shipbuilder’s watch, and we as a baseball nation are glad to have known him….even if it was from a distance.

I first met Steinbrenner outside the Sheraton Hotel on Kennedy Blvd before the 2001 Super Bowl held in Tampa, Florida. Steinbrenner had come down to see the owner of the New York Giants as the team assembled in the hotel foyer before heading off to Raymond James Stadium to take on the Baltimore Ravens. I was standing outside near the valet area when Steinbrenner walked out and commented on my Tampa Bay Rays hat.

I quickly acknowledged his comment and told him to please be nice to our ex-Rays guy Dwight Gooden, who had been working for the Yankees organization after a rough patch in his personal life. Steinbrenner looked at me and smiled and liked my sense of compassion for Gooden and asked if I was going to the Super Bowl. I commented that I did not have the funds to adequately acquire any tickets and Steinbrenner waved to his bodyguard/driver to come to us.

We talked for a few more minutes about baseball and the Yankees legacy, Steinbrenner asked me for my name and local address. He then excused himself for a few minutes and his bodyguard/driver got my information and talked to me for a few minutes himself. I remarked how great it must be to work for such a symbol of commerce and business integrity. The bodyguard looked at me and told me ” Steinbrenner is stern, firm but totally loyal to his employees if they showed the same qualities and respect to him”.

We both stood there a few minutes, then Steinbrenner came back with a envelope and handed it to me. He told me to have a great day and that he would be sending me something special soon. I was in awe at the moment and as he got into his car, I could only babble and say thank you a million times. But I had still not opened the envelope and he noticed that. Steinbrenner asked me why I had not opened the envelope yet.

Steinbrenner told me “true fans sometimes need to be rewarded”.

As he rolled up his window. I clutched the envelope and walked out of the Sheraton foyer then walked across the street to a small shopping center where my car was located and noticed that Steinbrenner had pulled into the gas station. I went up and asked his driver if I might be able to ask Mr. Steinbrenner for a photo. He chuckled and told me “it might make his day”. I approached the car window and got more nervous as it rolled down.

I somehow mustered the courage to ask one of the most important men in baseball to take a photo with me. Steinbrenner was more than happy to take a photo with me and asked if I had opened the envelope yet. I told him I had not opened it yet, but was saving the moment until I got back to my car in case I was going to jump and scream like a schoolgirl. He laughed at that moment and the end of that laugh is captured on the photo of the two of us on that corner of Westshore and Kennedy, just a few miles from his old Tampa home.

It is still one of my most cherished photos, and one I enjoy displaying on my collectibles shelf. I was a bundle of nerves after that photo and decided to head to a nearby sub shop and have lunch.

After I ordered my food, I sat down at a small white table with my beverage and stared at the envelope wondering what might be inside. I quickly tore the top off the envelope. Inside that envelope was a note from Steinbrenner asking me to contact him during Spring Training at the Yankees complex in Tampa.

Tucked inside that note was also two tickets to the game and I suddenly gasped and someone in the shop asked if I was okay. I told them the greatest guy in the world had just given me two tickets to the Super Bowl and all I gave him was a few moments of my time.


I met Steinbrenner several times after that day while performing my duties as the Tampa Bay Rays Pepsi representative. He had a great suite on the 200 level at Tropicana Field, and when I saw he was in attendance, I used to go up and give a cordial welcome and shake his hand. I have a lot of respect for George Steinbrenner both as a man, and as an icon of stability in baseball. It saddens me that he will not be able to take in the splendor and the pageantry tonight as the 81st All-Star game commences tonight. I can just imagine the level of pride and honor that envelopes him during such events. 

Steinbrenner loved this game with  the same overflowing passion and honest commitment that millions of us attest to every day. The Yankees would not be as strong or as mighty without this man’s demeanor and devotion to achieving excellence. Steinbrenner was known by millions around the World as “The Boss”, but for that one moment in 2001 in Tampa, Florida, I considered him my true baseball friend.

14 Comments

OMG! What a story! (I love the pic too.) It’s so nice to read about the generous side of Steinbrenner and the fact that he really was, at heart, a fan. Wow. That’s one I’d never forget if it happened to me.

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

What an incredible story. Great to read it. Sending along my condolences to you, too.
Peace,
Michael
http://thomasox.mlblogs.com/

Michael,
Thank you for that.
I know the whole MLB community right now is trying to find the right words and the right phrases to show honor to the legend that has passed today. My true feelings of loss and of emptiness right now are two-fold. Steinbrenner was someone for me to admire and aspire to become, but he was also someone to respect and honor for his undying resolve to making his team the best in the World.
Even if you wear another team’s colors today, you are saddened by the passing of a true American icon.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jane,
It endeared me to him,plus made Steinbrenner someone I always looked for and made sure to greet if possible at Rays games.
I know in the last few years those times were seldom, but I always made sure to say hello.
I can not forget the moment, plus all game long I was in a daze that day just in awe of his generosity and kindness to me. I can never repay him, or thank him enough for that memory.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

R.I.P. Yes. I give him that. Not a big fan of how he treated some of his employees though… still, this is a time to remember the good, so I’ll jump on board.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
I just look at it as everyone has their own management style. George Steinbrenner’s was abrasive and vocal at times with a hint of violent tendencies. Most people learn their style of dealing with people in their usual envioronment. Since Steinbrenner started off in the shipyard, maybe that was the way that worked for him.
But the good outweighs the bad, and no one got killed or mortally wounded by his words or actions,

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Awesome story man! Although I never met him, “The Boss” was a great man off of the field. I hear tons of stories of him donating money to schools, kids, and other people in need. He will be greatly missed. Thanks for sharing your story.

- Brian

brianchaires.mlblogs.com

Brian,
George Steinbrenner was a saint to so many charities and organization over the years they will truly miss his donations and his time spent with the people invloved in those organizations.
Hopefully his sons and daughter will remain active and contribute to their father’s favorite events, charities and organizationin the future.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Hi Cliff …

Truly wonderful stories about your encounters with Mr. Steinbrenner. Those are such great memories for a lifetime, being in the presence of such a great man, who was an icon and giant of our times !!! … When George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, he brought back the pride and traditon that has always been the foundation of the awesome winning history of the New York Yankees … But, his great devotion to winning was only one part of his life, as Mr. Steinbrenner was also a very charitable person who always looked to help anyone in need, do something special for many people, and support numerous charitable causes. During this sad time of his passing, many of Mr. Steinbrenner’s charitable endeavors are being talked about by many different people [and, these are goods things to hear about the very generous side of The Boss] !!!
.
If Mr. Steinbrenner did not purchase the Yankees, they would not have enjoyed anywhere near all the success they have experienced over the past 38 years … An era of greatness has ended, and we will never see another personality as great as George M. Steinbrenner III again !!!
.
Cliff, it is so great that you had such a wonderful friend as George Steinbrenner … May you always keep all your memories of Mr. Steinbrenner close to your heart !!!
.
Excellent tribute to Mr. Steinbrenner in your above post !!!
.
Take care, Cliff !!!
.
Jimmy 27nyy, “BY&L”
http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

Hi Cliff …

Truly wonderful stories about your encounters with Mr. Steinbrenner. Those are such great memories for a lifetime, being in the presence of such a great man, who was an icon and giant of our times !!! … When George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, he brought back the pride and traditon that has always been the foundation of the awesome winning history of the New York Yankees … But, his great devotion to winning was only one part of his life, as Mr. Steinbrenner was also a very charitable person who always looked to help anyone in need, do something special for many people, and support numerous charitable causes. During this sad time of his passing, many of Mr. Steinbrenner’s charitable endeavors are being talked about by many different people [and, these are goods things to hear about the very generous side of The Boss] !!!
.
If Mr. Steinbrenner did not purchase the Yankees, they would not have enjoyed anywhere near all the success they have experienced over the past 38 years … An era of greatness has ended, and we will never see another personality as great as George M. Steinbrenner III again !!!
.
Cliff, it is so great that you had such a wonderful friend as George Steinbrenner … May you always keep all your memories of Mr. Steinbrenner close to your heart !!!
.
Excellent tribute to Mr. Steinbrenner in your above post !!!
.
Take care, Cliff !!!
.
Jimmy 27nyy, “BY&L”
http://baseballtheyankeesandlife.mlblogs.com/

Jimmy,
People have variations of their workings with Steinbrenner. He seemed like a man who loved respect and commanded it on a daily basis. For every two bad stories of encounters with Steinbrenner, there are tales of great generosity and human kindness. Compassion for the less fortunate was high on his life’s agenda.
I agree, his passion and fire might have ignited plenty of those Yankee pennant runs. With an owner who believes in you, the sky is the limit.
I have the same respect for the Rays first owner Vince Namoli. Only had great stories, and never had a bad moment or incident between us…
New York was blessed to have him, and saddened by the recent loss. Tonight’s event should be tearful and honorable.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jimmy,
Classic icon of the game, and he never swung a bat.
I will just leave this quote by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on the passing of “The Boss”:

“George was a giant of the game and his devotion to baseball was surpassed only by his devotion to his family and his beloved New York Yankees. He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends.”

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow Cliff! I’ve been so busy that I am catching up on my reading. Also from time to time, I stay away during a weekend from the internet. What a wonderful story! I am so glad that it happened to you!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Emma,
I understand that totally.
I usually write every day, but every once is a while I will just kick back and do two in one day, or skip one…really!
Some times you need a chance to recharge your batteries and just chill.
Glad you came back to read this post.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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