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George Steinbrenner Passes Away At 80 But Leaves A Lasting Legacy In MLB

In the same week, the New York Yankees have suffered two heart breaking losses. The first to pass away was long time public address announcer Bob Sheppard, at 99 years old.

Sheppard passed away on July 11th, and two days later long time Yankees owner George Steinbrenner followed him. Heading into the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star break, Yankee fans and the organization will have heavy hearts.

Remembering the life of George Steinbrenner is a monumental challenge. Steinbrenner lived a full life that was not just confined to being the owner of the Yankees.

Steinbrenner was the only son of Henry George Steinbrenner and Rita Steinbrenner in Cleveland, Ohio. He would spend the early years of this life getting a B.A. from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1952. A funny coincidence since he would become a thorn in the Boston Red Sox side later in life.

At Williams College, Steinbrenner was an active student who was a standout in Track and Field and played halfback for the football team. After graduation, Steinbrenner served his country in the United States Air Force.

Steinbrenner would be honorably discharged and take his talents to Ohio State University to get his graduate degree. At OSU, he was an assistant football coach with legendary Wood Hayes.

He was part of Hayes undefeated Buckeyes team that won the national championship. More importantly, during his time at OSU he would meet his future wife, Elizabeth Joan Zieg.

The two would be married on May 12, 1956 and would stay together thereafter and have four children, two sons and two daughters. The children he leaves behind are Hank Steinbrenner, Hal Steinbrenner, Jessica Steinbrenner, and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal.

After his time at OSU, Steinbrenner went on to coach at Northwestern and Purdue. Perhaps his biggest decision was to go back into the family business of shipping.

Steinbrenner went on to make his fortune with Cleveland based company American Company Shipping in 1957. Three years later in 1960, Steinbrenner made his first foray into sports would be as owner of the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League or ABL.

The team won the ABL championship in the 1961-62 season but folded early into the 1962 season. While this initial trip into the sports could be called mixed success at best, lessons were learned.

Steinbrenner, a native of Ohio tried to by the Cleveland Indians but failed to do so in 1971. But opportunity knocked twice for Steinbrenner a year later, when he joined forces with E. Michael Burke to by the Yankees in 1972 for just 8.8 million dollars.

Over time Steinbrenner went on to buy out most of his partners to gain complete control of the Yankees. The rest, one could say, is history.

The Yankees made their first World Series appearance under Steinbrenner in 1976 getting swept by the “Big Red Machine” of the Cincinnati Reds. One year later the Yankees won Steinbrenner’s first World Series in 1977.

Being true Yankee Doodle Dandy, having been born on the Fourth of July in 1930, Steinbrenner changed the sports landscape forever. Steinbrenner began to show his vision when he signed Catfish Hunter in 1974, basically starting the “free agent” period in sports.

Hunter’s 3.75 million contract started the salary boom that we still see today in baseball. Steinbrenner’s coup was signing Reggie Jackson from the Oakland Athletics for over three million as well.

Steinbrenner built a winner out of the Yankees and in the 38 years he owned the team made 19 post season appearances and 11 World Series appearances, winning seven of those trips to the October Classic.

Only the Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, and Arizona Diamondbacks were able to defeat the Yankees in the World Series. Only the Reds were able to sweep the Yankees in a post season loss.

Nearly every baseball fan wonders if Steinbrenner’s win at all cost mentality has hurt baseball in the long run. No one could question that “The Boss” (as he became known in the New York Tabloids) wanted to win more than anything.

It is strange that in a week the media has made a huge deal out of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert ripping superstar LeBron James, Steinbrenner would pass away. Steinbrenner was known for publicly calling out players and managers for their performance or perceived lack of effort.

Unlike Gilbert, Steinbrenner was never called a racist for his rants against players, many being black. Some like Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield were stars of the game. That does not mean “The Boss” avoided his share of controversy.

Steinbrenner was suspended twice by Major League Baseball during his tenure as owner. The first suspension was for his involvement in Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign for illegal campaign contributions and felony obstruction.

MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Steinbrenner for two years but it was later reduced to 15 months. In an ironic twist, Steinbrenner was pardoned by Ronald Regan in one of Regan’s last acts as president.

Steinbrenner once again found himself on the wrong side of MLB justice when the story broke that he paid a small time gambler Howie Spira $40,000 to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield in 1990.

Winfield was the highest paid player in MLB making, 23 million over 10 years and was perceived by Steinbrenner to not play hard in a key series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Steinbrenner said “Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May. My big guys are not coming through. The guys who are supposed to carry the team are not carrying the team. They aren’t producing. If I don’t get big performances out of Winfield, Griffey and Baylor, we can’t win”.

Fall out of the statement above has been believed to be the reason that Ken Griffey Jr. stated he would never play for Steinbrenner.

On July 30, 1990 then MLB commissioner Fay Vincent suspended Steinbrenner for life after he learned about Spira and that Steinbrenner failed to pay 300 thousand dollars to Winfield’s foundation, breaking a guarantee in Winfield’s contract.

Steinbrenner also had controversy over facial hair and was constantly batting his managers. He hired 22 in this tenure and 15 different mangers, with Billy Martin being hired five times. There is no question that Steinbrenner made it when he became a pop culture icon in the show Seinfeld, commercials, The Simpsons, as well as hosting Saturday Night Live. 

For better or for worse, Steinbrenner changed the landscape in Major League Baseball forever. The ultimate owner, Steinbrenner wanted his team to be a winner and was the first owner to build his team in to a global brand.

The one thing that says the most about Steinbrenner’s time as Yankee owner is that when he bought the team it was for 8.8 million. Now the Yankees are worth $1.6 billion, trailing only Manchester United ($1.8 billion) and the Dallas Cowboys ($1.65 billion).

Rest in peace King George, The Boss, you will never be forgotten in American sports.

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Ken Griffey Jr., Cleanest Star of the 90s, Retires After 22 Seasons

The face of Seattle Mariners has called it quits. Ken Griffey Jr., the once bright-eyed youngster with a million dollar smile and backward hat, ended his career Wednesday, June 2.

Junior was the biggest star of the 1990s and one of the few who did it all naturally, as far as we know. Not once has Griffey even been suspected of doing performance enhancing drugs.

While blasting home runs with a perfect swing that seemed right out of a movie, Griffey’s swing and backward hat were emulated by every kid who loved the game of baseball. While other stars of his era have been accused of using PEDs, it was injuries that derailed a record setting career.

Griffey suffered several injuries early in his career in Seattle chasing down fly balls. After Griffey left the Mariners for the Cincinnati Reds, he saw his 2001-2003 seasons cut short with injuries.

In his heyday in the ’90s, Griffey was the man who save baseball in the Pacific Northwest. One of the defining moments in a hall of fame career was the 1995 American League Division Series.

Seattle was down 2-0 to the New York Yankees. The Mariners came back to tie the series at 2-2.

In the 11th inning of the deciding fifth game, with Griffey on first base, Edgar Martinez, another Mariners great, hit a double. Griffey raced around the bases to score the winning run putting Seattle in the American League Championship series.

In 1995, Griffey famous stated he would never play for the Yankees and cited the way his father and he were treated by the organization. Junior, along with Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez, helped sell out the Kingdome.

The Mariners of that era helped get the state legislature to help build the new stadium known as Safeco Field. With Griffey leading the way, many call Safeco “the house Griffey built.”

While in Seattle, Griffey would get his own Super Nintendo game, grace boxes of Wheaties, and become an endorser of Nike. Griffey was to baseball what Michael Jordan was to basketball in the ’90s.

After the 1994 labor dispute, Griffey would excite and bring fans back to baseball with his home run hitting swing. He would lead the Major Leagues with 56 home runs in 1997.

In 2000, Griffey left Seattle to become a Red in his home town of Cincinnati. Griffey would spend the later part of 2008 in Chicago after he was traded to the White Sox.

During his career, Griffey would be named a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner,  three-time Home Run Derby Champion, and the 1997 MVP. He would have 2,781 hits, a lifetime batting average of .284, and hit 630 home runs.

Earlier this season it was reported that Griffey missed a chance to pinch hit because he was napping. The story caused controversy but was put to rest after the Mariners and Griffey denied the report.

There is no telling what kind of home run numbers Griffey would have put up his is abilities were not slowly robbed by injuries. Early in his career, he was on pace to surpass Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list.

Still, while Junior will not top that list, he will be known as the greatest player in the steroids era. Most of his peers have been accused of using PEDs and cheating the game of baseball.

Nearly all of the star players of the ’90s have been suspected of PED use but Junior. He might be the last player most fans can say with a certain amount of certainty that was the last clean hitter.

As fans, we will never forget how Griffey could chase down a fly ball and run up a wall to steal a home run. No one will ever forget Junior’s backward hat and most of all his perfect home run swing.

After 22 years in the majors, Griffey’s legacy is well cemented and now his Hall of Fame election is all that waits. For baseball fans, there is no joy in Mudville as mighty Junior has walked out.

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Police Were Right To Taser Philadelphia Phillies’ Fan

So there I was, sitting at the table watching sportscenter and drinking my morning coffee.

My wife had woke up and fixed herself a cup of tea.

As she rolled her eyes when she realized it was not the morning news, but sports once again, on the TV.

It was about that time that the story about the fan, Steve Consalvi, who ran on to the field during a Philadelphia Phillies game came on.

I snickered as I watched the video of the fan running across the outfield during the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.

That was, until the fan was tasered by the police officer.

The first thing my wife asked “was this necessary”.

Without a thought, the first word to come out of my mouth was, yes.

She did not think he intended any harm and was just doing something goofy. The 17-year-old, future Penn State Nittany Lion, in her eyes was just running on the field having a good time.

I as a sports fan, I see this differently.

I remember the day in 1993, when a crazed and overzealous Steffi Graf fan stabbed Monica Seles. The number one ranked Women’s Tennis player in the world, who at the time had a career that could have been record breaking, was stopped in her tracks.

Before I could fully get the image of Seles on the court with tears in her eyes and surrounded by tournament officials I remembered that night at Comiskey Park, in Chicago when two crazed White Sox fans attacked Kansas City Royals Tom Gamboa, in 2003.

Can any sports fan forget the shirtless father and son who threw Gamboa to the ground and began pummeling him?

In 1999, a drunken fan attacked  Houston Astros outfielder Billy Spiers at a Milwaukee Brewers game, who suffered slight injuries.

In nearly every sport, if not every sport, there are tales of boorish fan behavior.

From rugby to hockey, to football to track and field, there have been instances of spectators becoming more than spectators.

Fans want athletes punished severely when they come into the stands. I am sure everyone remembers the Malice at the Palace.

If fans want to be protected from athletes charging into the stands, they have to remember that athletes want to be protected from fan charging the field.

It has been reported that Consalvi called his father to ask if it was okay to run on to the field.

His father told him he did not think it was a good idea.

Maybe Consalvi should have listened to his father but like most of us, did not listen to his parents until it was too late.

If he had listened to his father he would not have been all over the sports world.

Consalvi’s father said his son was not on drugs, nor had he been drinking.

That may be the case, but the security or the police that were working the game did not know this.

These men did not know if he meant harm to any of the players on the field or if he was just running around acting like a fool.

While it was sad and funny (I must admit), Consalvi was tasered.

He deserved it.

Going to a game gives fans the right to cheer as hard as they can for their team and within reason, try to get under the skin of opposing players.

What fans do not get the right to do is throw thing or come on to the field.

The first job of security officers should be to protect the players on the field once a fan leaves the stands. Even if that means giving the right to used any force necessary (excluding deadly force) to remove a fan from the field.

This is not an overreaction to this event. No one knows when the next Monica Seles event will happen.

Consalvi might have been a 17 year old kid who had a poor lapse in judgment.

The problem is that the security on the field did not know what kind of intentions Consalvi had.

For anyone who thinks that the use of a taser was excessive or unnecessary, you should think about this. What if, where you worked someone who did not belong was running around acting like a fool?

What would you want the people who are supposed to keep you safe at work, to do?

Allow someone to be where they do not belong? Or remove them by any means necessary?

I would hope that I would be protected. Athletes on the field have the same expectations. 

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