Opinion Brief

George Steinbrenner: Was he good for baseball?

The controversial New York Yankees owner has died at 80. Every sportswriter in America has an opinion on his legacy

Baseball lost one of its most influential and controversial figures on Monday, when New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died of a heart attack at his home in Tampa, Florida. He was 80. Steinbrenner's "tumultuous" 37-year reign included 11 pennants and seven World Series championships — but also countless spats and firings, and two formal suspensions from the sport. "George will be greatly be missed," said former New York CityMmayor Rudy Giuliani, "but his legacy will carry on in the hearts and minds of all baseball fans." That rings true, but what will that legacy be?

Steinbrenner was great for large-market teams: If you're a Yankees fan or a player, says Sean Gregory in Time, you might think George Steinbrenner was the greatest thing that ever happened to baseball. Steinbrenner's fat checkbook drove stars' salaries through the roof, and rebuilt one of the sports greatest empires. But if you're a fan in a small-market city, you might remember Steinbrenner only because his "profligate spending helped give richer teams a huge advantage."
"Steinbrenner dies: Was the Boss good for baseball?"

He was a buffoon, but his enthusiasm boosted the sport: George Steinbrenner "was easy to mock," say the editors of The Boston Globe. He was "an impulsive blusterer who hired and fired Billy Martin five times as manager — and who once fired a secretary for bringing him the wrong sandwich." But now that he's gone, it's easier to look beyond "all his petulant meddling," and appreciate Steinbrenner's "pure adolescent will to win." If every owner had that, fans of all teams would be happier.
"Steinbrenner: The bottom line — he cared"

Let's remember the good, and forgive the rest: Without resorting to "airbrushing," says Ross Douthat in The New York Times, even Steinbrenner's detractors have to admit that his sins weren't those of a greedy businessman, but of a fan who happened to own his favorite franchise, and ran it "with his heart on his sleeve, his foot in his mouth, and his knee jerking with every change of fortune on the field." All in all, "his stewardship of baseball’s greatest team was one of the greatest shows in sports."
"George Steinbrenner, R.I.P."

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