The All-Star break is usually a time of rest and reprieve for many Major Leaguers and fans alike. On July 13, just 9 days past his 80th birthday, George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, passed away from a massive heart attack. His life and career was tumultuous and as NBC Sports columnist Mike Celizic said,
He was lauded, loathed and lampooned, respected and reviled, feared and fawned over. He was bombastic, cruel, demanding, outrageous, outspoken, and charitable, a man who could fire a secretary for messing up a sandwich order but who also gave extra World Series tickets to bus drivers and servicemen, a man who fired managers in a blizzard of public invective, then hired them back as team executives at more than their original salaries.
One thing is certain, whatever one’s views of George Steinbrenner- he changed the landscape of baseball and for sports franchises forever. To those who he made enemies, of course their personal views are effected. Similarly, those he helped over the years view him much differently.
Having never met the man, I unfortunately cannot provide you with my own insights but like anything in life we form opinions based on our experiences. Putting that aside there is one aspect of George Steinbrenner’s personality that I think can be judged impartially-his willingness to accept blame.
In 1990, then commissioner Fay Vincent, through great pressure, forced Steinbrenner out of baseball for life-the reason- Steinbrenner paid a gambler to drudge up damaging information on Dave Winfield whom he was in a bitter contract dispute with. It was damaging to Major League Baseball in Vincent’s eyes for a sitting owner involved with a gambler to discredit a player. Understandable.
The last time Major League Baseball entered the rhelm of gambling and one of its own, was when Pete Rose was banned for life by commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti. Rose was accused of betting on baseball and from the moment he was accused in February of 1989 to as recent as 2003, Rose denied he bet on baseball until he wrote in book in 2004 where he finally came clean and admitted betting on baseball games.
Ever the smug, insolent and unrepentant hard nosed personality, Rose for years became the poster boy for the wrongly accused in the minds of many fans. Even in the confinement of five months in prison, having plead guilty to tax evasion, didn’t provide enough of an epiphany for Rose to finally admit his wrongdoing.
Compare that to George Steinbrenner who also was banned for life, yet was reinstated by the same man who initiated his ban in the first place. For all the man’s faults, the one virtue that George Steinbrenner can be applauded for was his humility in the face of banishment.
For a man who’s persona defied the very ideal of humility, accepting the ban placed on him, spoke volumes. There were no prolonged public pleas, no lawyers getting together to fight over the wording, he was gone, plain and simple, and he took it like a man. In fact, Vincent himself spoke of Steinbrenner’s ban as being “a silly deal for himself when he asked to be banned for life…” Yes, it was Steinbrenner’s idea.
Pete Rose on the other hand-well there is my point. We are a forgiving people. We love stories of redemption. For his many shortcomings as a person, as we all have, Steinbrenner did come back a changed man after being banned from the game for two years.
That’s more than what Pete Rose can ever say about himself and that’s why George Steinbrenner will one day be a Hall of Famer and Pete Rose will still be trying to convince us, with his new explanation, that he ONLY bet on HIS team. Sometimes we get life lessons from those we least expect it from.