Steinbrenner won but with no class

George Steinbrenner is dead and Yankee fans should say a little prayer of thanks for all he did and they might want to throw in a few prayers asking one or two saints to intercede on his behalf and ask God to overlook many of the things he did.

I'm a Met fan and hate the Yankees. It warms my heart when they lose or even just do something stupid.

Most Met fans, including me, enjoyed the fact that George turned the Yankees into a circus. Before Steinbrenner the Yankees were supposedly all about class and professionalism, but once Steinbrenner got involved all of that went out the window.

Oh, he made the right noises, but George wasn't a classy guy. He didn't hire classy guys. Unfortunately, he did hire winners.

I never understood why Yankee fans hated Steinbrenner. In 1973 he bought a team mired in mediocrity and in a few years turned them into champions. Sure, Steinbrenner's Yankees might not have been the same as (the mostly mythological) cool professionals of the past, but they won.

Unlike other baseball owners, Steinbrenner didn't fear free agency when it came in the mid 1970s. He threw himself - and his checkbook - into building a winning team. In 1976 he had his first pennant, but that wasn't enough and following the loss to Cincinnati in the World Series Steinbrenner brought Reggie Jackson to New York to play for manager Billy Martin.

That year the Yankees romped home in the American League and won the World Series. Reggie Jackson lived up to his big contract and his own bragging and delivered when it mattered. Across town the Mets' cheapskate owners were dismantling the team and off-loaded the franchise player - Tom Seaver - because they were determinedly refusing to join baseball's new era.

It was the darkest of times as the Mets found a new long term home in last place. Meanwhile the Yankees won again despite the George & Reggie & Billy circus act.

However, George's interfering ways caught up with him in the 80s and the Yankees stopped winning. They weren't terrible, but they were never quite good enough. And what was more, the Mets were better. Those were the glory days. The Mets dominated New York, the Yankees played second fiddle and we Met fans were all able to fully enjoy Steinbrenner's show because we all knew the Mets' success was killing him.

Then came the 90s. Steinbrenner was exiled from active involvement in the Yankees for paying a gambler to try to get dirt on Dave Winfield, a big money signing who Steinbrenner derided as a bust. George became an obscure figure, unfortunately the Mets became an obscenity so Met fans couldn't enjoy Steinbrenner's discomfort as much as we would have otherwise.

Then something terrible happened. Steinbrenner returned, chastened. And he seemed to have learned his lesson. He still wanted to win, but he just wrote the checks and let his baseball people run the show. Just like that it was the 1950s all over again as the Damn Yankees won and won and won even beat the Mets in the World Series. Oh yeah, and the team was full of classy professionals. Sickening.

I think it was around that time - the late 90s - that Yankee fans mellowed on Steinbrenner.

In recent years Steinbrenner has been less and less involved in running the Yankees, leaving most of the responsibilities to his son Hank. George managed one last hurrah, a final gesture towards what he'd been in the 70s, when he all but dismissed long-time manager Joe Torre after the 2007 season. He was old and frail then and Yankee fans mostly gave George a pass on that one as they were as annoyed as he was that the team had stopped winning (temporarily, unfortunately).

Steinbrenner made the Yankees interesting and winners and for that Yankee fans should be grateful to him. Most Met fans would have loved to have had to endure the 27 years Steinbrenner has given the Yankees.

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