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“He was truly the most influential and innovative owner in all of sports,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said. “He made the Yankees a source of great pride in being a New Yorker.”

Until his dying day, Steinbrenner demanded championships. He barbed Joe Torre during the 2007 AL playoffs, then let the popular manager leave after 12 seasons because of another loss in the opening round. The team responded last year by winning his final title.

“I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian, and a dear friend,” Torre said. “It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered flags to half-staff at City Hall Plaza.

“Few people have had a bigger impact on New York over the past four decades than George Steinbrenner,” Bloomberg said. “George had a deep love for New York, and his steely determination to succeed, combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work made him a quintessential New Yorker.”

When the former Big Ten football coach bought the team, he famously promised a hands-off operation.

“We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t,” he said. “I’ll stick to building ships.”

It hardly turned out that way.

He changed managers 21 times and got rid of about a dozen general managers. When a Yankees public relations man went home to Ohio for the Christmas holiday, then returned in a hurry for a news conference to announce David Cone’s re-signing, Steinbrenner fired him.

“There is nothing quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner’s,” said John McMullen, one of his associates.

Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin in 1975, 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1987, firing him four times and letting him resign once as the two battled over substance and personality.

Martin disparaged outfielder Reggie Jackson and Steinbrenner by saying: “The two of them deserve each other _ one’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.”

After Steinbrenner dismissed Berra as manager 16 games into the 1985 season, the 10-time World Series champion vowed he wouldn’t go to back to Yankee Stadium for a game until Steinbrenner apologized _ which he did 14 years later.

In 1985, Steinbrenner derided future Hall of Famer Winfield as “Mr. May” for poor performance _ comparing him negatively to Jackson, whose nickname was “Mr. October.” He also once called pitcher Hideki Irabu a fat toad.

Players sometimes responded with their own insults. One night in 1982, reliever Goose Gossage let loose and called Steinbrenner “the fat man.”

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