Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dead at 80

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Steinbrenner made no apologies for his bombast, even when it cost him.

“I haven’t always done a good job, and I haven’t always been successful,” Steinbrenner said in 2005. “But I know that I have tried.”

Still, Steinbrenner could poke fun at himself. He hosted “Saturday Night Live,” clowned with Martin in a beer commercial and chuckled at his impersonation on “Seinfeld.”

Steinbrenner spent freely on the likes of Jeter, Jackson, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, CC Sabathia and others in hopes of more titles.

“Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing,” Steinbrenner was fond of saying. “Breathing first, winning next.”

He kept a sign on his desk that read: “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”

All along, he envisioned himself as a true Yankee Doodle Dandy _ born on the Fourth of July in 1930.

Steinbrenner liked to quote military figures and saw games as an extension of war. In the tunnel leading from the Yankees‘ clubhouse to the field in the old stadium, he had a sign posted with a saying from Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “There is no substitute for victory.”

He joined the likes of Al Davis, Charlie O. Finley, Bill Veeck, George Halas, Jack Kent Cooke and Jerry Jones as the most recognized team owners. But Steinbrenner’s sports interests extended beyond baseball.

He was an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue in the 1950s and was part of the group that bought the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League in the 1960s.

He was a vice president of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1989-96 and entered six horses in the Kentucky Derby, failing to win with Steve’s Friend (1977), Eternal Prince (1985), Diligence (1996), Concerto (1997), Blue Burner (2002) and the 2005 favorite, Bellamy Road.

To many, the Yankees and Steinbrenner were synonymous. His fans applauded his win-at-all-costs style; his detractors blamed him for wrecking baseball’s competitive balance with spiraling salaries.

Steinbrenner negotiated a landmark $486 million, 12-year cable TV contract with the Madison Square Garden Network in 1988 and launched the Yankees‘ own YES Network for the 2002 season.

The Yankees later became the first team with a $200 million payroll, provoking anger and envy among other owners. When the Yankees signed Steve Kemp after the 1982 season, Baltimore owner Edward Bennett Williams said Steinbrenner stockpiled outfielders “like nuclear weapons.”

There was no denying the results. When Steinbrenner bought the Yankees, they had gone eight seasons without finishing in first place, their longest drought since Ruth & Co. won the team’s first pennant in 1921.

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