- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To the legions of New York Yankees fans, George Steinbrenner was “The Boss” — the innovative and stalwart owner of baseball’s most successful franchise, a man who built the best team possible by spending the big bucks to get the best players and by freely hiring and firing managers and general managers.

To the legions of Yankees haters, George Steinbrenner was the villainous ruler of the “Evil Empire,” hellbent on monopolizing America’s pastime with his Machiavellian tactics and polarizing turtlenecks.

Regardless of one’s perspective on the Yankees‘ fiery owner, baseball fans across the nation tipped their caps Tuesday in tribute to the passing of one of sports’ foremost icons. The man who once said, “I will never have a heart attack — I give them,” died Tuesday morning of a massive heart attack.

“He was an incredible and charitable man,” his family said in a statement. “He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”

Mr. Steinbrenner had the heart attack Monday night in Tampa, Fla., home of the Yankees‘ spring-training complex, and was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital by emergency crews.

Mr. Steinbrenner had just celebrated his 80th birthday on July 4. Just two days before his death, the team’s longtime public-address announcer Bob Sheppard died at age 99.

Seemingly fitting, Mr. Steinbrenner died on the day of baseball’s 81st All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif., and tributes poured in from rival teams, former players and managers, and every manner of public figure.

“The passing of George Steinbrenner marks the end of an era in New York City baseball history,” said Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, owners of the rival New York Mets. “George was a larger than life figure and a force in the industry. The rise and success of his teams on the field and in the business marketplace under his leadership are a testament to his skill, drive, and determination.”

At the All-Star Game Tuesday evening, Mr. Steinbrenner was honored with a video tribute narrated by commentator Joe Buck. It ended with a image of the smiling “Boss,” with a message that read, “Once a Yankee, always a Yankee.” The video was followed by a moment of silence.

Tuesday was the day for everyone to set aside their differences with Mr. Steinbrenner and remember his contribution to the game and its most successful team.

George was The Boss, make no mistake,” said Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who had a 14-year spat with Mr. Steinbrenner after being fired as manager of the Yankees in 1985 after one season. “He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much.”

Yankees captain Derek Jeter echoed Mr. Berra’s sentiments.

“You know what the thing is, I have a great relationship with ‘The Boss,’” Mr. Jeter said Tuesday afternoon. “I’d go visit him in the offseason because we both live in Tampa. … It’s tough, because he’s more than just an owner to me. He’s a friend of mine. He will be deeply missed.”

Beginning with Friday’s game at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees will wear commemorative uniform patches for the rest of the season to remember Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard, according to the team’s website.

After years of mediocrity in the late 1960s and early 1970s that stood in contrast to the decades of “Damn Yankees” domination, the Steinbrenner-era Yankees have won 16 division titles, 11 American League pennants and seven World Series championships.

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