Yankees unveil monument to George Steinbrenner

NEW YORK (AP) - George Steinbrenner is now truly the biggest of the Yankees greats _ as measured in Monument Park.

The colorful and combative owner was honored with the largest tribute in the team’s storied area of remembrance behind the center-field fence. His 7-by-5-foot, 760-pound monument of bronze atop a granite base was unveiled during a solemn ceremony Monday night attended by many of the stars he had feuded with and fawned over during his 37 1/2-year tenure.

“It’s big,” Derek Jeter said. “Probably just how The Boss wanted it. The biggest one out there.”

Jeter was asked whether Steinbrenner would have liked that.

“No question,” the Yankees captain answered. “It probably was his idea.”

Former manager Joe Torre came to Steinbrenner’s $1.6 billion new Yankee Stadium for the first time, as did former captain Don Mattingly, and Torre reconciled with general manager Brian Cashman. Steinbrenner’s daughters had tears in their eyes and his widow Joan unveiled the monument after being accompanied from home plate in a golf cart by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

“Do I think George should be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I do,” Selig said. “He changed the sport in a lot of ways.”

Steinbrenner died July 13 at age 80 after several years of declining health. The tribute came before the first-place Yankees opened a key series with an 8-6 win over second-place Tampa Bay, the team of his adopted hometown.

New York’s tribute to Steinbrenner, titled “The Boss,” is behind a quintet of 2-by-3-foot monuments honoring manager Miller Huggins (unveiled in 1932), Lou Gehrig (1941), Babe Ruth (1949), Mickey Mantle (1996) and Joe DiMaggio (1999). The other monument, to the victims and rescue workers of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is on the left-field side of the area.

“A true visionary who changed the game of baseball forever,” the monument reads. “He was considered the most influential owner in all of sports. In 37 years as principal owner, the Yankees posted a major league-best .566 winning percentage, while winning 11 American League pennants and seven World Series titles, becoming the most recognizable sports brand in the world.

“A devoted sportsman, he was vice president of the United States Olympic Committee, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors and a member of the NCAA Foundation board of trustees. A great philanthropist whose charitable efforts were mostly performed without fanfare, he followed a personal motto of the greatest form of charity is anonymity.”

The entire team, led by Alex Rodriguez and manager Joe Girardi, walked from the dugout and up steps in center field, with Torre and Mattingly among those trailing in business attire.

“It was definitely one of those pretty cool moments to be a part of,” Andy Pettitte said. “Another special moment for this franchise, and another special moment here in this new ballpark.”

They were joined by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, Steinbrenner’s two sons and two daughters.

After the monument was unveiled, David Wells walked by and touched it. Mariano Rivera leaned forward, looked ahead and contemplated.

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