Professional baseball currently isn’t among the most popular sports in the African-American community, but even the casual baseball fan would tell you they’re well familiar with the success of the New York Yankees. And the reason why the Yankees are so popular in U.S. sports is due to the dedicated services of longtime team principal owner George Steinbrenner, who died from a massive heart attack on July 13.

According to The Associated Press, Steinbrenner had a heart attack at his home in Tampa, Fla., was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, and died at about 6:30 a.m. In more than 37 years as owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner led them to seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.

“He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig told reporters. “Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered.”

Steinbrenner’s death, which came on the day of the MLB All-Star game, was the second death of a famous Yankee in less than a week. Bob Sheppard, the team’s legendary public address announcer for 56 years, died at age 99 on July 11.
Steinbrenner headed a group that purchased the Yankees for about $10 million in 1973; according to Forbes, the team’s net worth now stands at $1.6 billion.

The longtime Yankees owner was known for his hands-on style of managing the team, which is rare for most sports franchise owners. Often cited as a micro-managing dictator, Steinbrenner closely supervised every business aspect of the Yankees, from free agent/trade operations to roster/depth chart management. He was literally that type of owner that would fire you, and then rehire you hours later, only to repeat the process, again, the next week.

But even with his controversial style, he will be remembered by his colleagues as the ultimate champion.

“The Washington Nationals and the Lerner Family are deeply saddened by the loss of George Steinbrenner – a monumental figure of the baseball world for more than 35 years,” said Washington Nationals Senior Communications Director Joanna Comfort in a statement. “He will be remembered as a driven competitor and champion, but also a man who gave much to the people and communities he loved. George was a one of a kind owner, sports figure, and man. He will be missed. Our condolences go out to the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization and Yankees fans everywhere.”

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor