Today George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of eighty.  He was arguably the greatest owner in the history of sports.  He was in arguably the most complex owner in the history of sports.  On one hand a demanding task master  on the other a soft hearted loyal friend.

On the first day of the 2009 World Series I wrote this article about how I had hoped that George would see one more World Championship.   I have decided to reprint it today without changing a word.  I believe what I wrote about him nine  months ago is exactly what you will be hearing people from all over the sporting world say about him in the next few days.

God Bless George, my condolences to his family.

Steve

Tonight at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx the Yankees will host the Phillies in game one of the World Series.

Of course, as a life long Yankee fan I will be rooting for my team but this year I will be rooting very,very hard.

I really want to see the Boss get one more championship.

You may find this hard to believe but George Steinbrenner is a Saloon Guy.  Back in the seventies and eighties you would easily find George hanging out in George Martin’s or P.J. Clarke’s or T.J. Tuckers or Jim McMullen’s.  I know this because I was known to have a gargle or two in these fine establishments myself.   As matter of fact when Clarke’s almost went away Steinbrenner was part of the group that saved it.  George was known to be a big spender and a good tipper.   Which in the Saloon world forgives a lot.

For the last twenty years he has been an habitué of Elaine’s restaurant.   As a matter of fact I would bet good money that if you went in there tonight you would find that Elaine will be sporting four diamond encrusted pendants, with the interlocking N.Y. Yankee logo‘s, around her neck on a chain. Each one a replica of the Yankees championship rings of the most recent era.   A gift from the Boss.

Like most guys who did sports in the eighties I had plenty of exposure to George.  I was one of the lucky ones who never had to experience his wrath. I think that was due to the fact that I always thought that in spite of all his bluster and the managerial merry- go- round he was the best owner in baseball.   There never has been anyone who was so dedicated to put the best possible product on the field.   He was not always right with his moves or his methods but he always tried hard.   Besides, how can you argue with a guy who turned a two million dollar initial capitol investment into a team worth 1.5 billion dollars or more.

When A Current Affair went on the air in 1986 the second program we ever did was “ The Other Side of George Steinbrenner” it was a very long interview with George and I, in which we touched on subjects not usually reported about him.   We spoke about his childhood and his father.   We covered subjects like his love for music.   Every year he would donate a wheel barrel full of money to get to conduct the Cleveland Symphony for one night.   We covered his commitment the Silver Shield Foundation which sets up scholarships and financial aid for the widows and children of police officers and firemen who lost their lives in the line of duty. George would donate the entire proceeds from one game every year to the fund.   That’s a big chunk of change.   We spoke about his family and he told me he hoped his sons would want to take over the club.   He opened up pretty good to me and I reported everything accurately including some of his not so proud moments.

After the piece aired I got a phone call from John Fugazy who worked for the Yankees and he wanted me to know that in the Yankees morning meeting George told the staff that the portrayal of him was the fairest shot he ever got in the N.Y. media.

I did not become a pal of George’s, however if we were in the same room their was always a cordial and friendly exchange.

The last time I saw him was the reason I am rooting so hard for his Yankees this Series.

It was after the Yankees had beaten the Met’s in the 2000 World Series to make it three championships in a row.    After the clinching ballgame I went up to Elaine’s where the whole joint was in a state of euphoria.   After about an hour the door opened and who walked in but the Boss and his group.   The whole place erupted in spontaneous applause.   George shook as many hands as he could as his group slowly made their way to the table.

I did not get a chance to shake his hand so I waited for them to get settled and then walked to his table in the back.   I apologized for interrupting and said “ George, I’m Steve McPartlin and I just want to congratulate you and your family.” he looked at me and then got to his feet put his hands on my shoulders and said “Stevie, so good to see you, can you believe it, three in a row we won three in a row Steve.”

He then began to cry. Not just tears peaking out the corners of his eyes but a shoulder shaking sob.

I looked into his eyes and I saw humility and gratitude, and appreciation.   No bluster, no fire, none of the expectation of victory that had become his trademark.   I also saw the look of a man who knew that this was something not to be taken for granted.

I also looked into the eyes of a man who knew that this was not going to last forever.

I said to him then “ why not four George” he started to laugh and again pumped my hand and thanked me for coming over.

I went to the men’s room and had to wipe the tears from my eye.

It has been reported over the past years that he is not himself any more. I know what his situation is but that is for he and his family to divulge not me.

I will make no predictions on the World Series except for what George will be wearing.   A blue blazer and a white turtleneck.

I hope with all my heart that tonight when it becomes very apparent that George is in his box the fans at Yankee Stadium will let him know how they feel.   It may be during Roll Call or at some other point I just know my brethren will give the Boss a great memory.

As it should be, for he has given Yankee fans so many memories this time of year.