He was a notorious micromanager who let nothing stand in the way of the only thing that ever really mattered to him, winning. Some say his lavish pursuit of free-agents ruined baseball. It definitely changed the game and made a lot of players rich in the process, that's for sure.
By changing managers 23 times in 30 years, including famously firing and rehiring Billy Martin five times, Steinbrenner did the "you're fired" thing long before Donald Trump did. And yet, once he found them, he stuck with manager Joe Torre and a core group of players, centered on team captain Derek Jeter, for 12 years, winning six American League pennants and four World Series.
Under Steinbrenner's ownership, the Yanks won a total of seven World Series and 11 A.L. pennants, reigniting a tarnished Yankees brand that had languished for a decade. As a lifelong Yankees fan who grew up in the Big Apple fighting endlessly with rival N.Y. Mets fans, I believe my view of Steinbrenner would be shared by most Yankees fans:
- We loved him and hated him and that was fine with us.
- He brought us winning teams to be proud of, dysfunctional as some of them were.
- His outrageous management antics were infuriating, fascinating, and occasionally hilarious.
- He made sure his players knew who was The Boss. He actually made multimillion-dollar-a-year players cut their hair; even benched star Don Mattingly for not complying.
- His job was his life - 365 days a year. He had no "offseason," he never took vacations, and he didn't play golf.
- He was demanding. He once gave his PR Director, Harvey Greene, a 9 pm curfew, fired him after the media reported on it, then demanded to know why he wasn't at work the next morning.
- He exerted control in every element of his franchise. He made Dave Winfield the highest paid player in the game, then hired someone to dig up dirt on him over a feud.
- He hired the best, and kept them. He changed the game by offering star players record-breaking salaries, but it paid off.
- Failure was never an option. He paid the best and expected his team to win, firing anyone who got in the way.
- He had a singular focus. According to author Jeff Angus, Steinbrenner "won because he had a monomaniacal focus" on winning titles, not sales or the bottom line.
- And he instilled that focus within his organization. Even after Steinbrenner gave up control of the team to his sons, "Nothing's really changed here -- Before, you'd hear it from him. Now we hear it from ourselves. I think he put that on us," catcher Jorge Posada told the N.Y. Times.
- "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way." His leadership mantra was on a plaque on Steinbrenner's desk, according to MLB.com.
- He was large-than-life. According to Sports Illustrated, Steinbrenner once said, "You're in the Big Apple. The game is important, but so is the showmanship -- You have to have a blend of capable, proficient players, but you have to have another ingredient in New York and that's color."