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'The Boss' made Yankees a dictatorship

Thursday, December 18, 2003
George hustled Reggie to Yankees
By Mike Puma
Special to

Signature Event
Nov. 29, 1976 - George Steinbrenner's Thanksgiving Day is complete with the signing of free-agent Reggie Jackson to a $3-million, five-year contract that included a Rolls-Royce.

Jackson, who spent the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles, later said the way Steinbrenner pursued him, it was "like trying to hustle a girl in a bar." Steinbrenner had signed pitcher Catfish Hunter as a free agent two years earlier, and his acquiring Jackson gave the Yankees one of the most feared sluggers in baseball and a top drawing card.

Embarrassed by the Cincinnati Reds' sweep of the Yankees in the 1976 World Series, Steinbrenner's first free-agent target was Bobby Grich. But when Grich signed with the California Angels, Steinbrenner set his sights on Jackson.

"The reason I'm a Yankee is that George Steinbrenner outhustled everybody else," Jackson said.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Because of his father's stern ways, Steinbrenner was the only student in his public-school class to dress in a coat and tie.

  • As an assistant at Purdue in 1956, Steinbrenner coached Len Dawson, who later became a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • One of the players Steinbrenner signed with the Cleveland Pipers was Jerry Lucas, who had just concluded his storybook Ohio State career. Lucas never played with the Pipers.

  • Besides being labeled "The Boss," the New York tabloids also called him Phineas T. Bluster, General Von Steingrabber and Babe Ruthless.

  • Five days after Billy Martin's resignation as manager in 1978, Steinbrenner announced Martin would return for the 1980 season. Martin returned in 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1988.

  • Steinbrenner had three managers in 1982: Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Clyde King.

  • In 1983, Steinbrenner criticized AL president Lee MacPhail for his ruling in the "Pine Tar" game. MacPhail overturned the umpires' ruling, allowing a George Brett home run to stand after it had been determined Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

  • Winfield was dubbed "Mr. May" by Steinbrenner in 1985.

  • Steinbrenner negotiated a 12-year television contract with Madison Square Garden network in 1988 that paid the Yankees an average of $40 million per season.

  • Fans at Yankee Stadium gave a standing ovation when it was announced on July 30, 1990 that Steinbrenner had signed an agreement banning him from running the Yankees for the rest of his life.

  • Gambler Howie Spira was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 1991 for attempting to extort $110,000 from Steinbrenner.

  • American Shipbuilding, which Steinbrenner bought in 1967, filed for bankruptcy in 1993.

  • Steinbrenner was fined $50,000 for criticizing the umpiring during the 1995 division series between the Yankees and Mariners.

  • He was portrayed in the TV sitcom "Seinfeld."

  • Steinbrenner signed former Mets stars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, both of whom had battled substance abuse, to contracts in the 1990s. Gooden pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1996 and Strawberry contributed to three world championship teams.

  • In 1996, Steinbrenner moved the Yankees' spring training site from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa, where he lives.

  • Yankees pitcher David Wells threatened to punch out Steinbrenner during a clubhouse argument in 1997.

  • In 1998, Steinbrenner was named to Baseball Hall of Fame's board of directors.

  • Steinbrenner has owned several racehorses. He has an 860-acre stud farm in Ocala, Fla., where he breeds horses.

  • Steinbrenner's tenure as owner of the Yankees is the longest in franchise history. The previous record was Col. Jacob Ruppert's 22 years in control.

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