NEW YORK -- For more than three decades, George
Steinbrenner's imprints were all over the New York Yankees.
Blockbuster trades, pricey signings, hirings, firings - they all
needed his OK.
The omnipresent owner's colorful 35-year reign of
pronouncements, threats and bluster ended Thursday when he passed
control of baseball's most famous and successful franchise to his
youngest son, Hal.
"I realize it's a great responsibility," said Hal
Steinbrenner, who turns 40 on Dec. 3. "My dad is, needless to say,
a tough act to follow."
The elder Steinbrenner has gradually withdrawn from the Yankees'
day-to-day operations in recent years as his health faded, and
brothers Hal and Hank were appointed co-chairmen in April.
George Steinbrenner, now 78, headed a group that bought the club
in January 1973 for an $8.7 million net price and became one of the
most high-profile owners in all of sports. He dominated the back
pages of New York's tabloids, earning the nickname "The Boss" as
he spent lavishly on players and changed managers 20 times during
his first 23 years as owner, feuding with Billy Martin, Yogi Berra
and Dave Winfield.
The Yankees regained their former glory, winning six World
Series titles and 10 American League pennants from 1976-2003. They
also transformed themselves into a sports empire that owns a cable
television network and food concession company and is preparing to
move into a $1.3 billion new Yankee Stadium next year.
Steinbrenner was baseball's longest-serving current owner, but
has cut back his role with the team following fainting spells that
required hospitalization in December 2003 and October 2006.
His speech in public has been halting and weak since the second
fall, and he has needed assistance when walking. From a golf cart,
he delivered the balls for the ceremonial first pitches at July's
All-Star game at Yankee Stadium, then stayed home in Florida to
watch the 85-year-old park's final game on television in September.
Baseball owners unanimously approved the change in control
during a meeting Thursday, ending an era in which Steinbrenner
became the team's defining image as much as Babe Ruth and Joe
DiMaggio did in earlier eras.
"He's been slowing down the last couple years," Hal
Steinbrenner said. "Really, for the last two years I have been
intimately involved with all aspects and all departments of the
company. It's what I've been doing day-to-day. My duties aren't
really going to change and my workload isn't going to change much.
So, I mean, it's as much a procedural thing within the family, I
think, as anything at this point."
Hal Steinbrenner shuns attention as much as his father craved
it. But while 51-year-old Hank has become the public voice of the
team's ownership in the past year, Hal was at Yankee Stadium far
more frequently than his brother. Hal is responsible for financial
operations of the club, and Hank oversees general manager Brian
Cashman and the baseball operations.
"I'm not going to ask the people in the family why they picked
one against the other," said baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who
visited Steinbrenner in Tampa, Fla., before Game 2 of the World
Series last month. "I get enough trouble as commissioner. I don't
need to get into family squabbles."
Steinbrenner's tenure was twice interrupted by lengthy bans from
baseball (1974-76 and 1990-93), but it was widely believed he still
made the final decisions during those periods.
Major League Baseball said Steinbrenner requested the change in
control be made, and the Yankees said Hank Steinbrenner voted in
favor of it. George Steinbrenner retains his title as the team's
chairman and his wife, Joan, is a vice chairperson along with their
daughters, Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Jessica Steinbrenner.
Before Hal, each son-in-law of the owner emerged as heir
apparents, only to divorce the owner's daughters and depart the
Joe Molloy, married to Jessica Steinbrenner, was a general
partner from 1992-97. Steve Swindal, married to Jennifer
Steinbrenner, was a general partner from 1998-06, then became
chairman of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC, the team's holding
company. He was publicly designated by George Steinbrenner as his
successor in June 2005 but Swindal departed after his driving under
the influence arrest early on Feb. 15, 2007.
Hal Steinbrenner became more active in the team's operations
following Swindal's arrest.
"George is still going to be involved," Yankees president
Randy Levine said. "This is really just a codification, with the
commissioner's help and input, of what's been going on the last