Baseball lost a great man Tuesday.
George Steinbrenner was both a fan and player's dream, a man who made it clear that winning -- and winning it all -- was the only acceptable outcome.
In 23 years I played for owners that ran the gamut. The only one I could think of placing in the same league as Mr. Steinbrenner was Jerry Colangelo in Arizona. Like George, Jerry made it very clear that he had no qualms with the salaries being paid to players, but his expectations were World Series wins, every year.
Few owners interact with their players the way Mr. Steinbrenner did. Even fewer emit the passion, compassion and care for their players the way Mr. Steinbrenner did. He viewed wearing those pinstripes as baseball's highest honor and he wanted his organization to view it the same way.
Did he meddle? Sure, but so what? Passionate people tend to do that. Was he loud? Yeah, but since when is that a bad thing when you're loud and overbearing at times because you care so deeply? I absolutely cherished the man and had the honor of meeting him only once.
After we beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, he stopped me outside the media room in the tunnel under the stadium. Here he was, I knew he was crushed, but even so he went to great lengths to talk to me and say things I'd forever remember and cherish.
Mr. Steinbrenner was the No. 1 reason I wanted to initially go to the Yankees when I learned the Diamondbacks wanted to move my contract. I loved playing for Mr. Colangelo and I saw Mr. Steinbrenner as an older, more passionate version of him. As a player, what more could you ask from the owner of your team? He did everything in his power, and sometimes things outside his control, to take care of his players and his fans, and made no qualms about who he had to bull over to do it.
So many people looked to him and the Yankees organization as being a big contributor to the unbalanced financial playing field in baseball. I say baloney. If every owner poured the percentage of his resources into their teams as Mr. Steinbrenner did, there would be far more happy fans in many more cities.
He bought the most storied franchise in sports history for the paltry sum of $8.7 million and some 35 years later it is a billion dollar property. That's absolutely attributable to him. The game, fans and players are ALL better for it.
Mr. Steinbrenner was as responsible for the change and growth of this great game in the past 30 years as anyone associated with baseball and he absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Oh, and for what it's worth, without George Steinbrenner the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was nowhere near what it became in the late 1990s and into this new millennium, and for that we should all (well, all New Yorkers and New Englanders, that is) be eternally grateful.
He's now in the best box seat in the house, and God bless him for that.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Steinbrenner family and Yankees organization. God Bless The Boss.
Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, and have encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation. They recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.