Jewish World Review July 21, 2010 / 10 Menachem-Av, 5770
Loathing of Steinbrenner softens after his death
By John Kass
But Steinbrenner, portrayed for decades as the ultimate demonic major league bully, is now remembered as a crusty but benign plaster baseball saint.
Judging by the tone of the post-mortem media coverage, when Steinbrenner wasn't willing his team to World Series rings, he'd feed tiny birds and other forest creatures from the palms of his outstretched hands.
Any day now, I figure we'll learn he secretly visited a children's hospital to promise some little tyke that
Even a Yankee-hating White Sox fan like me can think fondly of Steinbrenner. Years ago, I wrote a column about Steinbrenner enjoying a chicken dinner in
"Oh, good," Steinbrenner said. "You play shortstop. Jeter is injured, and we need a shortstop."
Then Steinbrenner invited the boy and his grandpa to be his guests at
"Would you like to be honorary batboy?" asked the kindly Steinbrenner.
All that was missing was lightning hitting the old oak tree from which the bat Wonderboy was hewn and French horn music and
I told this heartwarming Steinbrenner story to Wings, the young guy who helps out with the column. Wings said nothing.
What's wrong with you? Don't you care about Steinbrenner's kindness to the little boy and the grandpa and the French horns?
"It's good that he was nice to the boy," Wings said, "but that doesn't change the fact that he was a psychotic (bleeper)."
"He was an egomaniac who ruined the Yankees," Wings said. "He turned them into a laughingstock, and what's more, he ruined my father's love of the Yankees. And that, I cannot forgive."
Wings is from
He remembers the so-called awful Yankee period in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
"People don't realize that they stunk, and they didn't win a World Series all throughout my formative years, from 1979 to 1995," he said. "And I blame it on
Wings' favorite player was the Yankee captain,
"His vision, passion and commitment to winning recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game," Mattingly's statement read, as if dictated by a robot.
Wings raised one eyebrow in disgust.
"It makes me think of
That was the day that Steinbrenner's vague policy against long hair on his players led to a most shameful Yankee incident.
At that time, Steinbrenner had been exiled from Yankee operations by Commissioner
"I was embarrassed to be a Yankee fan. They were the worst team in the league. The captain was on the bench. And I blamed Steinbrenner for everything," Wings said.
Wings' dad had been a lifelong Yankees fan. Wings called to ask his dad about that last Steinbrennerian straw: the 1985 firing of Yogi Berra as manager.
"That one really sticks in my craw," Wings' dad said Thursday. "Steinbrenner fired Yogi after 16 games, after promising he would be his manager all season. And when he fired him, he wouldn't do it himself. He sent someone else."
Steinbrenner clearly had the reach to humiliate Mattingly. But after Vincent ordered Steinbrenner to step aside for a time as managing partner, the boss couldn't make any more disastrous trades.
The Yankees were forced to develop their minor league talent. And within a few years, they had players like Jeter, reliever
With the funeral scheduled for the weekend, Wings' dad considered the seven World Series rings and the 11
Suddenly, Wings' dad began to sound more like a guy who never stopped loving the Yankees, Steinbrenner or no Steinbrenner.
"But I thought you hated him," Wings said.
Wings could hear the rustle of newspapers on the other end of the phone, every page filled with heartwarming stories about the kindly, but firm, Yankee boss.
And Wings realized he was living another baseball moment: the son still despising the owner, loyal to the memory of his father's pain, even as the father relented.
"I said to your mother, 'Gee, maybe I have to change my opinion,'" said Wings' dad. "After reading all these articles, doesn't he seem like a saint?"
He sure does: St. George of the
Rest in peace.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.
© 2008, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.