Could Late Yankees Owner Join Baseball Hall of Fame Ranks in Cooperstown?
Come December, there's a chance that the late New York Yankees' Owner George Steinbrenner could be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Stranger things have happened in the game.
If ever there was a polarizing figure in Major League Baseball's stratosphere, Steinbrenner, also known as 'The Boss' by friend or foe, filled the bill. Authoritative? Yes. Demanding? Double-yes. Successful? Most certainly. From when Steinbrenner took charge of the most iconic brand in sport on January 3, 1973, when he and a group of investors purchased the ball club from CBS Broadcasting Inc. for a reported $10 million, there would be little doubt who would have the final word in how things would be run on a daily basis.
From 1973 until his death in 2010, Steinbrenner held the titles of principal owner and managing partner of the Yankees. The buck stopped with him. And come this December, the former shipbuilder might find his name among those being voted on for election for permanent residency at 25 Main Street in the Village of Cooperstown.
The Contemporary Baseball Non-Players Committee that considers retired managers, umpires,and executives whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1980-present era, will be considering candidates for a Hall of Fame vote at MLB's Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Every three years the Committee is scheduled to meet. The ballot with the names to be considered by the Committee should be announced within one week after the conclusion of the World Series, come November.
Along with Steinbrenner's name anticipated on the Committee's final list for Hall of Fame consideration, are former managers Lou Piniella, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia, umpire Joe West, and executive Sandy Alderson.
Former Yankees' Owner Jacob Ruppert was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013, and Yankees' executive Ed Barrow, who is the person credited for converting Babe Ruth from pitcher to outfielder, entered the Hall of Fame in 1953.
For those who may spotlight what are perceived as negatives to keep Steinbrenner out of the hallowed halls of MLB's most famous address, they are dug in for the long haul. Back in 1974, Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating federal campaign laws and paid a fine. The campaign was that of then United States President Richard Nixon. Steinbrenner was suspended by MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for two years.
In July 1990, 'The Boss' found himself banned permanently from overseeing the day-to-day management of the Yankees by MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent. The banishment was a result of paying known gambler Howard Spira a reported $40,000. to 'dig up dirt' on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner would be reinstated in 1993.
Looking beyond the blemishes of three decades-plus in the game, the list of success for the game and the Yankees, with Steinbrenner leading, are too plentiful to ignore.
Bill Madden, a longtime sportswriter for the New York Daily News and recipient of baseball writers' highest honor, the J.T. Taylor Spink Award - presented by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for contributions to baseball writing, supports a Steinbrenner vote for the Hall of Fame.
"Steinbrenner should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame. In the '70s he was a visionary on free agency. When all the other owners were proclaiming it to be the ruination of the game, Steinbrenner saw it as the quickest path to restoring the Yankees to greatness,' Madden said in an email. 'Then in the '90s he was a visionary about television and showed owners how to substantially increase their revenues by negotiating record local TV contracts and then being the first owner to establish his own TV network (YES). Under his stewardship the Yankees won seven world championships."
There are those of us old enough to remember how sad of an on-field product the Yankees were throughout the 1960s until 1976 when the 'Bronx Bombers' won the American League pennant. Three consecutive pennants were collected ('76-'78), and two World Series championships ('77 & '78). A new bar of baseball excellence was set, not only for New York fans, but fans throughout the game. Fans throughout the game wanted a winner like the Yankees had become.
Today, according to Forbes, the Yankees are work 7.1 billion.
Some of the more iconic names that were lured to New York by Steinbrenner were Reggie Jackson, 'Catfish' Hunter, Ken Griffey, C.C. Sabathia, and Alex Rodriguez.
Always in search of baseball excellence, Steinbrenner never hesitated to make changes when he felt it was in the best interest of the ball club. In his first 23 seasons, Steinbrenner changed managers 20 times. Billy Martin was hired and fired five times.
There's no doubt that Steinbrenner was a hands-on kind of owner. The results, not the path traveled, often were the envy of his peers and detractors.
After his passing in 2010, Steinbrenner's family honored him with a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. Now, picture a sunny, summer day in late July, in Cooperstown, and the Steinbrenner family are seated front and center on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center. 'The Boss' is about to receive the game's highest honor for a job well done. Maybe, just maybe this December, an early Christmas present if you will, Yankees' fans and the Steinbrenner family will be able to begin prepping for their biggest celebration in years.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.