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George Steinbrenner: architect of the multimillion-dollar athlete

George Steinbrenner, who passed away Tuesday, resuscitated the Yankees by the force of his will and checkbook. He was a trailblazer in the commercialization of baseball.

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In fact, partially because of Steinbrenner’s penchant for paying super-size salaries Major League Baseball established a luxury tax to try to equalize the differences between large-market teams like the Yankees and small-market teams.

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In the first seven years of the luxury tax, the Yankees have paid $175 million. This year, the team has a salary of $206,333,389, the most in the major leagues.

Steinbrenner was known for his mercurial temperament, such as his hiring and firing of the late Billy Martin as manager five times. Mr. Martin had public feuds with Steinbrenner, including one where he suspended Mr. Jackson for trying to bunt instead of swing. After the game, Martin told reporters that Jackson and Steinbrenner deserved each other. “One’s a born liar [Jackson], and the other’s convicted,” said Martin, referring to Steinbrenner’s conviction of an illegal political contribution to Richard Nixon in 1972.

“It was a serial soap opera,” recalls Muzzio of the Martin affairs. “It was all entertainment.”

Despite its Bronx location, the Yankees became a major tourist and fan attraction, drawing some 4 million fans, the largest in baseball. Steinbrenner also formed his own television network, the YES network, which broadcasts many of the Yankees' games.

Although Steinbrenner was known for his big player salaries, he also gave away millions to charity through the Steinbrenner Foundation which supports medical care for disadvantaged children, musicians, firefighters, and slain law enforcement officers. He was also known to anonymously donate millions to athletic and educational causes in Florida's Hillsborough County, where he lived.

On Tuesday night Major League Baseball will play its annual All-Star game, which includes six Yankees. New York Gov. David Paterson commented: “I hope we all take a moment to remember the life and legacy of George Steinbrenner: the owner, the businessman, the husband and father, the Boss.”


IN PICTURES: George Steinbrenner through the years