Sunday, July 30, 2006

George Steinbrenner: Background

George Michael Steinbrenner III (born July 4, 1930), often known as "The Boss", is the principal owner of the New York Yankees. He is also a former owner in an interest in the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils. His outspokenness and role in driving up player salaries have made him one of baseball's more controversial figures, though his willingness to spend to build the club (and its postseason success since 1976) have earned him grudging respect from some baseball executives.

Steinbrenner was born in Rocky River, Ohio and grew up in Bay Village, Ohio both suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. He ran track and played football at Culver Military Academy in Indiana and ran track at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and graduated in 1952.

After two years in the United States Air Force, Steinbrenner coached high school basketball and football at Aquinas High School (Columbus, Ohio), semi-pro football (Pope's Inn) under Ohio State University All-American Victor Marino, and attended Ohio State University. On March 1, 1955, he was named an assistant football coach at Northwestern University, but was dismissed along with Wildcat head coach Lou Saban on December 13 of that year, three days after the arrival of new athletic director Stu Holcomb. Saban soon resurfaced at Purdue University and took Steinbrenner along. After marrying Joan Zieg on May 12, 1956, Steinbrenner spent one season with the Boilermakers before joining his father's struggling company, the American Shipbuilding Company, the following year.

In 1960, he bought the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League. The team joined the American Basketball League the next year, with Steinbrenner making history by hiring John McLendon as the first African-American head coach in professional sports. The team went on to win a championship, then pulled off a public relations coup during the offseason by signing Ohio State All-American Jerry Lucas. The signing led to the National Basketball Association admitting the team as its 10th team on July 10, 1962. However, since he was unable to raise $250,000 and the American Basketball League was threatening to sue the NBA because of the shift, the deal collapsed on July 30.

The Pipers soon went bankrupt, with Steinbrenner returning to the relative anonymity of the American Shipbuilding Company, before eventually buying the company. During much of the next decade, Steinbrenner invested in Broadway plays and later gained a small piece of ownership with an NBA team, the Chicago Bulls.

In 1971, Steinbrenner offered $9 million to buy the Cleveland Indians, but after agreeing in principle with Indians owner Vernon Stouffer, saw the deal fall apart at the last minute. Indians General Manager Gabe Paul had played a major role in brokering the deal, and when the New York Yankees became available the following year, he helped Steinbrenner achieve his dream of owning a baseball club. In gratitude, Steinbrenner offered him the opportunity to direct baseball operations for the club.

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