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"Mr. Steinbrenner sent me. I'm here to put a coatrack on the back of the door."
In his Legends Field office the Yankees' owner sits inside the curve of a wooden semicircular desk, which abuts a long conference table. Literally, no visitor is able to sit immediately across from him, to take him on directly.
Steinbrenner loves aphorisms, loves how the complexities of life can be boiled down to fit inside quotation marks. He hangs placards with some of his favorite sayings in the clubhouse and hallways of Legends Field and Yankee Stadium. Wisdom—more than that, inspiration and motivation—for his highly compensated ballplayers. But among all his aphorisms the ones that mean the most to him are kept under the glass atop his desk, right in front of him.
"The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune," Steinbrenner reads aloud to his visitor. "Plutarch."
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail. Ralph Waldo Emerson."
"You can't lead the cavalry if you can't sit in the saddle."
"The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack."
This is the one he likes "probably most of all," he says: "I am wounded but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and rest awhile, and then I will rise and fight again. Anon."
Steinbrenner himself was once a walking, unabridged Bartlett's. In the 1980s Yankees beat writers privately referred to him as Mr. Tunes because tales and outrageous quotes blasted from his mouth as easily as songs from a jukebox. He ripped his players, coaches and managers seemingly at the drop of a coin. He once said that relievers Dave Righetti and Brian Fisher should have been so embarrassed by their performances that "they should have gone home with the vendors."
"I told Righetti that?" he asks now, smiling. He doesn't remember it. "I used to give them a little hard-ass sometimes. That's the old coach in me."