SI Vault
 
Mister Softie?
Tom Verducci
May 10, 2004
At 73, George Steinbrenner is saying lots of nice things and acting happier than ever. But nobody's relaxing in Yankeedom. The Boss still has more power than any other owner in sports, and he knows how to use it
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 10, 2004

Mister Softie?

At 73, George Steinbrenner is saying lots of nice things and acting happier than ever. But nobody's relaxing in Yankeedom. The Boss still has more power than any other owner in sports, and he knows how to use it

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

"I believe the good you do for others comes back to you," he says. "But if you do something good for some person and more than two people know about it—you and the other person—then you didn't do it for the right reason. The desire to give back is from my mother. She was a little Irish woman, 5'2". Named O'Haley. She changed her name when she came to this country, to Haley. Rita Haley. She was very spiritual, very religious. Boy, everyone loved her."

Steinbrenner, however, typically does not act charitably toward those in his employ. "George is a great guy," Piniella says, "unless you have to work for him. My relationship with him is great, better than it's ever been. That's because I haven't worked for him in years."

He has been known to give his employees lie-detector tests. (After a trade rumor appeared in a newspaper, Gene Michael, one of his advisers, famously said he would take the test only after Steinbrenner did, claiming, "I know who the leak is: you!") Flustered when he could not reach an employee by phone, Steinbrenner once ordered his staff to notify their supervisors when they left their desk for more than 20 seconds and to carry a walkie-talkie tuned to a designated channel at all times, even when they went to the bathroom. "Failure to comply with this directive will result in a $100 fine," a memo said.

At times he can seem oddly like his over-the-top TV doppelganger, the George Steinbrenner voiced by Larry David on Seinfeld. One such time occurred when Steinbrenner was eager to listen to a music CD that the Yankees had made to send out with their Christmas cards. When no one could find a CD player around the office, he sent someone to buy one immediately. He then popped in the disc and hit the play button. The first cut was a rap tune by Run DMC. As secretaries started to dance, Steinbrenner, no fan of rap, pounded his fist on the table and barked, "Cut that out! Find out who's responsible for this!"

The offending party was identified and hauled before Steinbrenner.

"Are these friends of yours?"

"Uh, no, Mr. Steinbrenner. That's Run DMC."

"Well if I find out these are friends of yours, it's your ass!"

Steinbrenner had the man's desk, which had been two doors down from the general manager's office, moved into a storeroom.

When Steinbrenner's players do not perform well, his front-office executives suffer. As the Yankees were being swept at home last month by Boston, for instance, Steinbrenner lambasted Cashman repeatedly by phone from Tampa. "Brian bears the brunt of it," one Yankees official says, "but he'll give it right back when he has to."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13