After taking insults from Steinbrenner on one occasion, Cashman said calmly into the phone, "I'm not hanging up on you. I'm just ending the conversation." And then the line went dead.
Not even Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame slugger who is a Yankees adviser, is immune from the barbs. When a player whom Jackson had touted was mired in a slump recently, Steinbrenner asked Reggie, "When's your birthday?"
"May 18," Jackson responded. "Why?"
"Because I'm giving him to you as a birthday present. You can pay him!"
Says Jackson, "He still can be volcanic and volatile, and you better get out of the way when things aren't right. He's going to do something irrational to get your attention. That permeates the whole organization. You fear it. You respect it. You don't like it. It makes you uneasy. There is a constant threat of it.
"But there's a very sensitive inner core under the gruffness. George has changed. He's going through the normal process of understanding mortality as people age. [But] I don't think his commitment to the team, to the city and to the tradition of the Yankees has relented one bit."
Joe Perello, who left last year as the Yankees' vice president of business development to be chief marketing officer for New York City, told Reveries magazine, "Working for George Steinbrenner was like doing two tours in Vietnam and not getting killed. It was the craziest 2½ years of my life.... Basically, it didn't matter what I did, George Steinbrenner was going to kick my ass. If I walked into his office with a briefcase full of a million dollars, he would have yelled at me that they weren't $100 bills, that they were 20s. So, first you have to know that it doesn't matter what you do, he's going to kick your ass. Once you realize that there's only one thing to do—whatever's right—it's easy to do your job because you're just going to do what's right."
One high-ranking Yankees official, when asked last year how often Steinbrenner showed his charitable side to his employees, replied, "Never. He'll do that charity stuff, and the public will see it and know about it. I'm not saying that's why he does it. I don't mean that. I'm just saying he doesn't do anything like that for the people who work for him.
"It's like he doesn't trust anybody. When you work for him it's like he's convinced that all of his employees are stealing from him. So, no, I don't see that charitable side. But if anyone gets sick, the way Joe [Torre, prostate cancer] and Mel [Stottlemyre, bone-marrow cancer] did in recent years, he can't do enough for you. Whatever you need then, it's done."
The same Yankees official, however, admits Steinbrenner has been easier to work for this year. Another official, part of the Yankees' baseball operations team, said, "He's been in a great mood all spring. It's been business, but there's been fun too. Laughing, telling jokes. He's been great."