SI Vault
 
YANKEE CLIPPER
Ron Fimrite
October 10, 1977
No, not Joltin' Joe but George Steinbrenner, who has put the Yanks back in trim from head to hose. It hasn't been clear sailing; he's been buffeted by his manager, his players and the feds
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 10, 1977

Yankee Clipper

No, not Joltin' Joe but George Steinbrenner, who has put the Yanks back in trim from head to hose. It hasn't been clear sailing; he's been buffeted by his manager, his players and the feds

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

When Chris Chambliss pinch-hit the winning home run in the eighth inning of the game that afternoon, Steinbrenner was so impressed with his manager's tactical brilliance that he instantly got on the phone to offer his congratulations. "You're lucky," he said to Martin, laughing. "Now here's how I would have done it...." Then he summoned an aide. "Get me the smallest bottle of champagne you can find and put it on Billy's desk," he ordered. "And put this note on it: 'You deserve every drop of this.' Oh...and put a red ribbon on it."

The split of champagne stood unopened on Martin's desk the next day. Martin and his watchdog, Fowler, were looking at a television showing of the vintage Hercules, starring Steve Reeves. There were photographs of Martin's idol and former manager, Stengel, all over the office walls. Martin looked at Fowler, who was shaking his head in disbelief over the idiocy on the TV screen. "I've been trying to get Art here for two years. I'm happy to have him at last," Martin said. It was obvious he felt he needed a friend. But what of his relationship with the owner? Had that improved since the critical days of midsummer?

"I don't want to discuss that," he said quietly. "I have nothing to gain from discussing that."

On the screen a woman in a stola was saying, "Very well, Hercules, but there is one thing you can't take away from me—the love we shared together." Martin smiled.

Driving away from Yankee Stadium, Steinbrenner hardly seemed an ogre. He had Lydon stop the limo amid a cluster of young fans outside the park. He signed autographs, posed for pictures and cheerfully answered questions. "Have our boys been stopping here?" he inquired of one youngster with an autograph book. "Good, they're supposed to."

"George," a boy called to him, "are you keepin' Billy?"

"Yep," Steinbrenner said, and then as traffic backed up behind the limo, he ordered his driver to move on.

"Now, that's what it's all about," he said, waving at the crowd. "Most of those kids don't have much. They'll go home to a hot, un-air-conditioned apartment. The Yankees are their summer."

The summers of George M. Steinbrenner III in the Cleveland suburbs of Bay Village and Rocky River were, though Yankeeless, much more pleasant. Born on the Fourth of July 1930, the only son of a prosperous Great Lakes ship-owner, he showed early traces of the drive that characterizes him today. By age nine he had his own company. "Dad didn't give me an allowance," he recalls. "He gave me chickens. I'd get my money through them. I had a regular egg route. I'd get up early, clean the roosts and then sell the eggs door to door. It was called the George Company. When I went away to school, I sold the business to my sisters, Susan and Judy. It became the S & J Company."

Steinbrenner's father, a former NCAA hurdles champion at MIT, impressed on his son the virtues of toughness in a tough world. "He was a typical German father—very strict, a great teacher, very difficult at times," says Steinbrenner. "He was extremely competitive, and he taught me to be. I had some great teachers in life, but it all comes back to Dad. Whatever good there is in me is him. Whatever's bad is me."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7