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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
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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

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Steinbrenner says he was advised by attorneys that his way of contributing was legal. Bad advice, he now ruefully acknowledges. He also contends that he pleaded guilty to avoid the time and expense of a trial and to spare others involved. "I thought it was legal," he says. "This is something that will be with me for the rest of my life. I'm sorry that it happened. It's past now and I took my medicine. And I didn't drag anyone else down with me. It's a burden I must bear, a burden my family and I must bear."

Steinbrenner tried to put his woes behind him by plunging even deeper into work—this time with the Yankees. "It was a whole new ball game after the suspension," recalls Appel. "Gabe Paul was no longer the man we worried about."

"Nothing is done without George's authority," says Fishel. "Not even picking the hotel on the road."

Or the cutting of hair. Steinbrenner's grooming edict still raises hackles. One former Yankee, White Sox Oscar Gamble, called his ex-boss "the Yankee Clipper." Piniella posted a mock drill schedule on the clubhouse bulletin board. And when Munson wished to express his displeasure this year, he did so by starting to grow a beard. Steinbrenner fails to see why everyone is so ruffled. "I have nothing against long hair," he says. "But wearing a Yankee uniform represents tradition. I think a Yankee should look well-groomed. If your hair is long on a hot day, you can't possibly look that way. After all, I'm paying the bills and issuing the paychecks around here, and I feel a certain way about Yankee tradition. When these guys walk into a town, people are impressed. 'The Yankees are here,' they'll say. It's important that this tradition be continued, not only for us but for the American League and baseball."

Although hair has been the main concern in Steinbrenner's grooming campaign, his interest has not stopped there. As recently as two weeks ago, when New York was still battling for the division title it clinched last Saturday, Steinbrenner was, it seems, using his sock on the team's socks. Before a Sunday double-header, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent and Mickey Rivers found new pairs of dark blue Yankee hose in their lockers. When they inquired about this, they were told that club officials thought the stirrups on their old socks were too high, that not enough blue was showing below their trouser legs.

"Who'd it come through?" barked Martin when he heard about the order for the new socks. "It should've come through me, and I don't like it. We can't be worrying about socks in a pennant race." Then, in an apparent reference to the only former backfield coach in the organization, he added, "Maybe they do that in football."

Another Steinbrenner idea that has drawn nearly as much ridicule as his appearance code is the walkie-talkie system he set up during last year's playoffs and World Series and revived this August. Gene Michael, a former Yankee in-fielder who is now an administrative assistant with the team, is seated in either the press box or the stands. From his Olympian perspective he communicates with the dugout on tactics. What he talks about is a matter of some conjecture. It is not, Steinbrenner insists, the opposing team's signs. Michael's only responsibility, Steinbrenner says, is positioning the fielders. Opposing managers and owners are so suspicious of Michael's intentions that he sometimes has a problem getting a seat, but what is more galling to Steinbrenner is that a few owners have chosen to make a joke of the operation. In Chicago, Bill Veeck assigned an aide, Dan Cohen, to shadow Michael around the park, bugging him, as it were. Meanwhile, First Base Coach Minnie Minoso appeared on the field wearing a headset, complete with telescoping antenna.

"Oh, they can make fun of the earphones if they want," Steinbrenner says. "But remember how much success that system has had in football. Pretty soon, you'll see other teams doing it. It's one more advantage for your side, and that's what sports are all about."

It is at Steinbrenner's insistence that such patriotic airs as The Yankee Doodle Boy and Over There are played during Yankee games. Not insignificantly, the songs were composed by George M. Cohan, who was further immortalized a few years ago in the Steinbrenner-Nederlander production, George M. And, of course, Steinbrenner is not only a George M. himself, but also like the Yankee Doodle Dandy, an Independence Day baby.

These are details, but nothing is too small for the Yankee owner. During a recent game, Steinbrenner watched with dismay as his ground crew swept the infield with what he regarded as a singular lack of gusto. "We ought to get a guy out there who can strut like that guy in Detroit," he said to Samuel. "We can't overdo it. We got to have a guy who looks spontaneous. But we need a strutter, the old darktown shuffle."

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