In Memoriam

View From 420b

View From 420b

Bronx, N.Y., July 13, 2010 — For a few, George Steinbrenner was a bad guy from the beginning, but most in New York were happy with The Boss once the Yanks quickly won the AL pennant three times and the World Series twice, in 1977 and 1978. But people were crazed about things even then, among all the winning. Bringing in Catfish was a solid plus, but Reggie was disruptive from the outset, and signing high-priced but oft-injured arms like Don Gullet and Andy Messersmith caused lots of jealousy on an already solid staff.

But much of baseball fandom is based on results. I love that my Yankees won the World Series a few years after George bought the team, that the Yanks won four in five years to end the century, and that they sit atop the baseball pinnacle in July 2010 now that he has passed away. But what of the times in between?

On April 27, 1981, the Yanks acquired catcher Barry Foote from the Chicago Cubs. They had lost starter Rick Cerone to a bizarre thumb injury seven days earlier, and it wasn’t hard to see that aging Johnny Oates and player of all trades Dennis Werth (yes, current Phillies outfielder Jason’s father) were not going to be able to carry the load between them.

If you check the books, or the Web stats, Foote will not impress you. He would hit six home runs good for 12 rbi’s in 57 games, batting .208 and .146 before being released in March 1983. But on that April Monday, and on every baseball day since January 1973 when George led a group of investors that bought the team until this morning, my team got the players, the stadium seating, the Spring Training and minor league facilities, it needed.

The tributes to Mr. Steinbrenner are everywhere. He had heart, he hated to lose, he had passion. He was a great family man. He took care of all the Yankee players, coaches, and their families. He was a friend to those in need, and I’ll admit that his largesse to Virginia Tech University after the mass killing on their campus a few years ago still brings a tear to the eye of this grizzled observer of the human condition, though other disasters have followed.

But I’m a simple man, and a baseball fan. I appreciate the seven Championships in 38 years. But I am happier still that my team could compete on every day over that span.

Thanks, George. Thanks for Barry Foote, and for so many like him.