I haven’t been on Ephblog for a while, but I saw this photograph of Mr. Steinbrenner proudly wearing his Williams hat, and felt compelled to add a personal reminiscence.

When I first started to follow baseball as a boy in Kansas City (the outskirts i.e. countryside), the Royals seemed to be locked in an eternal struggle with the Yankees and given the general midwest sentiment that Manhattan is just a stone’s throw away from Gomorrah, I grew to not like the Yankees very much, particularly that not particularly nice man who seemed to fire his manager depending on whether it was a day that started with “T” or not. George Steinbrenner in my early baseball development stood as a sort of Eastern ogre, constantly angry, yet with a team that seemed to own the Royals in the post season. I can’t deny that one of my biggest thrills was watching him storm out of Royals Stadium in the 1980 playoffs after the Yanks gave away a game to the Royals, with the ABC cameraman following him up the stadium stairs and Howard Cosell adding to the drama by explaining “exactly what was going on in Steinbrenner’s mind”.

Once I got to Williams, I started to hear all of the “urban myths” around his time as an Eph and came to realize that 1) he was probably the best known alumnus of Williams and more importantly, 2) he was the best thing to happen to baseball in a long time. Yes, he could get a little out of control. Yes, he carried grudges; I’m fairly certain that Dave Winfield won’t be shedding many tears today. But in a sport that has become even more corporate and staid as I’ve gotten older, George provided drama and comedy, real human features that made the game fun to follow. And, Big George won, once he started to develop the farm system again and stop thinking that the keys to success were high priced free agents.

When he bought the Yankees in 1973 from CBS, quite a few people thought he was mad: Yankee Stadium was in horrible shape and the team, quite frankly, sucked. He leaves this world as the owner of one of the world’s most valuable sports teams and an American legend. Thanks for everything, George, from an appreciative fellow Eph. Do me a favor though. If you run into Billy Martin up there, go a little easier on him this time ;)

Chris Gondek ’90

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