Thursday, 15 July 2010


My obit of George Steinbrenner is in today's Independent, you can link to it here. Years ago, when I worked for Major League Baseball, I got to observe him rather close up, albeit at second hand as he was suspended for most of my tenure there, by his fellow Williams' grad Fay Vincent. In fact, I am convinced his reaction to the suspension was one of the main reasons that, after Vincent was fired, baseball didn't appoint another commissioner, instead choosing the rather, shall we say, docile owner of the Milwaukee Brewers to 'run' the game.

My boss at MLBI had lots of dealings with George at the US Olympic Committee. He was genuinely interested in helping, and could be very affable, but he was a nightmare to work with as well as for, since, as Vice President of the USOC he assumed everyone in the Olympic system was working for him. And of course, in the nightmare world of Euro-centric Olympic politics, that approach did not have many legs. He had the patience of a flea on speed, hence his nickname 'George Jettison' for what he did to managers. He did have a sense of humour, and was willing to satirise himself, although when Sports Illustrated dressed him as King George III for its cover I don't think The Madness Of George III had been written.

That's the longest obit I've done for the Indy and it could have been longer. I recall once being in the City (which is how I still think of New York), seeing Rothko and Pollock exhibitions at the Whitney and MOMA and thinking how incredible life must have seemed to adults in those days. Then I went to Yankee Stadium, and had my illusions returned back to the 90s.

Steinbrenner also introduced the singing of 'God Bless America' during the seventh-inning stretch, after 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' and apart from my dislike of compulsory patriotism, I couldn't think of anything less keeping with the spirit of the game. But it was his politics that first got him into trouble. The first time I wrote about him was when he was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Nixon, and the piece was titled 'You Can Take The Boy Out Of Cleveland But....' and I got to recycle it in this obit. It ran almost as written, but one line that was excised, and rightly as it may not have been appropriate for an obit, was my summary of New York using their unofficial motto: 'Money talks (and bullshit walks)'. As I pointed out last November, here...

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