George Steinbrenner...Boilermaker

Yes, folks, that's right. For those who didn't know, Big George was a "volunteer" football coach at Purdue in 1956, coaching ends under Jack Mollenkopf.

As this article from Purdue Sports details, George was actually an indirect force in Gene Keady winding up as Purdue's basketball coach. In 1980, Steinbrenner  helped lure Purdue coach Lee Rose to the University of South Florida by offering him a $10,000 bonus. Purdue then replaced Rose with Gene Keady.

As for baseball, well, most of you know I grew up a Yankees fan. And by the early 2000s I was sick of George. He drove away guys like Don Zimmer and Mel Stottlemyre and basically was such a nuisance that the players were visibly relieved more than overjoyed when they won. Many even admitted this, and that sucks. Because that translates to the fans and the whole mindset becomes that which George was then pushing forward -- if you don't win the whole thing, you're a failure. And we all know that's not true. Yes, the goal can always be to win the World Series. That's a fine mindset, to not even list division titles anywhere in the stadium -- only World Series flags. But to make everyone feel as though they've utterly failed if they don't win the big prize? In a sport where a hot pitcher (like Josh Beckett in 2003 for the Marlins) can change everything? It's just nonsense. 

But aside from that time period, I always appreciated George, as did most Yankee fans. Yes, he was brash and self-impressed and thought making waves in the press motivated his teams. But the truth is, the guy did more to make his team better than perhaps any owner ever. The Yankees made a lot of money -- and they spent a lot of money. You can call it buying players or whatever you want. But this year, the Yankees' revenues are estimated to be around $600 million. If they didn't have a $200 million payroll, there'd be that much more money into ownership's pockets. Frankly, I'd rather see a better baseball team if they're so flush with cash. And Steinbrenner did that. Repeatedly. 

As I've said, I understand people's dislike of the Yankees and claims that baseball needs a different financial structure. But given the current rules of the game, it's hard to fault a guy who spends endlessly to get better. From a logic perspective, it's the right thing to do. Take every advantage you can. And George did that. 

He also committed more than $800 million of his own family's money towards the new Yankee Stadium. In an era where teams hold cities hostage for new, taxpayer-funded stadiums (or simply cash grabs -- hello, Indiana Pacers), this was remarkable. And in a city that probably would have ponied up the cash to replace the 85 year old original stadium. 

Steinbrenner also did more for charity than anyone realized, creating foundations and funds that helped realize the dreams and educations of kids whose parents had died in the line of duty (firefighters, police, EMT, military, etc.). For all his blustering and posturing, he never really promoted this about himself, and I've always respected that. 

It's a loss for baseball, whether you liked him or not. He was the embodiment of the Yankees, the the evil empire, etc. It just won't be the same. 

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