Passing of a legend

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner served on Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors until his death

July 13, 2010
George Steinbrenner served as member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Board of Directors for 12 years. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – George Steinbrenner made baseball history during his 37-year tenure with the New York Yankees.

As a longstanding member of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, Steinbrenner helped preserve that history – and much more as one of the stewards of the National Pastime.

Steinbrenner, 80, passed away Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. He was named to the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors July 25, 1998, and served until his death.

“George Steinbrenner served the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors with great commitment and enthusiasm for the last 12 years since his election as a director in 1998,” said Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark. “He shared his vision, kindness, love for the game and his generosity in so many ways as a key figure in the Board’s leadership. His impact on the Museum’s ability to preserve baseball history is felt at so many levels in the organization. Our sympathies are with the Steinbrenner family. He will be greatly missed in Cooperstown.”

Steinbrenner, born July 4, 1930 in Rocky River, Ohio, graduated from Williams College in 1952. After coaching football at Northwestern and Purdue universities, Steinbrenner soon joined the family shipping business and then ventured into sports ownership with the American Basketball League in 1960.

On Jan. 3, 1973, Steinbrenner purchased controlling interest in the New York Yankees from CBS. Within four seasons, the Yankees had captured their first American League pennant since 1964.

The Yankees won World Series titles in 1977 and 1978, and another AL pennant in 1981. Returning to the postseason in 1995, the Yankees advanced to the playoffs for 13 straight seasons – winning World Series championships in 1996 and from 1998 through 2000. After missing the postseason in 2008, the Yankees won their 27th World Series championship in 2009. Seven of those titles came while Steinbrenner was the principal owner.

In his 37 years as principal owner, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to a big league-best .566 winning percentage (3,364-2,583-3). He owned the Yankees for longer than any other person or group.

“I have great respect for George, a man from whom I learned so much about leadership, motivation and accountability during my tenure with the ballclub as media relations director from 1989-93,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. “His overriding objective was to win, the sign of a true sportsman. You have to give him credit for always having the best interest of Yankee fans at heart, which was bringing a World Series winner to the Bronx, something he accomplished seven times. He bought a wilting franchise in 1973 and turned it into a worldwide brand through his vision, work ethic and overall Yankee ingenuity. He was a true friend of the Hall of Fame, and the history he helped create will always be preserved in Cooperstown.”

Steinbrenner is survived by his wife, Joan; sisters Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm; and children Hank, Hal, Jennifer and Jessica; and his grandchildren.

Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum