Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away today at age 80, was a legendary boss.Since he bought the team for less than $10 million in 1973, his determination to outplay and outspend the competition helped the Yankees win 11 pennants and 7 World Championships.
He was a notoriously fickle, tempermental, and demanding leader. He changed managers 23 times — Billy Martin alone was fired and re-hired five separate times over the course of a decade.
In recent years, the Yankees’ big spending ways have fallen out of style. Books like Moneyball brought attention to teams that got better results with smaller budgets by relying on statistics to find value players.
But Steinbrenner’s ambitions kept the Yankees growing as a global brand — and, for better or for worse, his larger-than-life personality and epic leadership have put him in the history books as “The Boss.”
'To George Steinbrenner, you were smart before you worked for him and you were smart after you worked for him,' Harvey Greene, the Yanks' former PR Director, told The Miami Herald. 'You just weren't so smart while you worked for him.'
Steinbrenner once gave Greene a 9 p.m. curfew, then fired him after this fact was reported in the media. The next day Greene got a call from The Boss's assistant, demanding to know why he wasn't in the office. Greene, sensibly, said he thought he was canned. He rushed in to work, but arrived a half an hour late. 'You know we start at 8:30!' Steinbrenner said. 'If you're late again, you're fired!'
Steinbrenner's strategy for winning: hire the best people possible to make that happen -- and then make sure you keep them.
He was infamous for paying his players record-breaking salaries, and zealously pursuing free agents in a way that changed the game.
Critics could attack his style, but not his record. Since he bought the team in 1973, Steinbrenner's Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Series, including his final full season with the team last year.
This is the man who issued a public apology to all Yankees fans after they lost the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers and was notorious for firing at the drop of a hat.
Investor Will Herman once wrote, 'Steinbrenner isn't shy about broadcasting that he pays the best and expects the best. Thus, he has no qualms about firing anyone who isn't an elite performer.'
Failure was simply intolerable, and he always tried to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening.
That focus was on winning.
Steinbrenner 'won because he had monomaniacal focus... and made winning titles his currency, not gross sales, the bottom line or ROI,' Jeff Angus, author of Management by Baseball, tells us.
Steinbrenner was a colourful character, and he worked hard to make sure everyone knew it. That attitude certainly contributed to the larger-than-life persona that is the Yankees franchise.
During the 1981 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Steinbrenner made headlines when he claimed to have fought two Dodgers fans in the hotel elevator. Steinbrenner called a press conference in his hotel room to show off his hand in a cast.
According to ESPN Steinbrenner joked, 'There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me.' The incident was used to inspire his team, although the mysterious attackers never surfaced, or sued.
Sports Illustrated reports that Steinbrenner once said, 'You're in the Big Apple. The game is important, but so is the showmanship involved with the game important. You have to have a blend of capable, proficient players, but you have to have another ingredient in New York and that's colour.'
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.