Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If Only

Funny things you remember when someone passes away as George Steinbrenner did on Tuesday at the age of 80. For myself it was an old friend who used to tell me back in the late 1970's what life would have been like if Steinbrenner had owned the New York Rangers.

See I hate the New York Yankees, always have and always will as I was born a New York Met fan and have rooted for that team since I could speak. My Oregon wife has never understood the loyalties those of us who grew up in New York City have for our teams as she thinks we are all insane.

I can not stand the Bronx, I can't stand pinstripes, whoever is playing the Yankees is who I am rooting for to win and I even dislike Yankee Stadium. I can not stand players named Jeter, Roger, Catfish, or anyone who puts on that boring uniform.

But despite my hatred of the Yankees; over the years I have always been a fan of George Steinbrenner. It is more Steinbrenner the person that I was a fan of not the Yankee owner. Steinbrenner the person did a heck of a lot more for the world than Steinbrenner the Yankee owner.

Still when I learned of his passing, I was saddened as I thought of my old friend Jimmy and how he would say "Give the Rangers to George and no more 1940" and this was way back in the 1970's.

Over the years I have wished how Jimmy was right and that George did in fact rescue Ranger fans from the kind of inept ownership that has plagued this franchise even before the names Dolan were inflicted on Ranger fans.

No way would we have suffered under Phil Esposito's horrible era or even better imagine how fast Steinbrenner would have booted Glen Sather or Neil Smith instead of 7 straight years without the playoffs? In my heart there is no way I can believe that the Rangers would have just 1 Cup to show in my lifetime.

When I was thinking about all the things I admired about Steinbrenner, I looked at what the Yankees have done in the years since the Dolans took over the Rangers. Imagine since 1996 when the Dolans took over total control of Madison Square Garden that the Yankees have only failed to make the post-season once (2008)?

And here is what is better to imagine which is Steinbrenner had turned over control of the Yankees in 2007 so you can not even blame them not making the playoffs on him.

Can anyone even think how many heads would have rolled after last season's failures?

Oh not that Steinbrenner was perfect but the biggest thing you can see different about him as compared to the Dolans is that George learned from his mistakes; the Dolans never do. Steinbrenner made quite a few mistakes when he first took over the Yankees but you rarely ever saw him repeat them.

Do you think that Steinbrenner if he had owned MSG would have alienated his fan base? Can you picture Yankee fans begging Steinbrenner to sell the team in order to savc it?

Can anyone ever imagine Steinbrenner as the "most disliked" owner in New York City Sports? Or people trashing him so badly saying that he was not even qualified to handle a drive thru at a fast food restaurant?

If only George had purchased MSG way back when and all we can do is imagine what life as a Ranger fan would have been like all these years. And I am pretty sure I am going to hear from people who will say that even from the grave that Steinbrenner would make a better owner for the Rangers than the Dolans could alive and breathing.

Sad thing is that it will be hard to dispute that argument.


It is funny too as depending on what you think of the Mets these days that they can even blame/thank Steinbrenner for Omar Minaya. Back in the late 1970's when New York City was broke that the Board of Education was going to cut out high school sports from the budget.

Reggie Jackson in one of his annual spring training temper tantrums was fined by Steinbrenner 100,000. To his credit Reggie challenged Steinbrenner to donate his fine to help save NYC high school sports but in typical Steinbrenner fashion he topped Reggie.

Steinbrenner not only matched Reggie's fine but led an effort to help raise enough money to fund high school sports in New York City. Had Steinbrenner not had done that then a young catcher from the Newtown High School might never had been drafted after his senior year in 1978 by the Oakland A's.

The rest is history/punishment as Omar Minaya most likely never would have gotten his chance to become the first Hispanic to become a Major League General Manager. Carry it further as Minaya was the one who was credited for finding Sammy Sosa.

For many a New York kid, sports was their ticket for a better life and even indirectly for me to wind up where I am today writing about Ranger prospects. See no NYC high school sports then no Omar Minaya chasing me out of baseball and into hockey so in my own way I owed Steinbrenner.

Still he was a hero to me because over the years I have gotten to hear many a story about how George Steinbrenner helped others who had nothing at all to do with the Yankees or baseball. What made Steinbrenner even an even bigger hero is that he did those things without fanfare or publicity.

RIP George pretty sure you have already made changes up in heaven to make it run better.

(Steinbrenner courtesy of the Daily News)


Amos said...

jess, i hate the damn yankees too. :)

pgammlaw said...

Jess - I don't think DOlan is too different. Maybe we would have a different group of coaches and GM's, but George spent money on free agents and traded solid prospects for rentals. You would crucify the ownership if any prospect was traded for a rental to get into the playoffs. George would sign Kovulchuk in a heart beat and not worry about playing younger guys.

I respect George as a met fan too, but we have our own version that you are none to happy with right now.