Yankees recall Steinbrenner as tough and caring boss

By Gerard Wright

ANAHEIM (BestGrowthStock) – George Steinbrenner was remembered by members of the New York Yankees on Tuesday as a demanding owner with a passion for winning championships and a caring man who also took time to get to know his players.

Recalling his first encounter with the owner after signing with the Yankees in 2004, All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez said Steinbrenner told him several times in the opening minutes of their talk that “we have to win the World Series.”

Rodriguez, who helped make good on that request by leading the Yankees to a World Series championship last year, also said he still has a note Steinbrenner delivered to him years ago.

“In 2004 he wrote me a note and it was hand delivered by a clubhouse kid, and at that point I got a little nervous … in the end he basically said ‘I’m counting on you,’ with capital letters and exclamation point.” Rodriguez said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s All-Star Game. “To this day, we are still playing for him, not to let him down.”

Derek Jeter, who has played for the Yankees since 1995 and considered Steinbrenner a friend, said he last saw the owner on Opening Day when the team was presented with their World Series championship rings.

“I got a chance to tease him because he had an Ohio State ring and I told him to take it off now and replace it with the Yankee ring,” said Jeter, who added that he had planned to visit Steinbrenner this week.

“Those are the memories that you remember, those intimate moments. Doesn’t necessarily have to be with a lot of people. We had a lot of one on one moments, and that was the last time I saw him.”

Among his many Steinbrenner memories, Jeter also recalled the phone conversation he had with the owner when he was told he would be named captain of the team.

“Yeah, I got a phone call saying that the boss wanted to talk to me and figured I was in trouble again,” said Jeter.

“It’s a memory I always cherish not only because I thought I was getting in trouble but I realized what that title meant to him and to this Yankee organization.”

Steinbrenner, who had owned the successful and lucrative Yankees for 37 years, died on Tuesday in Florida at the age of 80. During Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner, the Yankees won seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 American League East-division titles.

Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who has spent 13 of his 16 professional seasons with the Yankees, said Steinbrenner may have had a reputation as being tough but added that he was always available to his players.

“George used to hand me Bible verses before some of my playoff starts and stuff like that,” Pettitte recalled. “He was tough but he was always there to support you … I don’t think enough is said about the support that he would give you.”

Joe Girardi, who has managed the club since 2008 and spent four seasons playing for the team, said an early encounter with Steinbrenner came one year during spring training when he and his wife were walking their dog on the field.

“I thought, ‘oh, boy’ and ‘he’s going to let my wife and I have it.’ He sat and talked to us and asked about the dog and it was a totally different expectation than what I had,” said Girardi.

“That was the first time I saw that he wasn’t everything he was painted to be; there was a gentle side to this man. But I have to tell you, one of his athletes walking a little white dog, I was expecting something totally different.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Yankees recall Steinbrenner as tough and caring boss