TIME on Steinbrenner, Through the Years

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Colorful characters are expected to dot the landscape of the sports world. George Steinbrenner was arguably among the most colorful (if not controversial) managers in baseball history, so much so that since he became part of a group that opted to purchase the New York Yankees in the early 70s, he’s consistently earned mention on the pages of TIME.

These are a few of the gems we’ve written about him and that he’s said over the years.

On his role in the purchase of the Yankees in 1973:

–CBS purchased the team for $13.2 million in 1964, but the club failed to win a pennant for the network. (CBS executive Michael) Burke and his eleven partners—only Cleveland Shipbuilder George M. Steinbrenner attended the press conference announcing the purchase—are confident that their team’s fortunes can only improve. (Jan. 15, 1973)

During the controversial 1977 season that pitted Steinbrenner at odds with outfielder Reggie Jackson.

–In his office, George Steinbrenner, a volatile, charming hustler, who is principal owner of the Yankees, looked as pained as if someone had punched him in the wallet. “I buy advertising in the New York papers,” he said, “and I know how expensive that is. One way to look at the newspapermen’s stories is that they’re free space. So the question is: How do we use the free space?—and the answer is not well lately.” (Jun. 6, 1977)

Taking on Billy Martin.

–Before he hired Martin—who had been dumped from his past three managing jobs—Steinbrenner closely questioned the other owners. The pattern, as he saw it, was clear: Martin each time—in Minnesota, Detroit and Texas—had shrewdly turned the players against management to his own advantage. “These other guys didn’t choose to take Billy on,” said Steinbrenner. “I felt I could change him.” (Oct. 24, 1977)

Firing Billy Martin (the first time)

–For nearly two years, Owner George Steinbrenner, Manager Billy Martin and Outfielder Reggie Jackson have presided over one of the tackier chapters in the sport’s history…Last week one of them, Billy Martin, exited, temporarily, from the one job he always wanted in baseball. Question: Did he fall or was he pushed? Answer: Yes. (Aug. 7, 1978)

Firing someone not as popular as Billy Martin

–Steinbrenner changes managers about as often as most fans change underwear, though he does it with more anguish and bigger headlines. The latest victim was Gene Michael, the eighth Yankee manager in as many years to succumb to Steinbrenner’s peculiar style of baseball by psychodrama. (Sept. 21, 1981)

On delving into horses as a side business

–“When you become a businessman you become stagnant in some ways,” explains Steinbrenner, who owns a trotter and a pacer. “You don’t do as many of the exciting and dangerous things you used to do. It was skydiving or this.” (Mar. 31, 1986)

Being named Humanitarian of the Week by TIME

— Sure, the kamikaze Yankee owner fired Bucky Dent, his 18th manager in 18 years. But those who beat up on George ignore his benevolence: he now has four other former (and fired) managers on his payroll. (Jun. 19, 1990)

On former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent booting Steinbrenner from his position with the Yankees (he returned to the team two years later)

–Vincent understands that baseball equation. For never in the game’s history has there been a pick-off move as adroit and emotionally satisfying as the one the commissioner executed last week when he threw George Steinbrenner out as the principal owner of the Yankees. (Aug. 13, 1990)

On former manager Joe Torre taking over the Pinstripes, where he stayed longer than any coach in Steinbrenner’s tenure

–Maybe the ’96 Yankees and Torre were a good match because he is, as owner George Steinbrenner likes to point out, a New Yorker–the first native New Yorker ever to manage the Yankees. (Oct. 28, 1996)

Torre talking about the difference between bosses.

–Q: You’ve worked for George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner. Which is worse: mean or nuts?

A: To me, Ted Turner was worse, because I didn’t have access to him. When I got fired by Ted, I had to arrange the meeting. (Nov. 1, 1999)

Describing a memorable victory over the Boston Red Sox, despite locker room derision

–With owner George Steinbrenner fanning the flames, the Yankees butted heads in the ugliest, most public manner imaginable, then pulled it together to triumph over the hated Red Sox in a one-day tie-breaker play-off that remains one of the most beautiful, jewel-like ball games ever played. (May 19, 2003)

On deciding whether or not he would fire Torre (who wound up becoming manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008)

–I have not made up my mind yet. (Oct. 10, 2006)