Isn’t it funny how you can go through life and have one narrow-minded view of an individual, and then later find out he or she is very different than you thought? I’m guilty of that with George Steinbrenner. I think a lot of people are waking up today with that same thought.
I blame the Yankees for all that hatred I had for Steinbrenner. Yes…old George put his money where is mouth was. Over $2 billion was spent by him during his tenure as the Yankees owner in trying to put together championship teams. And he was not an easy owner to work for. Steinbrenner was quick to fire anyone that wasn’t winning. Can you blame him? If you spend that kind of money on a team, you don’t want to lose.
“Winning means everything,” Steinbrenner said in 1990. “You show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
It is his fiery attitude and short fuse that helped shape what I thought Steibrenner was as a human being. And yes, while he did make the Yankees the most recognizable franchise in all of sports, he did so much more in the community.
Here’s just a sample of his philanthropic efforts:
- 2007 – Steibrenner donated $1 million to the “Hokies Spirit Memorial Fund” and sent the Yankees to Blacksburg, Va., for an exhibition game.
- A graduate of Williams College, Steinbrenner, nonetheless, funded the Ohio State marching band for years — his name is on a campus building.
- He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Tampa area schools. He has provided a quarter million dollars to Tampa Catholic to upgrade their football facility. He donated enough to the Academy of Holy Names to build an aquatic center. He paid for several high school bands to travel to various events – Gaither High School once got $25,000 for a trip to Washington for a presidential inauguration. He hosted an annual banquet to recognize high school coaches. He sponsored an annual high school football tournament at Raymond James Stadium.
- He and his family help support the Boys & Girls Clubs, The Salvation Army, the Warrior Foundation and Feeding America. For years he sponsored a children’s holiday concert at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. He has sent Yankees players to a camp for terminally ill children. And the list goes on and on.
- The Steinbrenner Band Building on the University of Florida campus, funded in part by a gift from the Yankees owner, is perhaps the most prominent example. Steinbrenner also was a longtime Bull Gator, the highest level of contributors to the UF athletic program, and over the years made donations to the athletic program ranging from television sets to stadium lights.
- George Steinbrenner made other major donations to UF. He gave $260,000 in 1989 for the construction of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s large animal hospital and $400,000 in 2005 for an equine imaging machine.
Thinking back, I guess I’m more against the Yankees because of the “bandwagon” aspect of fans across the world (not to mention their cocky attitude that no one is better) than I am against Steinbrenner. A large portion of these so-called “fans” have no tie to NY and simply follow them because they win. I’m a big believer you should have some kind of connection to the teams you cheer for. Maybe growing up, your favorite player was on the Yankees. Many in the south are Braves fans because they were one of the few baseball teams on television – I get that. But to cheer for a team simply because they are considered to be at the top of their league drives me crazy.
In an age where media can wake up and write non-stop about all the bad things going on in sports, it is nice to see the positive side of a prominent figure making a difference in his community. Here’s to hoping others will follow in Steinbrenner’s footsteps…something I never thought I would be saying.