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  • 14Jul

    "The Boss" of baseball, George Steinbrenner, Dies at 80

    (CNN) — Demanding, vilified, legendary. “The Boss” of baseball, George Steinbrenner, turned 80 on the Fourth of July.

    The birthday of the New York Yankees’ owner passed without much fanfare, at least according to sports reporters who were covering an exhibition game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. It was a sweltering day and Steinbrenner sat in his air-conditioned suite.

    Well-wishes flashed on the JumboTron: “Happy 80th!”

    It brought scattered applause. The game resumed.

    Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, a five-time champion and legend in his own right, went to check on Steinbrenner, The New York Times reported. The two talked about how the Yankees were doing. The Boss was simple and direct, as usual.

    Steinbrenner, the owner of seven World Series trophies and 11 pennants, told Pettitte that the Yankees needed to step it up. They needed to win more games.

    The pitcher recounted to The Times:

    “We were losing 1-0 or 2-0, and he said, ‘We need to score some runs,’” Pettitte said. “So I said, ‘Well, it’s early, we might score some runs.’

    “He said, ‘We’d better.’ To me, that summed it up right there. OK, it’s him.”

    Steinbrenner died Tuesday of a massive heart attack in Tampa, his adopted hometown.

    SI.com: Steinbrenner remembered

    George Steinbrenner is regarded as the man who restored the Yankees to greatness, a larger-than-life embodiment of America’s pastime.

    He became a pop culture icon, lampooning himself in commercials and on “Seinfeld,” and he could be a real softie, helping people he didn’t even know with his personal fortune.

    “Not a lot of people know this, but he would hear of a story, read about someone in the newspaper who was having a hard time, and he would find them and help them, without getting any credit,” said Rick Cerrone, the former public relations director of the Yankees. “He picked up random people’s medical bills. He was a very magnanimous, generous person.”

    Steinbrenner was also known as a tough-as-hell boss to work for, a guy who eviscerated and insulted his players. He seemed to delight in raising his voice at his employees, players and enemies alike.

    “George is the most charming guy in the world, a real Mr. Nice,” said Campbell W. Elliott, former president of American Ship Building Company, which Steinbrenner owned. “But to work for him? George’s attitude is that they’re damn lucky to have a job — and if they don’t like the way he treats them, they can just get the hell out.”

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