Should George Steinbrenner be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Cooperstown, New York is a small village that has a population of approximately 2000 people in an area that is less than two square miles. Reason why most people know of Cooperstown is because it is the location of the Baseball Hall of Fame where the greats of the game of baseball are immortalized. There are four major categories in the Baseball Hall of Fame player, manager, umpire, and executive. There are currently 34 inductees that are classified as executives which makes up 10.9% of the population of the hall of famers. But there is one executive who would need to be in consideration for this honor and his name is George M. Steinbrenner III.

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Given the moniker “The Boss” during his time as owner of the Yankees, Steinbrenner had periods of being maligned and also periods of adoration from his own fan base. To understand why an owner would be detested just examine Steinbrenner’s relationship with Yankee managers. Billy Martin had five different stints as manager of the Yankees under boss Steinbrenner and each time Martin was relieved of his duties by the orders of Steinbrenner. Yogi Berra who is a hall of fame player and helped the Yankees win 10 World Series was removed as Yankee manager in such a distasteful fashion that Berra refused to enter Yankee Stadium for over two decades.

The Yankees also developed a habit in the 1980s of being fleeced of their prospects with the Yankee organization trading a prospect for a player who fizzles when he wears the pinstripes. The most infamous example of this would be Seattle acquiring Jay Buhner in exchange for Ken Phelps. Buhner had three seasons over 40+ homeruns and 100 RBIs with the Mariners while Phelps played in only 131 games in New York and hit 17 homeruns, 51 RBIs, and had a batting average of .240 when wearing the interlocking NY. The frustration of Yankee fans was illustrated in this clip from Seinfield:

Steinbrenner also had the dubious distinction of being suspended for baseball twice during his reign as Yankee principal owner. The first suspension was for the duration of two years with the causation being Steinbrenner provided illegal funds to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. The second suspension was initially a lifetime ban because a man named Howie Spira received a payment of 40,000 from Steinbrenner to find information to extort/blackmail Dave Winfield.

While a bleak portrait of Steinbrenner has been painted with these aforementioned negative and sometimes illegal moments the New York Yankees were extremely successful on the field during the Boss’s tenure. From 1973 to his passing in 2010 the Bronx Bombers won 7 World Series Championships, 10 pennants, and the American League East crown 16 times. The criticism of the dysfunctional Yankees in the 1970s turned to venom directed towards Steinbrenner in the 1980s but transformed to adoration during the latest edition of the Bronx bombers dynasty. This is demonstrated by the outpouring of emotion the Boss received when he delivered the balls to home plate during the 2008 All-Star Game. The once fierce lion appeared to be much less boisterous and calm as his former players greeted him near the mound and the baseball fans provided an ovation for George M. Steinbrenner III.

Steinbrenner also altered the game. First, his unquenchable thirst to win allowed the Yankee organization to spend millions of dollars to acquire free agents to assist the yearly goal under Steinbrenner: win the World Series. A side effect of this action was an increase in players salaries from the time Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 till now with the average baseball players’ salary being roughly 36,000 dollars in 1973 to an average of 4 million dollars in 2015.

Steinbrenner was also an innovator by creating his own sports network that was primarily dedicated towards his own franchise. Many teams have followed suit and mimicked this idea. Making similar shrewd business moves like this predicated the initial 10 million dollar investment in the Yankees in 1973 to now having the pinstripes worth an estimated 2.5 billion dollars.

While there are arguments for both sides a decision still needs to be rendered and the decision should be Steinbrenner deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Steinbrenner has made his errors other inductees in Cooperstown have character flaws. Ty Cobb poor behavior off the field has been well documented and Kenesaw Mountain Landis has been speculated to have prevented desegregation of baseball. Second, Steinbrenner awoke the dormant franchise and turned it into the evil empire that fans love to hate by outspending and defeating their opponents. As time goes on the tarnish of George Steinbrenner’s infractions will slowly deteriorate with only the glowing success radiating off his resume. Because of this Steinbrenner will eventually, and rightfully so, be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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