It is fun to listen to William Nack. He is a great sports storyteller. UMW has had the great pleasure of hosting him at least a couple of times for our Great Lives Series. A few days before Steinbrenner’s death I was editing one of the talks that Nack gave in 2008 on Babe Ruth. He also did a talk on Muhammad Ali in 2006. I am in the process of re-doing the videos in a modern format (Real Player doesn’t cut it any more).
Associating Nack with the Great Lives series, and then seeing him eulogize Steinbrenner, makes Steinbrenner seem a little more special.
I was never a big fan of George Steinbrenner. I was 9 years old when he bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973. I did love the Yankees (my father and older brother were big fans), and at the time, they were not a very good baseball team. They certainly had been, but the lack of a World Series win since 1962 meant that I had never seen my beloved team win it all.
Steinbrenner died yesterday from a heart attack. He had heart troubles before. He is known for ushering in what we call “free agency” in sports with the signing of “Catfish” Hunter. After the ugliness of the Lebron James fiasco, that’s not a particularly great legacy.
The Yankees did win championships in 1977 and 1978, but then suffered some more lean years with lots of turmoil, and lots of different managers. It wasn’t until he ceded control of the day-to-day operations that the Yankees became winners again. However, this seems to be the time when Steinbrenner showed that he was the most human. I remember tears and hugs for Joe Torre when they won the Series. William Nack does not varnish over Steinbrenner’s fallibility, but his remembrance drives home that human quality.