NEW YORK (Reuters) - The death of New York Yankees kingpin George Steinbrenner at 80 was an emotional shock to the pinstripers’ world Tuesday, but with his sons already in place running the team the blueprint for success is in family hands.
The man affectionately and respectfully known as “The Boss” during his reign as the most visible team owner in U.S. sports, set the tone and winning formula for the club that has won a staggering 27 World Series titles.
Steinbrenner, in failing health in recent years, officially turned over control of the team after the 2007 season to his sons Hank and Hal, who later was installed as principle owner of North American sports’ most successful franchise.
The passing of Steinbrenner is sure to give the current Yankees -- who own Major League Baseball’s best record of 56-32 at the All-Star break -- a rallying cry to win another championship for ‘The Boss’.
With longtime general manager Brian Cashman advising on the baseball decisions, Hal Steinbrenner followed the winning formula set by his larger-than-life father -- plow profits into payroll and spend what it takes for a winning edge.
An investment of more than $420 million in free agent contracts prior to the 2009 season brought in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira and led to New York’s seventh World Series crown and 11th American League pennant since Steinbrenner bought the club in 1973 for $10 million.
Steinbrenner restored Yankee pride and reestablished the pinstriped brand by taking advantage of a new free agent era in baseball that allowed him to add such luminaries as Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson and end a Yankees World Series title drought of 15 years in 1977.
Pomp, ceremony and tradition have long been a staple of the Yankees, who are sure to offer a grand tribute to the patriarch of their modern era in the new $1.6 billion stadium he built.
The old Yankee Stadium, which Steinbrenner refurbished in the mid-1970s, held memorable tributes fit for the newsreels.
There was Lou Gehrig telling a packed Yankee Stadium crowd in 1941 that he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of this earth,” even as the fatal disease that has since been named after him drove him off the field after an amazing 2,130 consecutive games played.
A cancer-stricken Babe Ruth returned in 1948 to what had been known as “The House That Ruth Built,” for one last curtain call.
Steinbrenner orchestrated one himself, flying the entire team to Canton, Ohio, on August 6, 1979, to attend the funeral of team captain Thurman Munson, who died days earlier when he crashed his private jet while practicing landings and takeoffs.
The Yankees turned right around and flew back to New York to host the Baltimore Orioles that night in the Bronx.
After an extended moment of silence before the game, the pinstripers stirringly rose to the occasion.
Bobby Murcer, who eulogized Munson at the Canton ceremony, drove in all five runs, including a game-winning, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth for the Yanks’ 5-4 victory.
The new Yankee Stadium will have its emotional christening with the honoring of ‘The Boss’.
Editing by Steve Ginsburg
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