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George Steinbrenner not making the Hall of Fame is not “a mistake”

Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST

1970s Steinbrenner

The guy works for George Steinbrenner’s son and, I assume, he also happens to believe it. But know that Yankees president Randy Levine says that The Boss should be in Cooperstown.  From Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York:

“I think it was a mistake,” Levine told ESPN New York by telephone. “I congratulate Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. All of them were thoroughly deserving but I think there is no doubt that George Steinbrenner was one of the greatest figures in the history of baseball. He, more than anybody, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I fully expect he will be one day.”

I dunno. Maybe not a huge mistake.

The Hall of Fame test I tend to go back to on non-players is whether or not you can tell the story of baseball of their era without mentioning their name. And in my view it’s awfully hard to talk about baseball in the last quarter of the 20th century without mentioning George Steinbrenner. And not just for the tabloid headlines he constantly made. Steinbrenner made a somewhat important mark on baseball in that he was the first owner to take full advantage of free agency and forced other teams to keep pace. That pretty radically changed how teams were built. And if you think that someone else would have done it had he not, remember that baseball owners were busted for colluding in a plot to NOT spend money on free agents three times. Steinbrenner was a radical in wanting to pay top dollar for free agents and, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it certainly changed the game.

At the same time, others make good points about the Yankees greatest successes during Big Stein’s reign coming in spite of him rather than because of him. He was suspended twice during his time as owner of the Yankees, once in the mid-70s, once in the early 90s. One can make a pretty compelling argument that the seeds of the 1977-78 and then the 1996, 1998-2000 World Series championship teams were planted during Steinbrenner’s absence, with his underlings finally being given free reign to make smart moves Steinbrenner would have avoided in the name of BIG moves. If you add in character considerations, Steinbrenner’s legal issues and his treatment of Dave Winfield which led to his second suspension are not gold stars in Mr. Steinbrenner’s column.

So: Steinbrenner is a tough case. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I’m a softer touch than many when it comes to such things. For that reason I don’t think I’d call his omission a “mistake” as much as I’d call it a case of reasonable people being fully entitled to disagree on a pretty damn divisive figure.

  1. proudlycanadian - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    He was convicted of a felony. That is not a very good character reference, even if he eventually received a pardon.

    • proudlycanadian - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      He should not go into the HOF before Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose.

      • yahmule - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:17 PM

        Or Buddy Biancalana, for that matter.

      • proudlycanadian - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:00 PM

        Obviously

      • yahmule - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:30 PM

        What about U.L. Washington?

    • mikhelb - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      Bud selig also commited a felony and will enter the HOF, though he didn’t go to the jail because he “only” was found guilty of collusion.

      • pipkin42 - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Collusion was a collective bargaining issue resolved under arbitration, not a criminal proceeding.

    • bigsexyretard - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:42 AM

      The felony doesn’t bother me as much as the Winfield thing and the fact that he was banned from having anything to do with baseball (sorta) for three years.

  2. dowhatifeellike - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    I think it’s pretty easy to argue that he did at least as much harm as good to the game of baseball. Ask members of the other 29 orgs.

    • mikhelb - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Very hard to ask members of the other teams (24 teams when he bought the Yankees) when you realize mostly everybody sold their team ‘ages’ ago, and the Steinbrenners are part of that rare kind of owners that keep their team unlike the rest who made their bed, and sold their teams for a huge profit.

      Though the O’Malleys again are part owners of a team.

    • bigharold - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      “Ask members of the other 29 orgs.”

      Ask the players for those “..other 29 orgs.”.

  3. petey1999 - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Can you tell the story of baseball without mentioning Charlie Finley?

    • yahmule - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:14 PM

      And omit that his A’s dynasty was superior to any Yankee club ever assembled under Steinbrenner?

      • Kevin S. - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:10 PM

        Early 70s As against late 90s Yankees? Okay. I don’t think Chuck’s dynasty includes the greatest team ever assembled.

  4. bigharold - Dec 9, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    George said and did some profoundly stupid things during his tenure as Yankees owner. He was bombastic, overbearing and at times petty. But, he also took a $8.5 mil investment and turned it to a $2 billion enterprise. His teams won more games, and championships than any other team. And, he did do a lot of charitable works as well.

    He was the last of a breed that included guys like Bill Veech, .. a sports entrepreneur that understood that winning was paramount and that if your team won the economics would take care of themselves. The prohibitive cost of MLB franchise means that in the future only corporations will own franchises.

    Steinbrenner was a polarizing figure throughout baseball, including among Yankee fans. But, as pointed out you really can’t talk about baseball since the 70s without talking about him. He belongs in the HoF, in my opinion but I won’t lose any sleep if he’s not. What he doesn’t get in recognition posthumously he got in success while he was alive.

    • bigsexyretard - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:49 AM

      >And, he did do a lot of charitable works as well.”

      And he refused to pay 300K to charity even though he agreed to do just that as part of a player’s contract.

  5. largebill - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    “The Hall of Fame test I tend to go back to on non-players is whether or not you can tell the story of baseball of their era without mentioning their name.”

    Craig,
    Believe that line of reasoning is the same mistake you make in arguing for Miller’s induction. That is confusing the museum with the honor of being enshrined. Miller and Steinbrenner (and hundreds of others) who are integral to telling the story of baseball’s history should be remembered in the displays within the Hall of Fame museum. Neither should be inducted as Hall of Famers. Steinbrenner because of his various character warts and Miller because he never was really part of baseball. He was just an outside negotiator arguing about division of money.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:35 PM

      Bill, I would add that Craig’s test is woefully incomplete. I would include “and was predominantly beneficial to the sport.” His test might well include Jose Canseco, where mine might not. And I’d not include Steinbrenner or Miller.

  6. spursareold - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    I think GS will eventually go in. I think it would have been a mistake to make him a first timer.

  7. barrywhererufrom - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    7 World Championships. Countless division title…the only owner we had of the yankees until his sons took.over.George helped tranform the Yankees into a billion dollar franchise. They werethe first team with their own network. He changed the fabric of.the game.by going after.free agents with the mantra of winning a world.series at all costs. He won and Yankee haters had more ammunition to hate. finally of.course he had major issues of.mismanagement and abuses of.power with the howie spira case. George’s conviction of.an.illegal campaign contribution.would not be a crime under todays laws. Yes George had his issues but.the won thing you cant take issue with is that he won big and made the game.we love more entertaining

    • bigsexyretard - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:55 AM

      “the only owner we had of the yankees until his sons took.over.”

      How old do you the man was? There were several Yankee owners before him.

    • bowltr - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:28 AM

      Sorry but the Sox were well ahead of the Yanks in terms on their own network. NESN was created in 1984, YES network in 2002

  8. detectivejimmymcnulty - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    After reading the paragraph that started with “The Hall of Fame test….” I really thought you made a mistake in saying it’s not a mistake. Honestly that was a better argument for him getting in than your reasons for him not getting in.

  9. uscthom78 - Dec 9, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Let’s ask his former employees, Ritchie Garcia and Jeffrey Maier, if he deserves to be enshrined.

    • mj2sexay - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:12 PM

      Lol the bitterness is strong with this one!

      Let me guess, you also have a Bob Irsay dartboard on one of your walls!

  10. uscthom78 - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Jeffrey maier and Ritchie Garcia would definitely vote him in.

  11. anxovies - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    He’s got a bronze and granite monument in Yankee Stadium. Why would he have wanted or needed anything else?

    • yahmule - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      How about a better ticker?

  12. sdelmonte - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    The very fact that one of his minions makes a statement like that is reason enough for me to hope he never gets in. He represents a lot of good things, but a lot more things I find repulsive about not just baseball but American life.

  13. bkunza - Dec 9, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    The Boss should never be in the hall. He is the one responsible for player wages going nuts forcing other teams to pay higher wages.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      Econfail.

    • bigharold - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      “He is the one responsible for player wages going nuts forcing other teams to pay higher wages.”

      Apparently, .. you have been reading the threads about Mavin Miller.

  14. bigjimatch - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    Thing I never like about Steinbrenner and his minions is that they think they are bigger the baseball; that the sport was about him and the front office. as if the sport existed only to show how great he was. one need only looks at type stadium for proof, of all the history and greatness of that franchise, and all the plaques, the biggest is the Steinbrenner plaque and monument he literally built to himself.

  15. bigjimatch - Dec 9, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Levine’s comments epitomize that: “(Steinbrenner), more than anyone, deserves to be in the Hall of of Fame.” Really, Randy? Steinbrenner deserves to be in more than Ruth, Gehring, DiMaggio, Mantle and the greats who actually played the game? I thinks its fitting that Torre made it in before Steinbrenner, because Torre never made it about him, it was always the players and nothing angered Steinbrenner more than Torre getting credit for winning.

  16. moogro - Dec 9, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    Those were all pretty weak reasons for the HOF. An owner like Branch Rickey in the HOF I understand. An owner like Steinbrenner? Just because the New York media made him constant news in this country for years isn’t a good reason to put someone in the HOF. Then you might as well say that any New York personnel are have the likelihood to be considered for the HOF because simply by being in New York, regardless of competency or character. That’s not a good situation for anyone.

  17. louhudson23 - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:01 AM

    Just for the record,despite all the glowing comments on Steinbrenners self-made man mythology and business acumen,Steinbrenner and his shipping company received a massive amount of Government subsidy(subsidies,not repayable bailout money),without which ,there would have been no American Shipbuilding Company,and no money to buy the Yankees etc….Considering Steinbrenner’s later “socialism” comments,his hypocrisy is evident….Corporate welfare is nothing new….the Yankees are built on it and the New Yankee Stadium is a prime example….on the other hand,it clearly shows what a bit of a helping hand can do for someone…..as long as they aren’t poor and hungry….

  18. tonyz6060chevy - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    I heard that every time Reggie Jackson would hit a home run at Yankee Stadium,Georgie would have the organ player ,play “When the Saints Come Marching in”.
    what a MENSCH !

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