Veteran New York Daily News sportswriter Madden (Pride of October: What It Was to Be Young and a Yankee, 2004, etc.) examines George Steinbrenner, irascible owner of the New York Yankees.
Venal and vituperative, generous and loyal, no owner dominated both his team and the headlines as Steinbrenner did. When he bought the Yankees for less than $10 million in 1972—the team is now worth more than $1 billion—he said, “I’ve got a ship company to run. I won’t have much time for baseball.” However, for the next 30 years he proceeded to micromanage the team in ways no owner ever had or, probably, ever will—from keeping track of players’ hair length to ensuring no trash bags were littering Yankee Stadium. Most importantly, riding the wave of free agency, in which players would go to the highest bidder, usually Steinbrenner, he was able to return the Yankees to greatness, winning seven World Series titles between 1977 and 2009. But success came at a price for his employees. Public humiliation was common, and no general manager or manager could know from one day to the next whether or not he would still have a job. Born in 1930, the son of a demanding father he could never please, Steinbrenner had always been drawn to sports, even coaching college football until called to run the family shipping business, which he did with great success. Madden speculates that his bullying manner, though he was capable of great personal kindness, grew from an unrequited desire to impress his father. Whatever the case, the author covers the soap-opera tales of Steinbrenner’s relationship with superstar players like Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, and with a revolving door of managers, including the troubled Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner would hire and fire five times. Old age and illness finally removed Steinbrenner from the Yankees’ center stage, and with that an era ended.
Having covered the Yankees for 30 years, and with access to previously unavailable material, Madden provides a definitive and captivating biography of “The Boss.”