Steinbrenner made an impact on baseball

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:22 PM ET

ANAHEIM, Calif. — George Steinbrenner?

Good or bad for baseball?

“You had to respect George Steinbrenner,” Blue Jays centre fielder Vernon Wells said during batting practice Tuesday before the 81st all-star game.

“He’d do anything for his team to win. As a player or a fan, is that not what you want from an owner? He was good for the game.

“This is a tremendous loss for the New York Yankees and all of baseball.”

Wells had defended Steinbrenner before when the luxury tax (also known as the Yankee Tax) was put in place.

“His passion, of what he brought to the game was unmatched,” Wells said. “He bought part of the team for $8.7 million (US) in 1973 and now it’s worth more than a billion. That shows his impact. Every team benefited from him being in the game.

“He challenged other people to rethink the way they ran their teams.”

More than half the teams received monies from the Yankees from the luxury tax — and not all spent it — not to mention the full houses when the New Yorkers came to town.

“He was good for the game,” said Jays president Paul Beeston, who recalled Steinbrenner’s first visit to the SkyDome in 1992. Beeston was supposed to give his counterpart a tour, but Steinbrenner hooked up with a SkyDome tour.

He could see Jays pitchers working on fielding practice.

When Steinbrenner reached Beeston’s office he asked what was going on on the field so early in the afternoon.

“Oh, we do that every day,” Beeston fibbed. More like once a month was closer to the truth.

When Steinbrenner returned to New York he told general manager Gene Michael that the Yanks “should be having pitcher’s fielding practice every day ... no wonder the Jays were ahead of them in the standings.”

Beeston and Steinbrenner tangled over the same free agent a few times, most notably after the 1996 season when both chased free-agent Roger Clemens.

Steinbrenner flew to Houston and phoned Beeston tell him that Clemens had asked for the Yanks owner’s autograph. Steinbrenner was confident he would land Clemens.

A few days later Beeston flew to Houston and then called Steinbrenner.

“Hey George, just got back from Houston, Clemens signed something for me when I was there ... a three-year contract,” Beeston said Tuesday, laughing as he retold the story.

Former Jays manager Bobby Cox worked in the Yankees system for 10 years.

“This is a huge loss for baseball, George was a true winner,” Cox said. “He was tough, but he was also very nice and had a big heart. The annual winter meetings used to be really exciting. 

“George, Ted Turner (Braves) and Brad Corbett (Texas Rangers) made them something to look forward to, they were always the life of the meetings.”

So, the verdict is that Steinbrenner was good for the game, but we haven’t heard from the Boston fans yet.


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