Steinbrenner didn't like to lose: Beeston

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:18 PM ET

ANAHEIM, Calif. — How competitive was the late George Steinbrenner?

Well, in 1996, Paul Beeston made a friendly wager on the 100-metre dash of the Atlanta Olympics.

Steinbrenner took Carl Lewis.

Proud Canadian Beeston backed Donovan Bailey.

At the first MLB owners meeting after the Olympics, Steinbrenner showed up with the $100 ... in pennies.

We’ve heard of paying off in pennies before.

But Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday morning of a massive heart attack at age 80, had a different twist. 

He had placed the $100 worth of pennies inside a jar of honey.

“That was George, he wanted to beat you every day, and if he didn’t he didn’t like it," Beeston, the Toronto Blue Jays president, said Tuesday from Toronto. "He didn’t want to lose a single game.

“He was a dear friend, a unique individual. I’m going to miss him.”

Steinbrenner and his partners bought the Yankees for $8.8 million from CBS in 1973. Now the Yankees franchise has been valued at more than $1 billion.

His free-spending ways saw the Yanks capture seven World Series, 16 division titles and win the most games of any team since 1973.

As former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to say: “It’s a bad year if we lose Game 7 of the World Series, we’re expected to win every year.”

During his early days, Steinbrenner was like the character he was portrayed as in the TV show Seinfeld.

Steinbrenner once fired his public relations man because the employee wasn't around when the Yanks had an announcement to make. Never mind that The Boss had given the PR man permission to drive home for Christmas.

Steinbrenner would cancel an employee’s medical benefits one day and open a new wing of a hospital the next in Tampa, or in his hometown of Cleveland, or in New York.

He would fire an employee one day and rehire him the next.

Former manager Lou Piniella often told the tale about recommending in 1986 that The Boss not trade Doug Drabek “whatever you do.”

A few days later Drabek was one of three minor leaguers sent to Pittsburgh for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante and Rick Rhoden. Drabek went on to win 148 games and a Cy Young Award.

Steinbrenner would fire managers — 20 during his first 23 seasons at the Yankees helm, including the late Billy Martin five times.

But as Bob Lemon — who was fired 16 games into one season — told us years ago in Kansas City: “He was tough, but all he wanted was to win and he paid very, very well and he never, ever once bounced a cheque.”

Steinbrenner once fired an attendant at the Yankees complex in Tampa because the flowers had not been watered.

Messages would spread through Yankee Stadium and spring training: “GMS is in the building.” Employees were on red alert for George M. Steinbrenner.

During the 1980s and 1990s New York papers would assign four people to a game: One for a column, one for a game story, one for a sidebar and one to watch Steinbrenner , shadowing him up and down the elevator and being on hand should The Boss throw his arms up in the air at a Dave Winfield pop fly.

Steinbrenner ran his ball club with a football mentality. Patience was nonexistent during the early years and the Yanks won the Series in 1977 and 1978.

But the Yanks' post-season run went dry from 1981 until the final day of 1995 season at the SkyDome. Reliever Steve Howe induced the Blue Jays' Randy Knorr to ground out, wrapping up a 6-1 New York win, clinching the American League wild card.

Beeston, wearing a yellow pullover and an unlit cigar in his mouth, and Steinbrenner, in his customary, high-neck sweater and sports coat, jumped up hugged each other in a skybox behind home plate.

Jays scouts complained about a Toronto executive hugging the owner of another team. The Jays won 56 games that season and finished last.

“I hugged him and there were tears in his eyes,” Beeston said.

“George was in the media capital of the world. When he took over, baseball was the pre-eminent game and he was the pre-eminent owner. George was larger than life.”

We’ll never see another like him.


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