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14 July 2010

Bye George

George Steinbrenner was known as “The Boss.”
To my dad, George Steinbrenner really was the boss.
For a couple of years.
In the early 1980’s, the heyday of the Steinbrenner World Domination Tour, my father worked in the front office for the New York Yankees.
My dad grew up as a fan of the pinstripes, across the river in Jersey City, New Jersey, so working for the Yankees was a dream come true.
Working for George Steinbrenner, well that’s another story.
Mr. Steinbrenner, as I called him the one time I answered the phone at our apartment and he was on the other line, passed away Tuesday at the age of 80.
George and I didn’t have too many one-to-one’s when my dad was with the team.  He was too busy firing managers.
So unfortunately I don’t have any of those juicy first hand George Steinbrenner stories that best selling books are made of.
But I do have some stories about me.
(I guess that’s like, Michael Crawford won’t be here tonight.  So playing the role of The Phantom is Shecky Greene.  Sorry.)
As a 14-year old who just loved the game of baseball, I was able to go places nobody my age was allowed to go.
Like the time during the 1982 Yankees Spring Training when my dad had the team's batting coach Mickey Vernon check out my swing.
Mickey put me in the cage with a couple of other wannabees -- Tucker Ashford, the #2 overall pick from the '74 draft and some rookie named Mattingly.
There was also the time when I was in the Yankees locker room after a game when Hall-of-Famer Goose Gossage started yelling at a reporter.
His closing statement was something along the lines of, “and you can take that upstairs to the fat man.”
That fat man would be George.
I mean, Mr. Steinbrenner.
But by far the highlight of my tenure with the Yankees, ummm, my dad’s time with the Yankees, was the 1981 World Series.
With the Yankees spot in the Fall Classic already locked in, we were in New York waiting to see who we would face.
The Los Angeles Dodgers or Montreal Expos.
Those teams were playing in a winner take all game 5 in Canada.
If the Expos won, my mom and I were going to fly commercial back to our home in Southern California.
But if the Dodgers won, my mom and I were going to stay in New York to go to games 1 and 2 of the World Series, then fly on the Yankees charter to the West Coast to go to games 3, 4 and 5 at Dodger Stadium.
Hmmm, let’s see.
You can have a plate of liver and onions OR.. can have a five scoop ice cream sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream, a cherry on top AND some of those awesome little toffee chips.
Thankfully, Rick Monday changed his life, and mine, with a ninth-inning home run to boost the Dodgers into the World Series.
As a lifelong Dodgers fan, this created quite a dilemma in my mind.
Root for the team I have loved for 14 years or root for the enemy my father called “our bread and butter.”
I went with my heart.
My father never let me forget it.
The Yankees won the first two games of the series, which made for a fantastic cross-country flight out to LA.
We stayed at the team hotel, adding that to the list of OMG.
Now this was 1981, so there was no TMZ or SI for Kids.  
Hell, there was barely an ESPN.
If the Yankees wanted to walk around the hotel in their underwear, who would know.
(That’s what we in the TV biz call a segue.  You know, I used to work in TV.)
So, I’m walking down the hallway of my hotel floor and all of a sudden a room door pops open and it is Reggie Jackson.
He’s standing there is his tighty whities and nothing else.
He says something along the lines of, “hey kid, do you have a pen?”
Before I could say, “you’re the guy from the candy bar,” I handed him my pen.
A blue one I believe.
He may have said thanks as he grabbed the pen and then...
and then...
and then...
he closed the door.
End of that story.
Not a great ending, I know, but a half-naked Reggie Jackson asked ME for a pen.
And I gave it to him.
Ok, that was a much cooler story as a teenager, but still.
Well the Yankees would go on to lose all three games in LA and the 6th game in New York to lose the series.
Four straight losses to end the year.
Not the finish that George was looking for.
In fact, he was so mad that he wrote a public letter apologizing for his team’s failure.
The person who read that apology to the Yankees fans, was my dad.
RIP Mr. Steinbrenner.

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