Talk about a good investment.

Thirty-five years ago, George Steinbrenner and a group of businessmen bought the then-struggling New York Yankees. They paid a pittance to CBS for the team. Each investor had to shell out $833,000 to own a piece of the Yankees.

Today, of course, no one’s buying anything from the Yanks for a mere $10 million. The team is building a $1.3-billion stadium, and with a successful team and TV station, the entire franchise operation is valued somewhere around $1 billion.

For the Yanks and Steinbrenner, it’s been a tumultuous 35 years that seems to be coming to a close. While George isn’t planning on selling the team, due to his advancing age and seemingly declining health, the men behind the scenes are now Hal and Hank, his songs who were just 4 and 15 respectively when he bought the team. The thirty-five year run is marked by intense micromanaging, scandals and an eventual return to greatness in the 1990s that has carried through to today’s team in one way or another.

But going into the 1973 season, with a new and complicated ownership group in place, no one in New York really knew what to expect. No one would guess what the next 35 years would bring.

* * *

It starts with a quote from a largely unknown Cleveland shipping magnate in 1973.

It’s January 4, 1973, and CBS has mercifully sold the Yankees to a group of interested buyers. Under CBS, as Joseph Durso fo The Times detailed, the Yanks finished no higher than third and saw their attendance dip below one million in 1972 for the first time since World War II. The Mets, meanwhile, were the darlings of New York. They drew over 2 million fans, leading the league.

But the quote. Back to the quote. At the press conference introducing the new owners, George Steinbrenner, largely unknown in New York, took the stage. “We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned. We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships,” he said.

Famous first words if I ever I heard any, and at the time no one had any reason to doubt Steinbrenner. Head of what was generally assumed to be the largest ownership syndicate in baseball, Steinbrenner was a Cleveland native and lifelong Yankee fan.

In fact, George had a man back in New York, and this man — Michael Burke — knew New York. Burke had been at the helm of the Yanks for a while. A nine-year veteran of CBS when they bought the team, Burke, a fan of the game, slid seamlessly into his new role and toiled for the better part of the 1960s under CBS’ inept leadership. When the opportunity arose to buy the team, Burke put together a group of investors, and everyone assumed he would be the public figurehead of the team.

And who wouldn’t believe Steinbrenner? Involved in the NBA, Broadway and his own company, George kept saying the same thing. “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all,” he told a young Murray Chass. “I can’t spread myself so thin. I’ve got enough headaches with my shipping company.”

Of course, we know how that story ended. Burke left the team presidency in April when Gabe Paul’s involvement deepened. And George, well, we know what happened to George. He never really stayed true to his word and did become heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the club both on the field and off for the next three decades.

As Steinbrenner’s reign nears its ends, it is very hard to imagine the Yankees without George Steinbrenner. But for a fleeting minute in 1973, imagine if George Steinbrenner had stayed true to his word. New York just wouldn’t be the same.

Categories : Days of Yore
Comments (9)
  • George King actually gets paid to write this crap

    It’s amazing how these writers – who are paid gobs of money to cover the team, but I digress – are so out-of-touch with the team’s fan base. Phil Hughes will be dogged for a long time as the hurler the Yankees didn’t sacrifice to get Santana? Not in these parts, George Queen (haha! see that, he’s not the only one that can make fun of people’s names!). And what the hell does “boobs a bull” mean anyway?

    Click here to read that garbage and more. But be warned, you’ll get dumber and dumber with each word.
    · (41) ·


The numbers game

By in Whimsy. · Comments (16) ·

The Yanks unveiled their new roster today complete with many players’ new numbers. While the pitchers could still see some changes depending upon which ones make the roster out of Spring Training, let’s take a look at the guys who get new numbers.

Jonathan Albaladejo 63
Andrew Brackman 64
Chris Britton 38
LaTroy Hawkins 22 – Who had this last? I can’t remember. Some bit player, I think.
Sean Henn 30
Phil Hughes 34 – Time to get your new jerseys.
Ian Kennedy 31 – Two of three Big 3 have new numbers. Get your collectibles while they last.
Jeffrey Marquez 71
Ross Ohlendorf 39
Scott Patterson 70
Edwar Ramirez 36
Humberto Sanchez 77
Steven White 82
Chase Wright 65 – From 38 to 65? I guess he’s not on the short list of people making the team.

Francisco Cervelli 85
Alberto Gonzalez 73
Juan Miranda 72

As expected, Joba Chamberlain is keeping his number 62. I like that.

Thanks to reader Pete for the tip.

Categories : Whimsy
Comments (16)

Remember when the rookies dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz? Good times. As part of their off-season coverage, the YES Network offers up a short piece on the hazing. Shelley, as always, has a few amusing things to say.

(Hat tip to

Categories : Whimsy
Comments (10)

PECOTA likes the Yanks

By in Analysis. Tags: · Comments (24) ·

Last week, Baseball Prospectus unveiled that basic PECOTA projections for the 2008 season. For the uninitiated among us, PECOTA is a computer projection system that calculates the likelihood of how a player will perform in a season based on his past performance by comparing him to similar players. Got it? Good.

Anyway, when the Weighted Means spreadsheet hits, it’s always fun to page through to see how the computer predicts the season to turn out. Since I know you’re all dying to find out, Melky projects to around .283/.342/.404. No further comment, your honor.

Saving any of us the trouble of doing the number-crunching, Paul, one of the Red Sox fans, at Yanksfan vs. Soxfan, figured out how PECOTA projects the Yanks, and Yankee fans should be guardedly happy. When all is said and done, an ideal, computerized PECOTA world, the final AL East standings look like this:

Yankees 103-59
Red Sox 101-61

And that was before Curt Schilling’s injury came down.

But of course, baseball teams don’t play computer-simulated games. They play the games on the field, and besides the fact that two 100-win teams in one division is rather unlikely, a perfectly simulated PECOTA season is rather unlikely too.

This should, however, give despairing Yankee fans reason to hope. Too many critics look at the Red Sox’s October and forget that what happened in the six months prior. They saw a team comeback from a 3-1 ALCS deficit to win seven straight and a second World Championship in four years. But the Red Sox were no sure lock at the end of September when the Yanks had cut their division lead to two.

Now PECOTA likes the Yanks, and we do too. There should always be hope, projections aside.

Categories : Analysis
Comments (24)