George Steinbrenner, the outspoken and longtime owner of the New York Yankees, died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack in Tampa, Florida.
Tampa's Bay News 9 reported shortly after 9 a.m. that Tampa Fire Rescue responded to a call at Steinbrenner's house overnight, and that someone was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital.
Steinbrenner, who just turned 80 on July 4, was that patient. His death was confirmed a short time later.
“He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great, but struggling franchise, and turned it into a champion again," said the team in a statement.
Flags have been lowered to half-staff at New York's City Hall and Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees spring training facility.
Steinbrenner has been the owner of the New York Yankees since 1973 – making him the longest-tenured owner in Major League Baseball. During that time, the Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles.
At a press conference in Anaheim, Calif., hours before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, team captain and shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez and pitcher Andy Pettitte said that they appreciated how supportive Steinbrenner was for the team and individual players.
"I've known him since I was 18 years old. Obviously there's a respect factor, because he's the owner and I worked for him, but we were more friends than anything," said Jeter.
"I still fell like we're playing for him," said Rodriguez.
"George used to hand me Bible verses before my playoff starts and stuff like that. He was tough, but he was always there to support you. I don't think enough is said about the support he'd give you, but it was tough support. I think sometimes the tough support doesn't quite get the limelight," said Pettitte. "He expected a lot, he demanded a lot, he raised, I believe, the level of not only the Yankees' organization and what they want to do, as far as winning championships, but I feel like he's raised the bar around baseball, for other teams to try to keep up and compete with what he was trying to put on the field every year," said Pettitte.
"I never really felt his expectations were overbearing. I felt he just wanted what all of us wanted -- to win. And he was a pleasure to play for and he's been a pleasure to work for," said Girardi.
See the full conferences with A-Rod, Pettitte and Girardi and Jeter.
Fans have been gathering at Yankee Stadium, leaving flowers on the team's emblem in his honor.
"A great man has been lost," said former Yankee Darryl Strawberry, who was supported by Steinbrenner during his fall into drug addiction. "I wish it was more owners in professional sports who had the kind of heart and dignity of what his team means and what winning stands for and that's what he did."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement calling Steinbrenner, "a champion who made New York a better place, and who always gave back to the city he loved."
The mayor has also ordered all flags in City Hall Plaza to be lowered to half staff in his honor.
Steinbrenner bought the team from CBS for under $9 million. It is now worth an estimated $2 billion.
In 2002, he created the Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network to broadcast the games of the team, along with New Jersey Nets games.
In recent years, as his health declined, he became more hidden from the public. He was in attendance during the opening of the new stadium.
Since 2006, his sons, Hal and Hank, have been running the team's operations, along with the Girardi and Brian Cashman, the team's general manager. He has spent the majority of his time in Tampa and is known for his philanthropy in the area.
Steinbrenner was often criticized for his pursuit of high-priced agents, feuds with general managers, and strict grooming policy for players.
Yankee great Yogi Berra, who had an up and down relationship with "The Boss" and was fired as the team's manager, told reporters Tuesday the two patched things up and became great friends.
"He became a heck of a guy, nice man. I tell ya, we went through some bad times, everybody else did, but he was a wonderful man," Berra said.
Former Yankee manager Joe Torre also described Steinbrenner as a tough boss, but says in the end, he was a visionary and dear friend.
"I thought it was stimulating. I was there for 12 years. Eventually I think a lot of managing stressed me out. But it certainly wasn't George Steinbrenner that was responsible for stressing me out. It was just the job itself. I had a good relationship with him," Torre said.
Steinbrenner was kicked out of the MLB twice; once for giving illegal donations to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign and a second time for hiring Howie Spira to spy on player Dave Winfield, after Winfield sued him for allegedly failing to pay his foundation $300,000 guaranteed in his contract. For this, Steinbrenner was "banned for life" by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent, but he was reinstated three years later.
He is being remembered fondly by fans of all ages.
"He was a tough businessman but a good owner and he spent the money he needed to spend," said one Yankees fan. "He did a good job and I hope his sons follow in his footsteps."
"Truthfully he was the boss, and when you're the boss, you can do whatever you really want to," said another. "He was the boss and he wasn't afraid to make decisions and that's what made him so great.
"The guy did whatever it took to win. He really was a winner," said a third. "He didn't take no for an answer."
Steinbrenner's passing comes on the heels of the death of Yankees stadium announcer Bob Sheppard, who died Sunday.
Starting with Friday's game against Tampa Bay, the Yankees will commemorate both men with uniform patches.
Patches for Steinbrenner will appear on both their home and road jerseys on the left side just over the heart.
The Sheppard patches will be on the left sleeve of both jerseys.
Meanwhile, private funeral arrangements for Steinbrenner are being made.
A public service will be announced at a later date.
Steinbrenner is survived by his wife Joan, his sons Hank and Hal, daughters Jennifer and Jessica and his 13 grandchildren.
Tributes Come Pouring In For "The Boss"
Former Yankee Great Yogi Berra:
"This is a very sad day for me and Carmen and all of baseball. My sympathies go out to the Steinbrenner family. George was The Boss, make no mistake. He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani:
"Judith and I express our deepest condolences to the entire Steinbrenner family and of course to the much larger, New York Yankees family. George was a friend of mine for over 30 years. He was truly the most influential and innovative owner in all of sports. He transformed baseball and sports broadcasting with the YES Network and brought New York seven World Series. Beyond that, he made the Yankees a source of great pride in being a New Yorker. George Steinbrenner's Yankees represent the will to overcome all odds which is precisely the will New Yorkers display when meeting every challenge they face. George will be greatly be missed but his legacy will carry on in the hearts and minds of all baseball fans."
Mets Owners Jeff & Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz:
“The passing of George Steinbrenner marks the end of an era in New York City baseball history. George was a larger than life figure and a force in the industry. The rise and success of his teams on the field and in the business marketplace under his leadership are a testament to his skill, drive, and determination. All of us at the Mets send our deepest condolences to his wife Joan, his sons Hank and Hal, daughters Jennifer and Jessica, his grandchildren, and everyone at the Yankees organization.”
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig:
"George was a giant of the game and his devotion to baseball was surpassed only by his devotion to his
family and his beloved New York Yankees. . . I have known George ever since he entered the game in 1972. He was my dear friend for nearly four decades. Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered. We were allies and friends in the truest sense of the words."
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz:
“It doesn’t matter if you root for the Yankees or the Mets—or, like me, still carry a torch for the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. We can all agree that this is a dark day for New York City baseball and for professional sports in America. The Yankees’ home turf may be the Bronx, but George Steinbrenner truly exemplified the ‘Brooklyn attitude.’ He was tenacious, tough and settled for nothing less than excellence. With his savvy and baseball smarts, he guided the Yankees into a new golden age. I know that George Steinbrenner, like Yankee great Lou Gehrig, considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. So let’s honor him by continuing to ‘root, root, root’ for the home team. Because as George himself made clear on so many occasions, if they don’t win, it’s a shame!”
Senator Charles Schumer:
"Like New York and like the Yankees, George Steinbrenner was a champion. He was someone about whom you can truly say that there will never be another one like him. . . He was a giant in baseball innovation, making baseball a truly global game. I—along with millions of Yankee fans, many not even in the state of New York—am thankful for the countless hours of joy we have experienced watching his team at the Stadium or following them on television and radio. "
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. George Steinbrenner today. . . . When I was a young boy and budding baseball fan growing up in Saint Louis, everybody knew of the great New York Yankees. Even when they were your opponent, they were a team to be admired and respected. That is why it was such a great joy to have been invited by Mr. Steinbrenner to join him in his box for the grand opening of the new Yankee Stadium in April 2009, as well as for a World Series game last October. They were experiences I’ll never forget. Mr. Steinbrenner and his family were very warm and welcoming to me, the new kid in town. I’ve since learned that such acts of kindness were very much in keeping with the Steinbrenner tradition, and Catholic agencies here in New York and in Florida were often the beneficiary of his and the Steinbrenner family’s generosity. . . . Of course, the Archdiocese of New York will never forget Mr. Steinbrenner’s tremendous goodness in arranging for Yankee Stadium to welcome Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 for the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Mr. Steinbrenner will have a special remembrance in my Masses and prayers."
Edward Cardinal Egan:
“Just a few days ago I wrote a letter to Mr. George Steinbrenner to wish him a happy 80th birthday. In my letter I thanked him once again for his extraordinary kindness and generosity to the Archdiocese of New York on the occasion of the Pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI to our City two years ago. Thus it is with the deepest sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of this great New Yorker. George Steinbrenner was not only a marvelous leader of the New York Yankees, he was also an exemplary citizen of our community."