*It was in either the late 1980s or early 1990s, but Steinbrenner was in a memorable and hilarious Saturday Night Live skit. The Boss played a hardware store owner who was being encouraged to fire his manager. In a parody nothing short of hysterical, Steinbrenner begins bemoaning "Who am I to fire someone? Who am I to sit in judgment of another human being? What kind of way is that to run a business? So if the next guy comes in and things don't improve do I fire him and bring you back? Who runs a company like that? A jackass, that's who." Steinbrenner's willingness to so easily poke fun at himself and his past with Billy Martin showed a humble side that belied the often bombastic exterior.
And his past with Billy Martin made its influence into popular culture. The Boss and Billy were in Miller Lite commercials in the 1980s arguing over "Less filling, tastes great", when Steinbrenner cans him at the end "Not again", Martin moans. As recently as 2007, the popular caper movie Oceans 13 has a scene where a group of con men led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt have to decide whether to give a crooked hotel owner, portrayed by Al Pacino "a Billy Martin." As in, to give him another chance.
*Moving to a more serious side, former Notre Dame football coach Gerry Faust (1981-85), a personal favorite of mine, spoke well of Steinbrenner in his book The Golden Dream, recalling how the Boss showed the old coach support and was willing to help him in whatever way he could to get back into football.
*Bob Knight, my all-time favorite person in any sport, had nothing but good things to say about Steinbrenner in his book Knight: My Story. The General wrote that if he'd lost a tough game the night before, the Boss was the type who'd send a simple fax of "sorry about the game last night" over and offer words of encouragement.
In the world of baseball, I've rooted passionately against Steinbrenner's Yankees. When it comes to the economic structure of the game, I completely disagreed with him on every level. But those things are, in the end, about just a game. The good humor and personal support shown in the stories above are more enduring examples of character and count for more in the grand scheme of things.
Image courtesy of nndb.com