December 5, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Thursday, January 03, 2013
40 years ago today was a big day in the history of the New York Yankees. Their owner, CBS, sold the club to a businessman named George Steinbrenner. At a sticker value of $10 million, this turned out to be quite a nice deal for Mr. Steinbrenner.
And it turned out to be a nice deal for the Yankees, too. The perennial powerhouse was at a low point back then. The franchise had 39 straight seasons with winning records from the mid-1920s until the mid-1960s, and then the their empire fell. Beginning with a dismal 1965 campaign, the Yankees were generally an AL also-ran. By the standards of bad teams they weren’t so bad, but by the standards of the Yankees they were historically dreadful. That dreadful stretch fell under CBS.
Steinbrenner had advantages over CBS. As one individual, Steinbrenner could put his personal stamp on the club in the ways that the corporate CBS ownership never could. And Steinbrenner really wanted to win.
When free agency hit, Steinbrenner was willing to acquire the best talent available, most notably super slugger Reggie Jackson. Under Steinbrenner, the Yankees won their first world title in 15 years in 1977. They rattled off a mini-dynasty in the late 1970s and early 1980s before falling into a treadmill for most of the 1980s. They were always good, but couldn’t quite win the division. Finally things fell apart in the early 1990s before the franchise finally revitalized itself in the mid-1990s for an even more impressive run that the one with Reggie Jackson..
Steinbrenner’s role was always controversial. He was suspended twice from the game. The first was in the 1970s for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon, and then in the 1990s for engaging in slimy practices against former star player Dave Winfield. In fact, the Yankees' second wind began when the Winfield scandal forced Steinbrenner to take a step back from the team. Though he was controversial, no one ever questioned Steinbrenner’s willingness to win.
One other notable feature about the ownership change occurred 40 years ago today: It’s the last time anyone has sold the franchise. George himself is gone; he died in July 2010. Now his sons Hal and Hank Steinbrenner run the team, but it’s still in the family. In fact, the Yankees franchise longest held by the same ownership group.
Years ago I saw a list of the baseball franchises with the longest-term ownership group. At that time, the O’Malley family had sold the Dodgers and Gene Autry no longer had the Angels.
The longest tenured owner was Bud Selig with the Brewers. He bought the team in 1970. Then came Steinbrenner in 1973. Then came a good sized gap until a cluster of owners came on board in the early 1980s: Jerry Reinsdorf with the White Sox, the Tribune Company with the Cubs, Fred Wilpon with the Mets. A little after them was Carl Pohlad with the Twins in 1984.
Now? Well, Selig gave the team to his daughter when he became commissioner, but the Selig family sold the team years ago. Wilpon is leaving the Mets due to his involvement in the Bernie Madoff pyramid scam. The Tribune sold the Cubs to Tom Ricketts.
Reinsdorf is still around. He bought the Sox in 1980 and is now the second longest tenured owner behind the Steinbrenner family. Pohlad died but his son Jim now owns the team.
There used to be some other long-time owners. The O’Malley family owned the Dodgers for over 40 years, but sold the club in the 1990s. Gene Autry owned the Angels for decades, but club has long since passed to other hands. Ted Turner owned the Braves and didn’t sell them. Instead, Time/Warner purchased Turner and pushed him aside. It’s a different type of purchase, but it’s a new owner.
I’ve always wondered why baseball owners don’t last as long as they do in, say, the NFL. There, the Giants, Steelers and Bears are all owned by the founding families of those respective franchises. Al Davis ran the Raiders forever and his son still has it. The Bidwell family has owned the Cardinals since at least the 1930s. The Bills have had the same owner forever. Green Bay, of course, owns the Packers in a unique arrangement. Other clubs in the NFL have had the same owners for a longer time than the Steinbrenners have had the Yankees.
But comparing across sports is always awkward. In the baseball world, the Steinbrenners are the longest lasted ownership group, and they purchased the club 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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