July 13, 2010

"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," George Steinbrenner said in 1998, when his Yankees were doing a whole lot of it -- 114 games worth plus the AL pennant and World Series.. "Breathing first, winning next."

During his nearly 38 years as Principal Owner, the man known as The Boss proved the truth of those words, and then some. Describing himself as "more of a Patton than an Eisenhower," Steinbrenner presided over the most colorfully turbulent and wildly successful times in the team's storied history, especially during the 1970s and '80s when the team was often referred to as The Bronx Zoo and he gloried in what he called "creative turmoil." One of his favorite maxims was "A ship that sails on a calm sea gets nowhere" and no team was quite as storm-tossed as the Yankees during Steinbrenner's hey-day.

And so we present a collection of The Boss's most colorful pronouncements, culled from local New York tabloids, national magazines, books, and broadcast interviews.

"This is the greatest city in the world, and its people are the greatest people in the world. And I just hope they like me." (Oct. 1977)

"Maybe the silk stocking guys don't like the way I run this ball club, but the little guy -- the bartender, the guy pushing a cart, the cab drivers -- they're the ones who need the Yankees. My involvement is not sipping cocktails in all the fashionable places. My involvement is in the roots of the city." (Oct. 1977)

"The day I don't want to win for New York, that's the day I better get the hell out of the business." (Oct. 1979)

"I want to sincerely apologize to the people of New York and to the fans of the New York Yankees everywhere for the performance of the Yankee team in the World Series. I also want to assure you that we will be at work immediately to prepare for 1982." -- After the Yankees lost the 1981 Series to the L.A. Dodgers(Oct. 1981)

"Baseball is not just a sport anymore; we are a business. We are show business. To compete for the entertainment dollar, particularly in New York, you have to have more than nine guys playing baseball; you have to have an attraction. And I have tried to do the best job I possibly can to give my fans an attraction." (April 1983)

"Particularly since Sept. 11, the Yankees have come to symbolize the spirit, strength and resilience of New York, and I am very proud of all we accomplished this year." (Oct. 2002)

"I want to thank our loyal fans for their enormous support. Of course, I am disappointed because I wanted a championship for them and for our city. You can be assured, we will get to work and produce a great team next year." -- After the Yankees' epic collapse against Boston in the ALCS(Oct. 2004)

"I haven't always done a good job, and I haven't always been successful. But I know that I have tried." (2005)

"I have nothing against long hair, but wearing a Yankee uniform represents tradition. I think a Yankee should look well-groomed. After all, I'm paying the bills and issuing the paychecks around here and I feel a certain way about the Yankee tradition." (Oct. 1977)

"I wouldn't sell the Yankees for anything. Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa. You don't sell it." (Oct. 1979)

"When you start talking about the best team money can buy, the Red Sox have as many free agents as we do. They just didn't pay as much." (Oct. 1979)

"I'm like a fan. I live with the Yankees and I die with the Yankees." (March 1981)

"I clocked them. There are two guys in town looking for their teeth." -- After his reported fight with two Dodgers fans in an elevator in a Los Angeles hotel during the 1981 World Series(Oct. 1981)

"My employees know I'm tough on them, and I am. I demand more of them than they think they're capable of. I don't know of any other way to lead. I'm not here to run a country club." (Oct. 1977)

"I don't like to hurt people. Sometimes I just...well, I guess I can't help it." (Oct. 1977)

"Go back to Day One in history. Look at your great generals. The ones who really got the stuff done were the ones the troops bitched about. It's the same in sports." (Oct. 1979)

"I guess I am an S.O.B. to work for. I don't know if I'd want to work for me." (March 1981)

"I won't be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all. I can't spread myself so thin. I've got enough headaches with my shipping company. We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned." (Jan. 1973)

"I'll be an S.O.B. if I'm going to sit here and sign these paychecks and watch us get our ass kicked by a bunch of rummies." --To his team after a 9-1 loss to Boston(June 1975)

"You guys don't want it bad enough. You're not giving 100 percent. You guys are Yankees and you have to play like Yankees." (Aug. 1976)

"I won't interfere as much as I did last year." (March 1978)

"If I don't get involved, we're not going to get better." (July 1978)

"If we look this bad next week, the players and coaches will hear about it." (March 1979)

"The screws are coming down tomorrow." -- After an exhibition loss to the crosstown rival Mets(March 1981)

"I'm not getting my money's worth. We'll practice and practice until we get it right." (Aug. 1981)

"If my players don't start producing there'll be more fireworks around here by the Fourth of July than anyone can imagine." (April 1982)

"It's not the end of the world. I'm mellow. I'm getting back to where I was before. Mellow." -- After a 9-1 exhibition loss to the Mets (March 1983)

"I'm not worried, but if they lose, that will be another story." (March 1985)

"I'm not going to let this continue much longer. I can't afford to be patient. I'll get involved, and you know what happens when I get involved." (April 1985)

"I would not have gone with a {Derek] Jeter in the past. I think I've changed. I was too demanding. Too hasty." (1996)

"We won 103 games during the regular season, and even I know that you're just not going to win it all every year. But our fans should be confident that we are already at work on improving our team for 2003. Will there be changes? Of course. But will these changes be made arbitrarily or unilaterally by me? Absolutely not." -- (Oct. 2004)

"It's okay for me to criticize my players because I sign the paychecks." (Oct. 1981)

"Ken Clay spit the bit. He's a morning glory." -- after the young pitcher blew a lead against the Royals (1978)

"We seen enough of Tucker Ashford." --Ashford, a third baseman, appeared in three games for the Yankees without an at-bat(April 1981)

"I wish sometimes you could let go of some of the players instead of the manager, but that's not how the game is structured. We have some players who are not as good as they think they are." (Aug. 1982)

"I'm afraid some of my players will get hurt playing behind him. -- On struggling pitcher Doyle Alexander(Aug. 1982)

"I don't mean to hang it on [shortstop Roy] Smalley. He tries, but it's just not good enough." (Sept. 1983)

"I'm fed up with his attitude. [Don Mattingly] ought to realize his lack of hitting lately has killed us." -- AfterMattingly skipped an optional team workout(June 1985)

"Anybody seen Reggie Jackson? I need a Mr. October, and all I've got is a Mr. May -- Dave Winfield." -- (Sept. 1985)

"Well, people have heard that Rickey [Henderson] didn't get back for the two games tonight because he didn't know the strike was over. Well, I tell ya gang, you know, they're not all mental giants." (Aug. 1985)

"I've tried to trade [Ken] Griffey, and no one wants him. We'll see who wants Mr. Baylor." (Sept. 1985)

"I have to assume they are as embarrassed as I am. If they don't feel that way, they should take the uniform off and walk away from the pay window." (Sept. 1985)

"I like my race horses better because they can't talk to sportswriters." (May 1985)

"[Hideki Irabu] is a fat, pus-y toad." -- After the pitcher failed to cover first base during an exhibition game(April 1999)

"Billy Martin will manage the entire season." (June 26, 1978; Martin was fired July 24, the first of five times by Steinbrenner.)

"As a fan, I have a right to question [the manager's] strategy." (Aug. 1980)

"Gene Michael will be here when they re-do Yankee Stadium." -- Upon hiring Michael as manager(Nov. 1980; Michael was fired in Sept. 1981)

"If he thinks talking about it will help him, that's his problem. I feel like a father scorned. I feel like I have a son who has done something wrong and isn't mature enough to admit it." -- After Michael complained to the press that he'd had enough of Steinbrenner's threats and micromanaging(Aug. 1981)

"Bob Lemon will manage the entire season, win or lose." (April 1982; Lemon lasted 14 games)

"Yogi Berra will be the manager for the entire year, win or lose, bad start or no bad start, no matter what." (Feb. 1985; Berra lasted 16 games)

"His job is on the line. I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series." -- on Joe Torre during the AL Division Series vs. Cleveland(Oct. 2007)

"I was often misquoted. I was supportive of my managers, even though they all may not think so."

"The next time you drive me to the wall, I'll throw you over it." -- To Martin(July 1977)

"What do you mean try? If I want to fire you, I'll fire you." -- After Martin doused him with World Series champagne and said "That's for trying to fire me."(Oct. '77)

"I would say our relationship really, and this may sound crazy -- we're pals." (Jan. 1983)

"I can't criticize Billy's style and personality. In many ways, it's a lot like mine." (Dec. 1983)

"I think American League umpires are intimidated by the National League umpires. I've seen it time and time again in the World Series." (April 1983)

"The man, in my opinion, has had it in for the Yankees ever since I labeled him and several of the umpires as scabs because they worked the American League Games in 1979 during the umpires strike." -- On Dallas Parks, who sued over the public statement issued by Steinbrenner(Aug. 1982)

"He won't umpire our games anymore." -- On Bruce Froemming, for his failure to stop play when an invasion of insects affected Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain during Game 2 of the AL Division Series vs. Cleveland(Oct. 2007)

"If the Yankees should lose the Eastern Division race on the ruling of Lee MacPhail, I would not want to be poor Lee living in New York City. He better start house-hunting in Missouri, close to Kansas City." -- After the AL President overturned the umpire's ruling in the famous "Pine Tar Game" vs. the Royals(July 1983)

"He never stopped trying. That would be good enough for me."

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