On the same day Murray Chass reminds us of Marvin Miller’s difficult path to enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Chass’ former NY Times colleague George Vecsey opines it’s time to put the brakes on efforts to induct the late George Steinbrenner. “In the heady rush of deserved respect and understandable nostalgia, we need to slow down and evaluate the Boss.” The same Boss, as Vecsey reminds us, whose associations with Richard Nixon and Howie Spira (above) will always loom large in any discussion of his legacy.
Steinbrenner was a builder, a successful club owner, but does he deserve to be in on sheer baseball merit? There is one argument that Steinbrenner was better than moral, better than smart. He was lucky. He turned a modest personal investment, said to be $168,000, into a $10 million package that, enriched by unforeseen cable television revenue, became the most lucrative franchise in baseball, worth $1.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Then Steinbrenner got lucky all over again while barred by Commissioner Fay Vincent for conspiring with the gambler ” the best thing that ever happened to him and his beloved Yankees.
While Steinbrenner was verifiably out of power, his front office, most notably General Manager Gene Michael, protected the best young players in the farm system. You might have heard of them: Jeter, Posada, Williams, Rivera, Pettitte. For once, the Yankees did not trade away their future for expensive old stars. George came back and presided over one of the great eras of Yankees baseball.
So, maybe the voters should instead pick Joe Torre and Michael and even poor, addled Billy Martin, who is actually on this makeup ballot.