New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner suffered a massive heart attack this morning and died. He was 80 years old. While most know Steinbrenner as owner of the "Evil Empire," Clevelanders might remember him as a successful businessman as owner of Cleveland-based American Shipbuilding Company.
Steinbrenner was born in Rocky River, Ohio, in 1930. His first foray into sports ownership was in 1960 as owner of the ABL's Cleveland Pipers. His coach, John McClendon was the first African-American coach in professional basketball. The team won ABL championships in 1961 and 1962.
As history tells it, Steinbrenner first tried to buy the Cleveland Indians. He offered $9 million for the team sometime in the early 70's but was turned down. It was then that Steinbrenner joined a group that purchased the Yankees for $10 million.
"I won't be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all," Steinbrenner said. "I can't spread myself so thin. I've got enough headaches with my shipping company."
That didn't last long.
The Yankees went on to win six World Series and 10 American League titles in his tenure, the longest in Yankees history.
While Steinbrenner has become a kind of villain, both in Cleveland and around baseball in general, it shouldn't be forgotten that it all started right here in Cleveland. Had Steinbrenner been able to buy the Indians back in 1971 or 1972, who knows how things would have been different.
R.I.P., George Steinbrenner.