George Steinbrenner, the long-time owner of the New York Yankees and one of the most colourful and controversial figures in US sport died in Florida yesterday. Media reports said Steinbrenner, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Tampa and was rushed to hospital.
Known as "The Boss" for his tempestuous style, he was loved by Yankees fans, feared by his players and managers, and hated by his rivals. He resurrected the most successful franchise in US sport from a period of decline, returning it to glory in the 1970s. "Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," he once said.
Willing to spend to sign star players, he demanded results and got them as the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants since he bought the famous club in 1973.
"It's a great loss to the Yankee players and fans," said Easwall Semper, 65, a lifelong fan in midtown Manhattan. "He was a fair man. He had his own ways."
Steinbrenner was twice suspended from baseball – once for making illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign and then for hiring a private investigator to dig up information on one of his players.
To broader audiences, Steinbrenner was a running joke on the TV show Seinfeld, where he was usually seen berating his hapless employee, George Costanza. But Steinbrenner had mellowed in recent years, particularly since his club won four World Series championships between 1996 and 2000. The team he bought for $10m in 1973 is now worth $1.6bn, nearly twice as much as any other team in baseball, Forbes magazine estimated.
"He has left an indelible legacy on the Yankees, on baseball, and on our city,"said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "And he leaves us in the only way that would be appropriate: as a reigning world champion." The Yankees won their record 27th World Series title in 2009.