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“Boss” Reality Check

Leave it to Maureen Dowd to unearth the story that perfectly captures the essence of George Steinbrenner. It comes from “Seinfeld,” where the blustering “Boss” was voiced (but never seen) by the brilliant but thoroughly annoying Larry David. Link to her column and read of Steinbrenner’s caprice, almost wilful ignorance, and plain stupidity — followed by a casual retraction of everything he’d said. Many a Yankees employee (players, front-office administrators, and especially managers) can recount stories with similar patterns.

You’d never know that from reading the hagiographic accounts of the man. Derek Jeter described him as a friend. Maybe that’s true in this one case, because Jeter floats in an unbreachable bubble created by his mix of talent, good looks, media savvy and (faux?) modesty. But others should know better.

Let’s give the man his due: He wanted the team to win desperately, and often (especially in the 1990’s) got what he wanted. He was willing to put his vast money where his even bigger mouth was. But let’s be honest: When you’re sitting in your thousand dollar-plus seats (the priciest originally went for $2,500 per seat, until even the Yankees realized the market wouldn’t bear it), remember that Steinbrenner — and the organization he created in his image — was really spending your money, not theirs. And that working for him was, for many, hell.

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