Thursday, May 20, 2010

Benevolent Boss still quite the presence

Even in retirement and declining health, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is quite the presence.

The Boss made an appearance at a dedication ceremony at the high school that will bear his name, a prestigious honor given to Tampa's favorite adopted son. Why? For all the bombastic comments and fireworks of the Steinbrenner era that were blasted across the newspapers, in private he was a benevolent figure. He used his vast fortune to support numerous community programs, including scholarships for children who lost their firefighter and police officer parents in the line of duty.

For all his bad acts in baseball and life, Steinbrenner is not a selfish person when it comes to his fortune. And his compassion knows no bounds. I just finished reading Darryl Strawberry’s biography Finding My Way. In one of the book’s most enlightening tidbits, Strawberry talked about how Steinbrenner stayed with the outfielder’s then-wife Charisse the entire four hours that Strawberry was in surgery for his cancerous colon, taking care of his wife as the Boss took care of all his employees’ families. Strawberry passionately talked about how Steinbrenner was the only person who believed in him, even when he lost faith in himself, throughout his battle with drugs and alcohol. I always knew that Steinbrenner had given him several chances to restart his baseball career, but I didn’t know what a truly personal interest he took in Strawberry and how supportive he was to his family during such a terrible crisis.

It's only now with the Boss obviously in poor health that we're hearing so much about these good works. It seems like Steinbrenner prefers in that way. His family has fiercely guarded his privacy, but it's obvious that the Boss will never be a truly anonymous figure, even if he isn't the firebrand he used to be.

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