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Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Boss was New York tabloid gold

By Andrew Marchand

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The reporters would wait and wait, hoping to receive just one word from The Boss. He was older then, lacking the same bombast that trademarked his rise in the 1970s into arguably the most interesting owner in American sports.

But at the turn of the century, he was still George M. Steinbrenner III. So reporters waited for him outside the old Yankee Stadium.

In the tabloid world of New York sports, nothing sold better than a Steinbrenner roar. From calling Dave Winfield "Mr. May" to hiring and firing Billy Martin five times to apologizing for a lost World Series, Steinbrenner was unlike any other owner. His words were sharp, a message embedded in every syllable.

Even in the early part of the 2000s, he was a separate beat unto himself, so reporters stood for The Wait. It would be right outside the press gate at the old Yankee Stadium, where Steinbrenner's town car would park. Steinbrenner, with an elderly gait, would walk in as reporters would shout questions at him.

It was like a scene out of a movie, where reporters are presented as caricatures. But when you are covering someone as bombastic as Steinbrenner, the big quote was tabloid gold and the wait was worth it.

"George, George, what do you think of A-Rod's struggles?"

"George, George, what about the Yankees not hitting?"

"George, George, is Torre's job in jeopardy?"

Joe Torre, of course, had four championship rings when these questions were being asked. He was taking the Yankees to the playoffs every season, but if they were off to a slow start, there was no telling what Steinbrenner would say or do.

In an interview, Steinbrenner defined his priorities by saying, "Breathing first, winning next."

Even though he has now passed, Steinbrenner's imprint is still left on the Yankees. Just last week, with the best record in baseball and three All-Star starters, GM Brian Cashman nearly traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee.

There were questions about if the Yankees were fulfilling a "need." They were. It was the Steinbrenner "need" to win -- at any cost.

That is why reporters waited for him. He needed to win, and the back pages needed him.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for You can follow him on Twitter.

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