|The List: Steinbrenner's worst|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff
George Steinbrenner has shown incredible patience during the past five or six years, considering that he's him. With patience has come stability, especially in the manager's office. Steinbrenner now insists that, despite rumors floating everywhere, Joe Torre's job is safe. But watch out if the Yankees lose five in a row or get blown out in a doubleheader. George says many things that, in the end, give way to thoughtless knee-jerk reactions.
1. The Flowers Incident
"I walked in and saw flowers on every desk. Freshly cut flowers. I said, 'What the hell is this? Is it Flowers Day? Is it Secretary's Day?' Somebody said, 'Isn't that wonderful? Mr. Burke does this every day for us.' (Former Yankee president) Mike Burke is a guy who I admired tremendously. He was a real heartthrob type of guy. Everybody liked him. I loved him, but for what I wanted, he didn't fit with me. When I saw the flowers, that was the trigger. I got involved."
2. The Berra Incident
That started George thinking. "I thought they'd show more respect for Yogi," he said. "I'm not happy, but at this point Yogi's running the ball club." Then the Yankees lost five of their next six, and Yogi was gone. Steinbrenner didn't deliver the news personally -- he gave that job to GM Clyde King. Yogi's replacement? Billy Martin, of course.
It took years for Berra to forgive Steinbrenner.
3. The Winfield Dirt Incident
4. Any of the Martin incidents ... but the best
No doubt about that last part -- Steinbrenner secured his place in Watergate history when convicted for making an illegal contribution to Richard Nixon's campaign fund. But truth is no defense around George, and he quickly forced Martin, who'd managed the Yankees to the 1977 World Championship, to resign.
5. The Elevator Incident
He also came up with one of the most unbelievable stories to explain his broken hand. No one had witnessed the incident, so he said that he had broken it by punching out two Dodger fans in a hotel elevator, because they had called the Yankees "chokers." Said George, "There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me.'
Steinbrenner has stuck with this one through the years, although he refuses to disclose any further details. But nobody sued. Nobody was charged with anything. And nobody saw nothing.
6. The Irabu Incident
And George lost it. In a remarkable display of creative trash talk, he called Irabu a "fat pussy toad," and refused to let the pitcher accompany the team to Los Angeles. Two days later, Steinbrenner apologized and allowed Irabu to join the team.
"It's unfortunate that the remark about his weight came out," said Steinbrenner. "I knew that everybody would take that and make that the big thing ... I think some unfortunate things have happened and we've got to make him understand that we're with him. The Yankees need him. Underline need, big-time. We need him."
Steinbrenner traded Irabu to the Expos after the 1999 season.
7. The Lemon Incident
Lemon, who'd been fired once already by Steinbrenner during the 1979 season, lasted 14 games, getting the boot with the Yankees at 6-8. "Instead of identifying somebody as their manager, the Yankees should appoint him 'vice president, dugout decisions,'" wrote Dave Anderson in the New York Times. Lemon's replacement? Gene Michael.
8. The Michael Incident
Clyde King replaced Michael, but that didn't inspire any confidence in Yankee players. "To tell you the truth," said veteran Bobby Murcer, "I really don't think he deserved it. Gene got put in here with a team he didn't help put together, and I think he did the best he could for the time he was here. The players -- all of us -- didn't perform well enough to keep Gene around. There isn't one person who can come in and change the outlook because right now we're just not doing it.''
9. The "Mr. May" Incident
The next day, Don Mattingly said, "To belittle players like he did, to me he's out of control." Winfield said, "You wonder why we're tentative on the field. All I can tell you is that with what he said, with the way he is, that's how the guys felt. Maybe some of the guys were too afraid to make a mistake."
Winfield finished the season with 26 HR and 114 RBI, playing much better in August and September than he had in April and May. The Yankees finished the season 97-64, two games behind the Blue Jays. On August 1, they had been 8 1/2 games back, but in August, September and October, went 42-20 to close the gap and finish with the second-best record in the AL.
10. The Dental Plan Incident
"They're coming off record revenues and record ticket sales, and they've made the playoffs for eight straight years," said one anonymous baseball insider. "It would seem inconceivable that they would stoop to that. This is something only a really bad businessman would do." The media backlash was so strong that Steinbrenner backed off.
Also receiving votes:
Don Tyler (head of Tyler Chicken): "How about this: You give me Costanza, I convert your concessions to all chicken -- no charge. Instead of hotdogs -- chicken dogs. Instead of pretzels -- chicken twists. Instead of beer -- alcoholic chicken."
Steinbrenner: "How do you make that alcoholic chicken?"
Tyler: "Ah, let it ferment. Just like anything else."
Steinbrenner: "That stuff sounds great. Alright, I'll have Costanza on the next bus!"
Even though millions saw the trade on TV, Steinbrenner showed no remorse.