Photo via friend of the blog Amanda Rykoff
How would you remember George Steinbrenner?
The question has been asked and answered, and for many, the monument that now graces Monument Park behind center field in Yankee Stadium, would seem fitting and appropriate as a tribute to a man who was, in many ways, larger than life.
Ask a similar, but very different question:
How would George remember George Steinbrenner?
The answer becomes not quite so clear.
Steinbrenner, we know, was a man who spared no expense when it came to the Yankees, willing to do anything to bring a winning baseball team to New York City–and seven Word Series titles later, he most certainly did– seemingly regardless of the consequences it may have wrought.
Yet Steinbrenner was also a man whose community involvement is something we can only wish to emulate, and this Hal Steinbrenner quote about his father, from the article linked above, says volumes:
“He always told us that America is supposed to be the land of milk and honey, and there are too many people left behind,” Hal Steinbrenner says. “And he taught us if two or more people know you are doing it, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”
Does that come across as a man who’d want a giant, bombastic monument that overshadows those of Ruth, Huggins, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and the victims of 9/11 (among others)?
Of course, only George himself knew what he would have wanted, so perhaps it’s wrong to say that the monument is too big or a noble effort but misguided.
@emmaspan tweeted that “it would be kind of inappropriate if Steinbrenner had a tasteful, understated, modest remembrance,” and my co-writer at You Can’t Predict Baseball @jordan_smed told me, “I think George wouldn’t have wanted a giant monument, but it was still the right thing to do…because the guy he was demanded it.”
There is certainly some truth to these notions, but I’m still left wondering if Steinbrenner was about the monuments and the tributes so much as he was the cause, be it the Yankees or helping out the underprivileged wherever he could.
Don’t mistake this for hagiography–Steinbrenner wasn’t a saint, and I doubt he’d enjoy classification as such, but that’s kind of the point.
Our society still bears traces of those that came before, of the idea that bigger is better (a sociologist or anthropologist would probably love to examine the root causes of this notion), that the more gold, the heavier trophy, the bigger monument you get, the more important you were.
In the postgame, Derek Jeter was asked about it and commented, ““It was big,” Jeter said. “Probably just how The Boss wanted it. The biggest one out there.”
Jeter, unlike me, would be in a position to know, and yet it’s hard to reconcile his comment with the notion of the man who thought the highest form of charity was that done anonymously.
It’s hard to argue that any one person was more important to the Yankees than the Boss in his prime, since he held the purse strings and thus the keys, but does that make Steinbrenner more important than the Yankee name, brand, legacy or ethos?
More importantly, did Steinbrenner see himself as such?
The monument is there, and by all rights and purposes one should be there, but when it was unveiled the great reaction–via IM, Twitter, correspondence from those at the game–was one agog at how big the monument was, more than anything else.
I never knew Mr. Steinbrenner, so I can’t answer the question with any certainty, but I wonder…