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Lesson #3: The Boss Can Come Back
On July 30, 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from the sport for life. It was discovered that Steinbrenner had paid a small-time gambler by the name of Howie Spira $40,000 to find dirt on then Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner was looking for information he could use against Winfield after the outfielder sued Steinbrenner for failing to pay the $300,000 to his charitable foundation that was guaranteed in his contract.
When the decision was taken, the Yankees were in the middle of playing a ballgame. The announcement was transmitted over radio and fans, who were then upset at the fact that they had not won a title in years, immediately broke out into clapping and a standing ovation. It was a low point in Steinbrenner’s career.
Yet just three years later, Steinbrenner was reinstated. The ban for life that he was given turned out to not be so long. Steinbrenner went back to work with the Yankees, hoping to turn around their stream of bad luck. It had been, after all, the first decade since 1910 that the Yankees had not won a single world championship.
This time, however, Steinbrenner was committed to doing things differently in order to regain the Yankees’ momentum. First, he agreed to let executive Gene Michael manage much of the day-to-day operations of the team. Delegating authority was no easy task for Steinbrenner, but he believed it would be in the best interests of the team.
Second, he agreed to hold onto promising up-and-coming players, instead of immediately trading them for more established players – something Steinbrenner had refused to do before. The results paid off, and the Yankees, along with their owner, quickly began to rebound.
Steinbrenner also has a reputation for being an intense boss to both his players and managers, notably chewing them out in front of the media and fans alike. In his first 23 seasons, Steinbrenner changed managers 20 times, including the same one on five different occasions, and general managers 11 times in 30 years. As famous as he was for going after high-priced free agents, he was even more infamous for fighting with them.
Still, despite tarnishing his reputation and becoming unpopular with players, management, and fans alike, Steinbrenner stuck to his course. Despite sinking to an all-time career low by being banned from the sport he loved so dearly, Steinbrenner agreed to make some changes in order to be reinstated. He worked hard during the good times and even harder during the bad to make sure he always wound up on top.
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