Making the Big Leagues: Baseball Great George Steinbrenner Gets His Start

“We know how to win.”

That’s how baseball great George Steinbrenner once explained the astounding success of his pride and joy, the team he led to success both on the baseball diamond and off, the New York Yankees. The same could be true, however, of Steinbrenner’s own career. From studying English Literature in college to becoming one of the sports world’s greatest icons, Steinbrenner has proved time and again that he knows how to win.

George Steinbrenner III was born to parents Henry Steinbrenner II and Rita Haley on July 4, 1930 in Rocky River, Ohio. His father was an athletics legend in his own rite, having been a famous hurdler at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He would later take control of his family’s shipping company, Kinsman Shipping. Of course, he naturally expected his son, George, to follow suit as well. George’s mother meanwhile managed the house and took charge of raising her young son.

Steinbrenner grew up in Bay Village, a suburb of Cleveland. In 1944, he joined northern Indiana’s Culver Military Academy, graduating four years later. He later enrolled in Williams College, where he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelors degree in English Literature. During that time, Steinbrenner also took part in several extracurricular activities, including hurdling, football, and piano.

After graduation, Steinbrenner enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed as a second lieutenant at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. It was there that his leadership qualities first began to shine through. On the base, Steinbrenner used his spare time to establish a sports program, as well as a food service business. It was his first taste of the business of sports, and Steinbrenner liked it.

Following completion of his term with the Air Force, Steinbrenner worked for a brief time as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University, and later Purdue University. However, just two years into his tenure at Purdue, in 1957, Steinbrenner got a call from his father, pleading with him to come home and run the family business, which was at the time on the brink of closure. “He told me to get home and get busy,” recalls Steinbrenner. “I wish I could have stayed in coaching. My father never asked that much, but when he did it was an order.”

Steinbrenner did as his father asked, returning home to work as treasurer of the family shipping business. There, he proved himself a capable businessman and became president of the company in just four years. Still, during that time, the yearning to enter the business world of sports stayed strong. And, in 1960, Steinbrenner made a decision that would forever change his life. Against his father’s wishes of taking over the family business, Steinbrenner decided to follow his instinct and purchase a sports franchise.

It was in 1960 that Steinbrenner established a partnership to purchase the Cleveland Pipers, a semi-professional basketball team. The venture was not as successful as Steinbrenner had hoped, but it nonetheless gave him a taste of the world he wanted to enter.

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