Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yankee Losses

The New York Yankees lost two legendary fixtures within the last few days.

Bob Sheppard had been with the Yankees well before Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973. While he never amassed the wealth of George Steinbrenner, his life shows that he was a man with better perspective and an intact moral compass.

He was a teacher first and foremost, and took joy in helping people improve their speech and elocution. After he retired, Yankees—most notably Derek Jeter—continued to use a recording of him to be announced. I’m privileged to have attended games at the real Yankee Stadium and listened to Bob Sheppard announce games.

It’s not right to speak ill of the dead, so don’t read the following aloud: As a lifelong Yankee fan, I hated George Steinbrenner. I’m far from alone. Lots of Yankee fans have hated George Steinbrenner with a passion for years. It’s true he took a losing franchise and made it a winning team again, it’s also true he treated people like dirt, the fans most of all.

He fired Billy Martin so many times I lost track (six). He insulted Joe Torre, one of the greatest managers to ever wear the pinstripes. His quest to wring even more money from the richest sports franchise in the country included battling a cable company’s resistance to charge more money for the YES network and leaving millions of New York fans unable to watch games on television for at least half a season.

Steinbrenner and his offspring tore down the House that Ruth Built and replaced it with an expensive “mallpark” that has hurt local businesses and cost cash-strapped New York City and New York State billions in tax breaks, cut-rate land sales and public infrastructure improvements. The Yankees, who technically rented the old, real Yankee Stadium from New York City, were tens of thousands of dollars behind on their rent. They paved over public parks and broke their promise to replace the park land before the new stadium was built.

Yankee fans and other New Yorkers will be shedding tears for Bob Sheppard; George Steinbrenner, not so much.

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