George Steinbrenner, who rebuilt the New York Yankees into a sports empire with a mix of bluster and big bucks that polarized fans all across America, died Tuesday. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4.
“It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing. He passed away this morning in Tampa, Fla., at age 80,” the Steinbrenner family said in a statement.
“He was an incredible and charitable man. First and foremost he was devoted to his entire family — his beloved wife, Joan; his sisters, Susan Norpell and Judy Kamm, his children, Hank, Jennifer Jessica and Hal; and all of his grandchildren.
“He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”
He had a heart attack, was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and died at about 6:30 a.m ET on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
The Steinbrenner family said that funeral arrangements will be private, however details about an additional public service will be announced at a later date.
Flags were immediately lowered to half-staff at Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees’ spring training complex. The Yankees say many employees there were in tears.
For more than 30 years, Steinbrenner lived up to his billing as “the Boss,” a nickname he earned and clearly enjoyed as he ruled with an iron fist.
He was known for feuds, clashing with Yankees great Yogi Berra and firing manager Billy Martin twice. But as his health declined, Steinbrenner let sons Hal and Hank run more of the family business.
Steinbrenner was in fragile health for years, resulting in fewer public appearances and pronouncements. Yet dressed in his trademark navy blue blazer and white turtleneck, he was the model of success: The Yankees won seven World Series titles after his reign began in 1973
Till the end, he demanded championships. He barbed Joe Torre during the 2007 AL playoffs, then let the popular manager leave after another loss in the opening round. The team responded last year by winning another title.
His death was the second in three days to rock the Yankees. Bob Sheppard, the team’s revered public address announcer from 1951-07, died Sunday at 99.