Among the many despicable figures in baseball history, George Steinbrenner stood out as one of the most obnoxious and objectionable. I decry the revisionist obits of Steinbrenner and describe some of his offenses in this eyewitness account of Steinbrenner’s reign of error, posted on The Guardian website.
One topic the article doesn’t cover – not exactly mainstream, particularly for a British publication – is what baseball might have looked like without Steinbrenner setting the trend for the modern economics of the game that have added zeros to baseball salaries, ticket prices, and the rest. Yes, people have been predicting the demise of baseball’s popularity since they made foul balls strikes, but removing both the spontaneity and affordability factors from a visit to the ballpark seems to narrow the game’s potential audience substantially.
At the dawn of free agency in the 1970s, Steinbrenner presented the vision of growing revenue faster than salaries. A competing vision came from Oakland Athletics owner Charles O Finley, who wanted to keep costs stable. “Free agent is another word for unemployed,” Finley declared. “Let them all be free agents.” If Finley had won the argument, baseball would look different. Or perhaps Finley did win the argument in places like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland, which nevertheless share in the expanded revenue stream that Steinbrenner helped create.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.