He was revered and reviled, ridiculed and respected.

But though he could be contradictory and his actions often polarized the baseball world, George M. Steinbrenner III always displayed a single-minded drive when it came to one thing: Winning.

Critics and fans alike knew him simply as "The Boss."

Thirty-seven years after he bought the Yankees from CBS for $10 million, turned them into a $1.6-billion empire and restored them to glory as the winningest sports franchise ever, Steinbrenner died Tuesday at a hospital in Tampa following a massive heart attack at his home Monday night.

Steinbrenner had celebrated his 80th birthday July 4. His death comes two days after longtime Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard died at age 99 at his home in Baldwin.

"It is with profound sadness that the family of George M. Steinbrenner III announces his passing," a statement released Tuesday by longtime Steinbrenner publicist Howard Rubenstein said, adding: "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."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Funeral arrangements will be private, though there will be a public memorial service with details to be announced later, the statement said.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a prepared statement, said: "He has left an indelible legacy on the Yankees, on baseball, and on our city, and he leaves us in the only way that would be appropriate: as a reigning world champion."

Sen. Charles Schumer called Steinbrenner "a true New York icon" and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, "George's single-minded drive in the pursuit of excellence and his devotion to family inspired people far beyond the baseball diamond."

Slugger Darryl Strawberry, who made his name with the Mets and was sidetracked by drug issues before Steinbrenner gave him the chance to resurrect his career with the Yankees from 1995-99, told ESPN Tuesday morning: "I think the thing I learned from him more than anything is to never quit ... When I got knocked down, he was there to pick me up."