You've seen the news by now. George Steinbrenner has died. He had a massive heart attack Monday night in his Tampa home, and he never really had a chance.
Still processing this, and it will obviously dominate the All-Star Game here today. For now, though, there's not much to do beside salute the man's impact on the game of baseball: Free agency. Marketing of a team's brand and history. Regional sports networks. Goodness.
More than anything, though, what made Steinbrenner so amazing was his reach. How he managed to fit about 96 hours' worth of activity into 24 hours. If you read Mark Herrmann's story on Steinbrenner's 80th birthday earlier this month, you saw the great quote from Brian Cashman on how it takes 50 people to replace what George did. At the very least, it seemed, it took all four of Steinbrenner's kids and two current spouses to come close.
I covered George in his final good years, 1998 through 2003. He was never the same after he collapsed at Otto Graham's memorial service. George's relentlessness made the Yankees extremely challenging to cover, as we tried to keep up with him. But there always was an appreciation for his efforts to make the team better, however misguided they might have been at times. And in spring training, when things were relatively tranquil, George would make a point of going to the media pack, taking some pressure off the rest of the team, and shooting from the hip while occasionally putting one of us (I had the honor once or twice) in a headlock.
Let's not sugarcoat the fact that he could be irrational and cruel and mean-spirited and all of that, and 2003 was particularly tough, what with the fighting between Steinbrenner and Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. What's amazing, though, is how, after the fact, even if it took years or even decades, it seems that most of these people with beefs grew to admire him, his passion. You'll surely see comments from Torre and Zimmer and many, many others this week reflecting this.
What does this mean for the Yankees? I'm increasingly convinced that the team will not be sold, that too many family members want to be a part of it and that the team is such a well-oiled machine now that the family can enjoy it without having it be a bear. But we'll see how things shake out on that front in the coming weeks and months.
At the moment, if you're a Yankees fan, take a moment to thank The Boss for everything he did. And even if you're a Yankees-hater, you should salute one of the great, all-time characters of the game, and someone who pushed to take the game to new heights.
UPDATE, 10:15 a.m. PST: If you scroll down, you'll see the original post I prepared for this morning, regarding the All-Star Game. Obviously, everything else today will be viewed through the spectrum of The Boss' passing.