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Several greats like idea of Steinbrenner in Hall of Fame

This file photo shows New York Yankees owner

This file photo shows New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner waving to fans in Tampa, Fla. 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, July 13, 2010, in Tampa, Fla. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4. (Feb. 17, 2003) Credit: AP

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - How does Hall of Famer George Steinbrenner sound?

The majority of baseball people who were asked this weekend about Steinbrenner's potential candidacy said the late Yankees owner deserves his own plaque here for the wide-ranging impact he had on the game.

The veterans committee won't vote on executives again until after next season, and if Steinbrenner is on the ballot, he will need to receive nine of the 12 votes to gain induction. Those who vote on executives include a mixture of Hall of Famers, baseball executives and media members.

Only Hall of Famer Bob Feller hedged a bit regarding Steinbrenner's candidacy, guessing that it would be "borderline" whether The Boss would get the necessary votes.

When asked if he believes Steinbrenner deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, the 91-year-old Feller pointed out that Jacob Ruppert, who owned the Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939, is not in the Hall.

"He built Yankee Stadium and he bought Babe Ruth," Feller said. "He made baseball in New York. But like in politics, you have to get the votes."

Ruppert was on the most recent veterans committee ballot for executives after last season, but he came up two votes shy of the nine needed for induction. There were four other former owners on the ballot - the Tigers' John Fetzer, the Angels' Gene Autry, the Royals' Ewing Kauffman and the Cardinals' Sam Breadon - but none received the necessary votes. Fetzer came the closest with eight.

Though that doesn't seem to bode well for Steinbrenner's chances, the fact that many Hall of Famers spoke out in his behalf is indicative of the respect he earned as the Yankees' owner since 1973.

"I think George definitely made an impact on the game, and that's what it's all about," Joe Morgan said. "So if you're asking me would I vote for George as a Hall of Famer, the answer is yes."

Goose Gossage has been outspoken in his belief that Steinbrenner deserves to be in the Hall, even referencing that during his own induction speech two years ago. Yesterday, Gossage referred to Steinbrenner as "the best owner ever," saying he "changed the face of the game through free agency."

Gossage also credited Steinbrenner for his unique way of motivating players, though The Boss' in-your-face criticisms and penchant for criticizing players in the media clearly weren't for everyone.

"It was a love-hate thing," Gossage said. "One minute you loved him. The next minute you hate him. But that was just the way he was and that was the way he liked it. He never let you get too comfortable . . . If you weren't as demanding of yourself as he is, it wasn't going to work out in New York."

Only a handful of former owners are enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame, most notably Walter O'Malley (who moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles), Bill Veeck and Tom Yawkey.

Perhaps the best indication of Steinbrenner's impact is that even the opposition has had good things to say about him since he died July 13 after suffering a heart attack.

"He's had as great an impact on the game in the last 35, 40 years as anybody who has ever owned a club," former Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk said. "There are other owners who are in the Hall of Fame, but of course, he was the owner of maybe the most storied franchise in history."

George Brett said that as a player, he didn't like Steinbrenner too much, but his opinion changed after getting to know him. Brett was particularly touched when Steinbrenner commissioned a car to take Brett's dying father on a final tour of his hometown in Brooklyn. "He did a lot for a lot of people," Brett said.

Ozzie Smith likened Steinbrenner's impact on the game to former Players Association president Marvin Miller, who fought so vigorously for the rights of players.

Said Smith, "I think eventually you'll see both of those guys in."

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