LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - George Steinbrenner, one of the most irrepressible sports figures in history, was not accustomed to hearing the word "no'' very often. But the Yankees' late owner was denied entry to the Hall of Fame Monday when the Expansion Era Committee announced that The Boss came up short in this year's voting by the 16-member panel.
Former major-league executive Pat Gillick was the only candidate elected from a group of 12 that included three former Yankees: Billy Martin, Ron Guidry and Tommy John. Twelve votes were needed for election and Steinbrenner received fewer than eight. The next chance for Steinbrenner, who has been eligible for Hall of Fame consideration since 2007, won't come until 2013.
"He's going to the Hall of Fame," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He's a Hall of Famer. They just haven't made it official yet. I think everybody knows the impact he's had on this game."
Steinbrenner, who died July 13 at the age of 80, turned the Yankees into a billion-dollar sports empire after heading the group that purchased the team for only $10 million in 1973. He was legendary for his drive to win and did so very often, leading the Yankees to seven world championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.
The Veterans Committee, which holds a separate election from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, has a 16-member panel composed of Hall of Fame members Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major-league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox), and media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).
None of the members revealed his individual vote, or what might have affected it. But Steinbrenner, nicknamed "The Boss" for his heavy-handed ruling of the franchise, had two notable suspensions. He was banned from baseball for 15 months in 1974 after pleading guilty to conspiring to make illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's campaign. In 1990, Steinbrenner was suspended for 21/2 years for paying Howie Spira to dig up damaging information on Dave Winfield.
"He was combative," Bench said. "He was ruthless. I think too often we saw the tirades, and we heard about the tirades or the firings or whatever and all the stuff that he had. It seemed like for us, some people thought it was too early."
Not only did Steinbrenner push winning on the field, but he also turned the Yankees into a brand almost unique in professional sports, in part because of his creation of the YES Network.
Shortly after Steinbrenner failed to get the necessary support, members of the committee said it is only a matter of time before he goes into the Hall.
"He will be [elected],'' Bench said. "He certainly will be. Like everybody, we've got history that goes with us. We've got views of what we see on television. We see combativeness and everything else. And he had the money. He had the money to spend. Kind of like if [David] Glass had 200 million a year at Kansas City. But he had a great effect on the game.''
The same could be said for Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Players Association, who fell one vote short of election. Miller changed the face of the game as a pioneer for free agency and salary arbitration, but the 93-year-old was denied entry.
"Many years ago, those who control the Hall decided to rewrite history instead of recording it," Miller said in a statement released by the MLBPA. "The aim was to eradicate the history of the tremendous impact of the players' union on the progress and development of the game as a competitive sport, as entertainment, and as an industry.
"A long time ago, it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence . . . It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out."