The key figure in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Thursday perhaps was someone who did not take a snap, make a tackle or even attend the game, except in spirit. To hear Yankees president Randy Levine tell it, George Steinbrenner was a huge presence nonetheless.
“This whole game is a tribute to him,” Levine said of the late owner before Miami played Wisconsin for the George Steinbrenner Trophy.
Levine repeated what he often has insisted, that The Boss’ first sports love was college football, dating to his seasons as an assistant coach at Northwestern (1955) and Purdue (1956-57). “And who knows? If his dad did not call him back to run the shipping business, he might have never bought the Yankees, because I think he was having a really good time doing that,” Levine said.
“He never stopped being a football coach. He never did. He was driven like a football coach is driven. Perfection is what he sought for himself and everybody. That’s why he did the amazing things that made him, in my opinion, the greatest sports owner of all time,” Levine said. “That’s what he was about. He really, really loved it. He lived it. When we decided to build this new stadium, he said, `Do it. Make it the classic iconic Yankee Stadium like it looked in 1923 but make sure you can fit in college football. We want college football. We want a bowl game.’ ”
Steinbrenner’s son Hal, the current team owner, was at the game along with other family members. Levine declined to take questions about Manny Machado or anything else involving baseball, saying he wanted the day to be all about the bowl game. When he was asked if he would take questions about rumors that he had been considered a potential White House Chief of Staff, Levine laughed and said, “That’s not fake news, it’s old news.”