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A fitting tribute to The Boss

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is seen at a

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is seen at a news conference for Bernie Williams on Dec. 4, 1998. Photo Credit: AP

Some guys leave Cleveland and want no part of the challenge and opportunity of New York.

Others leave Cleveland and take New York by the throat, eventually all but running the joint.

George Steinbrenner made his decision nearly 40 years earlier than LeBron James made his, and Steinbrenner spent every waking moment ensuring it was the right one by sheer force of personality.

By the end he surely was one of us, in all his maddening, complicated glory.

He could have made it anywhere, but he made it here, which always deserves extra credit.

As an owner, he revived a cherished brand and revolutionized the business of baseball.

As a character, he was one of a kind, a unique product of his time and environment.

It's too easy at times such as this to say or write there never will be another like him. But in this case, it’s indisputably true.

For all the deserved credit he got yesterday for the legacy he left in the Bronx, many of us over 40 still recall him most for the early, manic years of the 1970s and early ’80s.

The Yankees' path back from irrelevance was rocky and uneven, but it was great theater for outsiders — even as it was hell for managers and public relations men, and for journalists covering the team.

Bill Madden's recent book on Steinbrenner is a trove of difficult-to-believe stories of his antics, such as when he screamed and cursed at Al Rosen for losing the coin flip for home field for the 1978 AL East playoff game. “How in the hell could you call heads when any dummy knows tails comes up 70 percent of the time?’’ Rosen recalled Steinbrenner saying.

The Boss gleefully ruled the back pages of New York in the last era in which newspapers owned the media agenda, and he never let anyone forget it.

At times, the Yankees were a sideshow. But over time, he turned them into the main event, something they had not been for nearly a decade when he arrived in 1973 and vowed to stick to shipbuilding.

And until the last several years, Steinbrenner was the ringmaster, as well as a pop culture icon.

Jerry Jones is the closest thing to Steinbrenner among current owners, but in comparison he is a model of perspective and restraint. The Boss would have fired Wade Phillips four times by now!

(On ESPN yesterday, Jones called Steinbrenner "irreplaceable,’" "one of a kind’" and a "role model.’")
The cameo on "Entourage’" Sunday was nice, Jerry, but it can’t compare to the extended Steinbrenner parody on "Seinfeld’" or his commercials, ranging from Miller Lite in the '70s to VISA in the 2000s.

In 1990, he even hosted "Saturday Night Live’" during an era in which the Yankees were foundering on the field under manager Stump Merrill.

Steinbrenner surely would have loved reading and hearing the coverage about him yesterday. It largely was respectful and admiring, and it noted his mostly underreported charitable works. Most importantly, it was bountiful, both nationally and locally, including rare, live studio coverage on the Yankees' own, Steinbrenner-created YES Network, which does not have a regular news operation.

The timing was pure Steinbrenner. By dying on the day of the All-Star Game, he dominated a slow news day and guaranteed himself a proper send-off from the entire baseball world, with a national audience watching.

But today promised a tribute the man would have appreciated most of all: One last, complete set of New York back pages — and fronts, too — all about The Boss.

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