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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2010
Reading this book is like driving by a 10 car pile-up: horrifying, but fascinating nonetheless.

George Steinbrenner in his professional life has, on occasion, exhibited rage, narcissism, and greed. He has been accused of being a coward and a bully. He could also be creative, persuasive, sentimental, and spectacularly generous, and is indisputably one of the most financially successful sports businessmen in history. Thus, his biography - told straight up - makes for compelling reading. And this is what is delivered by the author, Bill Madden, an award-winning sportswriter who covered the NY Yankees beat for decades during the George Steinbrenner era.

This book is about what you would expect from a respected, veteran sportwriter, such as Madden: an excellent piece of reportage and sports journalism. Steinbrenner's story is fascinating stuff, even without analysis or embellishment (and, thus, the book's shortcoming). While a fascinating read, there is virtually no analysis of Mr. Steinbrenner's behavior or mental status, nor of his business genius, no explicit analysis of whether the greatness of the Yankees under his ownership occurred because of, or despite him.

Highly recommended.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2010
If you're a New York Yankee fans, a NY sports fan, a baseball fan, a sports fan in general, or just want to read the humorous and crazy happenings of the New York Yankees under George M. Steinbrenner, this book is a must read. In fact, when you consider the impact today in sports on ticket prices, free agency and player movements, and cable TV and network contracts, the impact that the Yankees and Steinbrenner have had is not to be underestimated.

Bill Madden is the New York Daily News longtime Yankees beat writer and MLB columnist since the 1970's. Madden was there for the "Bronx Zoo" years of the 1970's when contract jealousies, fights, backstabbing, and personal hatred seemed to go hand-in-hand with the winning of those late-1970's Yankee teams. Madden continues into the 1980's, when despite a World Series appearance in 1981 and the signing of the biggest free agent of the decade (Dave Winfield) and one of the all-time Yankee greats in Don Mattingly, the decade was barren for the team. Not until the 1990's (more below) would things turn around.

Madden gives you all the details: how Steinbrenner and a consortium bought the team for $10 million (with George putting up less than $200,000); the crazy antics involving Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, and Reggie Jackson; the plunge into free-agency with Catfish Hunter and later Don Gullet which revolutionized baseball; the seedy antics involving the undermining of his managers, GM's, and team presidents; the Howie Spira episode which got George suspended by Fay Vincent; and how the expulsion from baseball in the 1990's ironically led to the Yankees rebirth. It's all there and a whole lot more.

It is ironic that Steinbrenner has had such phenomenal success with the Yankees, but mediocre success with his other businesses like shipbuilding and horses. Anyone who remained in George's good graces - client or ballplayer - did well by him. For instance, when the Yankees signed their historic 12-year, $500 million contract with MSG Network, it was considered a disaster for MSG. Midway through the deal, it was such a lucrative goldmine for MSG that the Yankees eventually created their own YES Network whose value today might be worth more than the Yankees and the new stadium combined.

Madden is sympathetic to Steinbrenner and his personal like and respect for the man clearly comes through. That does NOT mean that he is not fair or objective, he certainly is. Steinbrenner's many good deeds toward people, even those who he fired, ripped, or treated badly are well-documented here (and there are probably numerous other cases and charities that Madden did not include).

The gradual dissolution of the Joe Torre-Steinbrenner relationship, after the spectacular dynasty of 1996-2003, is also detailed at length. It's easy to see why the current regime, led by sons Hal and Hank, felt no attachment towards keeping Torre after 2007. Steinbrenner's personal side is also explored, along with the humorous recountings of his "Saturday Night Live" hosting and "Seinfeld" appearances (actually, Larry David since George's actual appearance got left on the cutting floor).

Bottom Line: A great read through 4 decades of Yankee and Steinbrenner history, plenty of baseball talk, lots of additional color and information on incidents you heard about but never knew the full story about, and lots of other funny happenings and discussions and behind-the-scenes player trade proposals and firings and hirings that never happened or did happen or which Steinbrenner wanted to happen or didn't want to happen. It's all there and then some. Yankee fans and Yankee haters will both enjoy it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 8, 2011
Madden does an excellent job of investigative journalism in digging out Gabe Paul's secret audiotaped diary and in interviewing scores of people who worked with Steinbrenner. He provides a clear, unbiased narrative. This is not the official Steinbrenner biography, and Madden goes out of his way to be fair.

In some ways, Steinbrenner comes off better than expected. He was a very shrewd businessmen, as shown by his knack for making the exactly right strategic decisions in his shipping business, his acquisition of the Yankees (for only $160,000 of his own cash and for $10 million in all), his embrace of free agency, and his seizure of fantastic TV money via the creation of his own YES network. And he had a brutal upbringing, which will prompt some empathy on the part of the reader.

On the other hand, the tremendous power he gained by virtue of his excellent strategic decisionmaking freed him up to let loose all of his personal indiosyncracies and demons. He's a sentimental man. Some of that is good -- the stories of his charity are legion. But there is a flip side to sentimentality -- the need to give to get; a guilty conscience. One example: he feels bad about cutting Stottlemyre before what was to be his comeback season. This saved the team some money. So Steinbrenner promises to pay Stottlemyre to do rehab, which eases Steinbrenner's guilty conscience. But he never delivers on the promise despite Stottlemyre's reliance, and Stottlemyre is too proud to ask him to deliver. Not until Torre hires Stottlemyre as pitching coach in 1996 does an irate Stottlemyre demand compensation as part of the deal. The tyrant in Stottlemyre demands constant fawning and acknowledgement and follow up from the charitable recipients -- hardly a Christian sentiment.

Steinbrenner frequently comes off as the insane babbling idiot so brilliantly paraodied in Seinfeld. He actually blames two separate General Managers for cancelling games for rainouts -- insisting (while in Cleveland) that it was not raining in New York. His baseball moves are idiotic -- he was saved from dumping Rod Guidry for instance, and he throws away money on aging stars and those who suck up to him. He was the one responsible for picking Sheffield over Guerrero. Sheffield proved to be a tremendous clutch hitter, but Vlad was the superior player and much younger. He does things like overrule his own doctor's advice not to sign a White Sox pitcher (Burns) because of a deteriorated hip. Steinbrenner signs him anyway and Burns never pitched a regular season game.

On the legal front, Steinbrenner's election campaign fraud was gross (i.e., paying employees a fictitious bonus that was then used as to give a campaign contribution in the employee's name) and Steinbrenner ignored edicts against him controlling the team during his suspensions. On the other hand, Madden does an excellent job of portraying Fay Vincent's unfairness in his conduct of the investigation of the Spira scandal that led to Steinbrenner's second suspension. The suspension should have never happened, and Fay Vincent comes off as a bit of a petty tyrant, despite his generally good reputation in the press. In retrospect, MLB was right to get rid of him in favor of Selig.

Madden does not attempt to offer much analysis of Steinbrenner's character and his significance, which is unfortunate. For instance, the thing that bothers me as I read this narrative is how much worse Steinbrenner gets as he ages. There is less and less constraint on his freedom of behavior, and he really lets loose with some very bizarre behavior. Where are his friends in all this? Doesn't someone owe it to him to sit him down and confront him? He's so pathological that at times he resembles an out-of-control alcoholic whom everyone enables. Those close to Steinbrenner are rewarded and seem to be too fearful to attempt to correct him. They'd just as soon have Steinbrenner be Steinbrenner. Well, this kind of thing ends badly -- as Howard Hughes found out when his hangers-on grew to like the idea of him being a recluse so much that they resisted any effort by him to break out of it.

In any event, by the later Torre years, Steinbrenner had a series of strokes that disabled him. At that point, he's no longer the out-of-control bully, but a tragic and weakened figure.

On the whole, very interesting and well done.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2010
Just a few generations back, many professional teams were family-run operations that were in business for the long haul. Now there is just one (at least in baseball), and the end of an era is in sight, according to STEINBRENNER: The Last Lion of Baseball, by award-winning sports columnist Bill Madden.

There are many adjectives used to describe George Michael Steinbrenner III, principal owner and chair of the New York Yankees, and most are not complimentary. Since he took over the team in the early 1970s, there has been no shortage of fodder for the local press, including Madden, who has followed the game for the Daily News and New York Post. "Der Boss" (one of Steinbrenner's many nicknames) was famous for a fiery temper; prior to Joe Torre's lengthy stay as skipper, the Bronx Bombers went through 20 managerial changes between 1973 and 1995, including many repeat performances, most notably by the late Billy Martin. And that doesn't even take into account the front office. He would order his underlings to handle a task or acquire a certain player, often disregarding the objections of those far more knowledgeable in such matters, and then explode when things didn't work out the way he desired (and his staff expected). He would fire, then rehire, at the drop of a pin, often excusing the hasty behavior with "I didn't really mean it" or "I'll let it go, this time."

Yankees fans and haters are well aware of Steinbrenner's mercurial nature. His apologists point to his success; his enemies note the distractions and bad feelings among the team's personnel. Forget the infamous quote from Reggie Jackson about being "the straw that stirs the drink": that sobriquet should go to Steinbrenner. In fact, one has to wonder: does such drama like this occur on other teams (the husband-and-wife owners of the Dodgers are going through a nasty divorce, for example), or do we hear more about Steinbrenner's antics because his team plays in the media capital of the world?

Does Steinbrenner's megalomania come from some deep-rooted desire to both win the approval of his father --- a strict, hardworking and successful businessman --- and yet prove himself as his own man? Hard to say, although Madden certainly pushes the reader in that direction, albeit without the psychological profiling. Citing one example after another, he chronicles the Yankees chief as a bully and a liar, who could be incalculably mean and cruel, then turn around and create a foundation to make sure the orphans of New York City police and firefighters could go to college, or drop everything at the news of a friend in trouble. Madden includes the praise as well as the lash, but the former is far-between or generally underreported throughout the years; for all his penchant for being the center of attention, Steinbrenner didn't go after the press to note his good deeds.

Madden --- who was recently named winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's annual Spink Award for outstanding career accomplishments as a writer --- strives to be even-handed. His role for the New York papers put him in a position to write a first-hand account, but he uses that relationship with a light hand, relying on his skills as a journalist rather than employing his personal observations. While dutifully covering Steinbrenner's rightful banishment from the game in the 1970s because of his illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign, Madden goes to great lengths to show that his subject was unfairly treated by Commissioner Fay Vincent, who kicked him out of the game in 1990 for giving $40,000 to Howard Spira, a hustler and gambler, for his role in digging up dirt on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield, with whom Steinbrenner was feuding over financial matters. Baseball, it seems, is not a law unto itself, and even Steinbrenner has rights of due process.

Sadly, the last few years have not been kind to the Yankees' leader. Ill health has rendered him a shell of his larger-than-life persona. Madden reports this with a mix of professional objectivity and personal sadness (after all, the two had had a working relationship and had even been fairly close at one point).

Are there elements in here that might embarrass Steinbrenner and his family? Perhaps. But as Madden relates in the introduction, he undertook the project at their suggestion. And judging by all accounts, he seems to have done a fair and balanced job.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2010
This is the book many of us lifelong fans have been eagerly awaiting for quite some time now. With Steinbrenner's health failing relentlessly, I was beginning to despair that it would ever be written. But here it is, and thank goodness it was written by the guy best qualified to write it.

It will undoubtedly go down as the definitive Steinbrenner biography, and deservedly so. It is not a hatchet job, but neither is it a valentine - it is an accurate account (to the extent that that is possible without Steinbrenner's direct cooperation) of the Steinbrenner Era, the greatest and most tumultuous period in Yankee history since Ruth, Gehrig, and the rest of Murderer's Row prowled the Bronx.

Madden is a long-time Yankee beat reporter who knows Steinbrenner better than anybody, and has first-hand knowledge of the entire Era except the early, Gabe Paul days; and he was given exclusive access to first-hand materials from that period by Paul's family. Nobody has a more intimate knowledge of the Steinbrenner Yankees except Steinbrenner himself, and he clearly is no longer capable of writing his own memoir, nor would he be nearly as objective a narrator if he were.

There are surprising stories you wouldn't expect to read about a relentless publicity hound. For example, Steinbrenner quietly financed numerous college educations -- the total number will never be known -- for many people, some complete strangers, out of his own pocket. And unlike earlier books -- particularly the error-riddled Golenbock biography -- Madden gets his facts straight. Plus, the account is as accurate and objective as can possibly be expected from a writer who was right in the middle of many of the wacky high jinks he describes.

It is also the best book yet about the Yankees organization itself, in any era, with the possible exception of "Damned Yankees" (also written by Madden, along with Moss Klein).

Steinbrenner and the Yankees are the Churchill cigars of sports: world famous, impossible to ignore, and either loved or reviled by everybody. Fans and abominators alike will find plenty of anecdotes to bolster their preconceived opinions; but any fan of sports or human nature, regardless of his or her Yankee leanings, will enjoy this book, both as a history lesson and as a rollicking, funny memoir by a really good sportswriter who really was there.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I grew up in the Bronx as of course a Yankee fan, unfortunately starting my fandom as a 9 year-old in 1965, which was the beginning of a long decline (do the names Horace Clark, Dooley Womack and Bill Monboquette ring bells?). So George Steinbrenner rescued the franchise from corporate-led (CBS) loser-dome. George's influence on not only Major League Baseball but all of professional sports is undeniable, taking advantage of free agency, cable networks and a win-at-all costs attitude (not that common among owners over the years) and very public face to drive a winning record. In many ways the antidote to what Charlie Feeney became in Oakland. Bill Madden has created a very readable book, sticking to the facts, straight chronology and a terrific set of sources. Madden doesn't try to analyze much, as he is a newpaper reporter at heart, not trying to drive a specific agenda. He reminded me why I despised Steinbrenner for much of his career, and many fans may have forgotten some of his dispicable behavior. Who would want to work for a boss like George? Not many of his many GMs, Managers, old friends or other executives. George displayed almost schizo-behavior, reminding me of my 4th grade teacher who would erupt in anger at a student before flipping 180 degrees and smothering him or her with kisses. George did it with power and money, and Madden clearly shows why George was at times a loyal friend, philanthropist and citizen. "At times" being the key words. There is a great film in here, and I can't wait to see someone other than Larry David playing The Boss!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
George Steinbrenner is an intense man; no doubt. Those eyes; he always looks like he's about to fire somebody, which of course, he's done with great regularity since first taking ownership of the New York Yankees in 1973. One would think that his abrasive management style would produce less than stellar results; a team in turmoil seldom succeeds.

However, this particular team has succeeded like no other sports franchise in history, and they've got the trophies to prove it.

In a most compelling biography, Bill Madden has chronicled the tumultuous reign of King George, from its shaky beginnings to its glorious present. In between, we observe the good, the bad, and the ugly of this fascinating and perplexing personality. Love him or hate him, Steinbrenner and his assorted cast of characters have been quite a show; at times rollicking; at times poignant; but always great theater.

Along the way, Madden has done a superb job of taking the reader along for a most enjoyable and wild ride with baseball's "last lion". Certainly, there will be no one quite like George Steinbrenner again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2012
This could have been a great biography, and through about 1978, it is - then it falls apart, with the author rushing through much of the latter day story of Steinbrenner (only one "Seinfeld" reference, and not even about Larry David's constant pokes at the Boss)?

The book is also marred by annoying errors (Bill Sharman a forward? Gossage signed a $25 million deal with the Padres?)that you would have thought a longtime sportswriter would have caught. So, up until 1979, I'd give it a 4 star rating, and 2 for the rest of the book (except for the revelations about the Fay Vincent hearings - it's worth reading those, which turn george into a sympathetic figure(!).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2010
This is a facinating study in of a brilliant business man. His drive to win, in everything, leads him to treat people as chattel in working relationships, yet his compassion drives him to care for these same people in his personal relationships with them. The outward tyranical businessman has a thread altruism that manifests itself in his many charitable enterprises, which are not dealt with in any great detail. I believe the book is too heavily weighted in with negatives, of this force of nature that was George Steinbrenner, as compared to his positive contributions. That said it is a facinating look behind the curtain at baseball. It was a quick read for a Yankee fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2010
Bill Madden writes a rollicking and very funny book on the life and times of Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner. You will laugh and cringe at the same time readin this book, George ruled with an iron fist and it hit everyone.Very entertaining and insightful, also bings back memories and names from the past, some u may have forgotten about. Great book.
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