Remembrance of Things Lost

(Originally published here, Moshe asked me to repost here. You may completely hate me for this post, but I think the topic is worth consideration)

Photo via friend of the blog Amanda Rykoff

How would you remember George Steinbrenner?

The question has been asked and answered, and for many, the monument that now graces Monument Park behind center field in Yankee Stadium, would seem fitting and appropriate as a tribute to a man who was, in many ways, larger than life.

Ask a similar, but very different question:

How would George remember George Steinbrenner?

The answer becomes not quite so clear.

Steinbrenner, we know, was a man who spared no expense when it came to the Yankees, willing to do anything to bring a winning baseball team to New York City–and seven Word Series titles later, he most certainly did– seemingly regardless of the consequences it may have wrought.

Yet Steinbrenner was also a man whose community involvement is something we can only wish to emulate, and this Hal Steinbrenner quote about his father, from the article linked above, says volumes:

“He always told us that America is supposed to be the land of milk and honey, and there are too many people left behind,” Hal Steinbrenner says. “And he taught us if two or more people know you are doing it, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Does that come across as a man who’d want a giant, bombastic monument that overshadows those of Ruth, Huggins, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and the victims of 9/11 (among others)?

Of course, only George himself knew what he would have wanted, so perhaps it’s wrong to say that the monument is too big or a noble effort but misguided.

@emmaspan tweeted that “it would be kind of inappropriate if Steinbrenner had a tasteful, understated, modest remembrance,” and my co-writer at You Can’t Predict Baseball @jordan_smed told me, “I think George wouldn’t have wanted a giant monument, but it was still the right thing to do…because the guy he was demanded it.”

There is certainly some truth to these notions, but I’m still left wondering if Steinbrenner was about the monuments and the tributes so much as he was the cause, be it the Yankees or helping out the underprivileged wherever he could.

Don’t mistake this for hagiography–Steinbrenner wasn’t a saint, and I doubt he’d enjoy classification as such, but that’s kind of the point.

Our society still bears traces of those that came before, of the idea that bigger is better (a sociologist or anthropologist would probably love to examine the root causes of this notion), that the more gold, the heavier trophy, the bigger monument you get, the more important you were.

In the postgame, Derek Jeter was asked about it and commented, ““It was big,” Jeter said. “Probably just how The Boss wanted it. The biggest one out there.”

Jeter, unlike me, would be in a position to know, and yet it’s hard to reconcile his comment with the notion of the man who thought the highest form of charity was that done anonymously.

It’s hard to argue that any one person was more important to the Yankees than the Boss in his prime, since he held the purse strings and thus the keys, but does that make Steinbrenner more important than the Yankee name, brand, legacy or ethos?

More importantly, did Steinbrenner see himself as such?

The monument is there, and by all rights and purposes one should be there, but when it was unveiled the great reaction–via IM, Twitter, correspondence from those at the game–was one agog at how big the monument was, more than anything else.

I never knew Mr. Steinbrenner, so I can’t answer the question with any certainty, but I wonder…

6 thoughts on “Remembrance of Things Lost

  1. I dont mean this to be directed at your Rebecca, as your post was well writen, but boy people just love to find something to complain about. the monument is too big, the game was delayed too long, blah blah blah. George was instrumental in having the new stadium built, his family has owned the team for almost 30 years, I’d say they are entitled to do what they want. The size of his monument (which is nothing compared to life size statues that some people get, ahem Selig) can never make us forget or think less of Ruth, Mantle, Joe D, etc. Just enjoy the moment and lets move on already. besides haven’t we been told for the past two years how awful monument park is now and that no one wants to visit it (please not the sarcasm).

    • Hmm. I wasn’t so much intending it as a complaint, per se, as a legitimate question.

      Maybe Steinbrenner really did want that particular monument, maybe he did design it to those exact specifications, only he knows. But given what we know of Steinbrenner, of perhaps the two very different personas he embodied, is it not worth pondering the question, how did he want to be remembered?

      And, FWIW, the ceremony surrounding the unveiling was beautiful–and nothing quite has the power of the shots of the entire team walking out to center field, or Mariano staying behind to read the inscription.


      • You’re right Rebecca, re-reading what you wrote you did throw this out there as a question and not your own personal commentary. I wasn’t directing my little rant towards you (mostly other post I’ve read today) but still so I apologize if it came off that way.

        To answer your question, if I had to guess, I’d say the boss probably wouldn’t of wanted something so big, but he wouldn’t object to it if twist his arm (know what I mean?). Everyone has a bit of greedy side in them, yet we do things that are unselfish, but deep down inside we do want a little credit, to at least know it was appreciated. I think the boss was sort of like that. He defintely had a soft side, and enjoyed the spot light, but it seemed like he never wanted the full credit or attention (for something good that is). I dont know maybe I’m wrong or not expressing myself well here.

        And the ceremony was fabulous, and I especially loved what you point out of Mo being the last guy to leave monument park. I’ve never met him personally but he seems like a very warm person.

  2. “hagiography” – Excellent word!

    Actually, I met “The Boss” once – never really talked to him, but watched him sit in the lobby of the Regency Hotel (where he stayed while in NYC) with a big smile on his face while handing out Yankee championship hats to the hotel employees. What year? Don’t remember.

    What I liked best about him was the way he so generously gave to causes without attaching his name or even admitting to it (remembering how quickly Virginia Tech was given a huge sum [? $1M] after the massacre, and he also scheduled an exhibition game with the Yankees, including a charity auction of signed goods to further help the cause). And it wasn’t only the scrubs that played.

    Can’t deny he had his faults, though.

  3. He may not have been a saint, but he seems to have been a decent and kind man. (That, by the way, is as good an epitaph as anyone should aspire to.) His charitable activities were impressive; even more impressive was his preference to give anonymously.

  4. Because he built the new stadium, owned the team at the time of his death, and his family still runs things I wasn’t surprised they unveiled this huge thing in The Boss’ honor. But while I don’t disagree w/the sentiment, I’m a bit disappointed about the size of the thing. I mean, should GMS III’s “monument” be larger than those for Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Yogi, or Mantle? I think not.

    The Boss should not have a larger representation in Monument Park than Yankee greats, especially those who came around before 1973, and this monstrosity is just a garish reminder of a man who did more to expand the Yankee brand than to make the Yankees contenders/winners. After all, everyone knows those championships were mostly won when he was least involved, especially the last 5 WS wins.

    As for his personal generosity, God bless him, but we’re talking baseball not charity.