The Madness of King George

No, this is a not a review of the classic Alan Bennett / Nicholas Hytner / Nigel Hawthorne flick.

 

I'm not sure he ever realized the irony.

My first thought last night, on watching Jonathan Broxton record the last out as the National League teetered on the brink of victory somewhere around midnight in the East, was, Finally.  Finally!  My second thought was, Well, King George wouldn’t have liked this one bit.

 

It says something about the influence of one George M. Steinbrenner III when, I an avowed fan of the New York Metropolitans and a guy wearing a t-shirt that reads, ‘Jesus Hates the Yankees,’ would devote an entire column–  er, blog post to him.  But growing up in suburban Jersey as a fan of ‘the other team,’ you absolutely couldn’t escape the madness of King George.

I’ve read Bronx Zoo and I’ve read Ball Four.  I lived in the same town as (and oh how I hate this moniker) ‘Donnie Baseball’ during the not-so-glory years, and watched the back pages of the New York tabloids be dominated by the Torre years.  Yes, I missed the Billy Martin carousel (which must’ve been wild), but growing up a Mets fan in those years you really only had ’86.  King George, as I less than affectionately refer to him, owned every other year.

Every fan of every team is gonna have problems with their ownership (see: Wilpon, Fred) but you stick by ’em, through thick and thin, really, because…  well, you have no other choice.  But Yankee fans– as far as I can see– never had any problems with King George.  Not the ostentatiousness, which was just tacky; not the way he changed the game, for better (perhaps) and for worse (definitely).  But I guess the reason I admire him in the end (aside from being something I secretly aspire to be: the quintessential New Yorker) is that, as my brother-in-law Danny once wisely said, “We’re all playing whore-ball now.”  It’s King George’s game, and we’re just struggling to keep up.  And yet that contrast his ‘blow-it-all-on-free-agency’ mentality with keeping Jeter and Rivera in pinstripes for their whole careers; in today’s game, that’s hard to do.

Of course you can admire a public figure without liking them (or without knowing them), and I guess that’s where King George fits squarely into my mental baseball landscape.  No, he wasn’t Marge Schott, but he even his staunchest defender would be hard pressed to view him as a ‘good person.’  (How about the cosmic irony of a man who once famously declared, “I don’t have heart attacks…  I give them.” dying from a massive coronary?)  What can you say about an owner who once hired a private eye to dig through the figurative and literal trash of one of his own players?  Who publicly called another player ‘a fat toad,’ and managed to go a long way towards pissing off Yogi Berra, the game’s modern-day Casey Stengel?  (Ain’t nobody don’t like Yogi Berra.)  Who was once suspended from MLB for making illegal campaign contributions to a President very much like him, Richard Milhous Nixon?  (I notice I didn’t see any of these facts in Fox Sport’s presentation of the Mid-Summer Classic last night.)

But in these days of well-parsed statements and corporate everything, he was the Bill Veeck of his time, and every time needs that larger-than-life character.  So if my memories, as a guy firmly entrenched in the other camp, are of basically being furious every off season with how many dollars King George would toss around, and the only thing larger than the dollar amount was the arrogant attitude…  well, at least I have memories of him.  Frankly, I think the game’s a better place without you, King George  (Mainly because I think you cared not one whit for ‘the game,’ but for your team–  on what grounds do you oppose revenue sharing?!), but I still recognize we won’t see the likes of you again for a long time, so well done.  And maybe now you can do something about that whole ‘Jesus Hates the Yankees’ thing.  (Tongue firmly planted in cheek, sports fans.)

My favorite view of King George.


 

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3 Responses to “The Madness of King George”

  1. Chris Ross Says:

    Excellent post, it was a very good read for me! It is a sad time for the baseball world especially with the all star game being played on the same day, but I am also surprised at the amount of praise that the man who was once known as the most hated man in baseball. He definitely did do a lot for the New York Yankees and I’m sure the city is very grateful for it. I also kind of like/hate the fact that I have a team to hate for in the Yankees because they just buy all their players. Also you think you could take a quick look at my blog cuz I really want to know what you think. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/greatest-owner-ever-hardly/

  2. The Wall of Lobster « Wally's Blog Says:

    […] Wally's Blog Just another WordPress.com weblog « The Madness of King George […]

  3. Katie Gentile Vairo Says:

    Walter, please spare me the theatrics! First of all, very few Yankee fans loved George, he is the reason The Yankees were coined the “Evil Empire” . I would say maybe his competitive spirit was admired at best. There were plenty actions taken by this man that the fans did not appreciate. Secondly, I’m sorry but the Mets are not necessarily a poor team, they spend just as much and have paid just as much for many “Designer” players. Cry me a river!

    Love you!

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