ANAHEIM, Calif. – Suffice it to say that there will never be an owner in sports like George Steinbrenner.
Not an owner as demanding. Not an owner as controversial. And not an owner as successful, either.
Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday at 80, will be remembered for his many outrageous acts. His firings and re-hirings of Billy Martin. His eagerness to buy seemingly every living, breathing free agent. His illegal campaign contributions to former President Richard Nixon, for which he was later pardoned. His lifetime ban from baseball - and subsequent reinstatement - for paying a small-time gambler for "dirt" on Dave Winfield.
But what Steinbrenner should be remembered for, above all, is his transformation of the Yankees into a global sports empire.
Under Steinbrenner, who purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973, the Yankees not only won 11 American League titles and seven World Series, but also became a financial behemoth unlike any in American sport.
Steinbrenner created the "YES" Network, built the new Yankee Stadium, made the on-field product compelling even in seasons that ended in disappointment - which, for "The Boss," translated to anything less than a World Series title.
Today, Forbes values the Yankees at more than $1 billion - not a bad return on Steinbrenner's initial investment. The Yankees are the sport's biggest draw. Through revenue sharing, they help finance poorer teams. They are loved, hated, celebrated, feared - the envy of every franchise in every sport.
They were that way, of course, in the days of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, but people forget they were in a decided lull when Steinbrenner took over, completing a run of 11 straight years between World Series appearances. Steinbrenner changed that dynamic forever. It's difficult to imagine them ever going 11 straight years between Series appearances again.
Bill Madden's new book, "Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball," details the excesses of "The Boss," his bullying, his blustering, his relentless intimidation of employees. Steinbrenner was the perfect owner for the New York tabloids, an outsized personality who entered pop culture through commercials and even the television program, "Seinfield." His leadership style was different, to say the least. But he kept every Yankees employee on edge, and his sense of urgency translated to results.
In his later years, Steinbrenner talked about turning the team over to his sons, Hank and Hal, "letting the young elephants into the tent." The transition occurred relatively seamlessly, but there will be a certain emptiness now, starting with the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
The American League manager, in the wake of the Yankees' 27th World title, will be Joe Girardi. Eight Yankees players, including stalwarts Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, were named to the team. But the game might as well be played in silence.
The biggest elephant has left the room.