40th anniversary: Steinbrenner buys the Yankees

40 years ago today was a big day in the history of the New York Yankees. Their owner, CBS, sold the club to a businessman named George Steinbrenner. At a sticker value of $10 million, this turned out to be quite a nice deal for Mr. Steinbrenner.

And it turned out to be a nice deal for the Yankees, too. The perennial powerhouse was at a low point back then. The franchise had 39 straight seasons with winning records from the mid-1920s until the mid-1960s, and then the their empire fell. Beginning with a dismal 1965 campaign, the Yankees were generally an AL also-ran. By the standards of bad teams they weren’t so bad, but by the standards of the Yankees they were historically dreadful. That dreadful stretch fell under CBS.

Steinbrenner had advantages over CBS. As one individual, Steinbrenner could put his personal stamp on the club in the ways that the corporate CBS ownership never could. And Steinbrenner really wanted to win.

When free agency hit, Steinbrenner was willing to acquire the best talent available, most notably super slugger Reggie Jackson. Under Steinbrenner, the Yankees won their first world title in 15 years in 1977. They rattled off a mini-dynasty in the late 1970s and early 1980s before falling into a treadmill for most of the 1980s. They were always good, but couldn’t quite win the division. Finally things fell apart in the early 1990s before the franchise finally revitalized itself in the mid-1990s for an even more impressive run that the one with Reggie Jackson..

Steinbrenner’s role was always controversial. He was suspended twice from the game. The first was in the 1970s for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon, and then in the 1990s for engaging in slimy practices against former star player Dave Winfield. In fact, the Yankees’ second wind began when the Winfield scandal forced Steinbrenner to take a step back from the team. Though he was controversial, no one ever questioned Steinbrenner’s willingness to win.

One other notable feature about the ownership change occurred 40 years ago today: It’s the last time anyone has sold the franchise. George himself is gone; he died in July 2010. Now his sons Hal and Hank Steinbrenner run the team, but it’s still in the family. In fact, the Yankees franchise longest held by the same ownership group.

Years ago I saw a list of the baseball franchises with the longest-term ownership group. At that time, the O’Malley family had sold the Dodgers and Gene Autry no longer had the Angels.

The longest tenured owner was Bud Selig with the Brewers. He bought the team in 1970. Then came Steinbrenner in 1973. Then came a good sized gap until a cluster of owners came on board in the early 1980s: Jerry Reinsdorf with the White Sox, the Tribune Company with the Cubs, Fred Wilpon with the Mets. A little after them was Carl Pohlad with the Twins in 1984.

Now? Well, Selig gave the team to his daughter when he became commissioner, but the Selig family sold the team years ago. Wilpon is leaving the Mets due to his involvement in the Bernie Madoff pyramid scam. The Tribune sold the Cubs to Tom Ricketts.

Reinsdorf is still around. He bought the Sox in 1980 and is now the second longest tenured owner behind the Steinbrenner family. Pohlad died but his son Jim now owns the team.

There used to be some other long-time owners. The O’Malley family owned the Dodgers for over 40 years, but sold the club in the 1990s. Gene Autry owned the Angels for decades, but club has long since passed to other hands. Ted Turner owned the Braves and didn’t sell them. Instead, Time/Warner purchased Turner and pushed him aside. It’s a different type of purchase, but it’s a new owner.

I’ve always wondered why baseball owners don’t last as long as they do in, say, the NFL. There, the Giants, Steelers and Bears are all owned by the founding families of those respective franchises. Al Davis ran the Raiders forever and his son still has it. The Bidwell family has owned the Cardinals since at least the 1930s. The Bills have had the same owner forever. Green Bay, of course, owns the Packers in a unique arrangement. Other clubs in the NFL have had the same owners for a longer time than the Steinbrenners have had the Yankees.

But comparing across sports is always awkward. In the baseball world, the Steinbrenners are the longest lasted ownership group, and they purchased the club 40 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.


3,000 days since Ray Boone dies.

3,000 days since the Red Sox begin their comeback in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, winning Game Four 6-4 in 12 innings. Dave Roberts famously steals second base and scores the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.

4,000 days since the Mets, Rockies and Brewers engage in a three-way trade. The Rockies get hitters Benny Agbayani and Todd Zeile. The Brewers get pitcher Glendon Rusch. The Mets get outfielder Jeromy Burnitz.

5,000 days since Rickey Henderson steals his 1,300th base.

6,000 days since the Tigers trade slugger Cecil Fielder to the Yankees for a minor leaguer and Ruben Sierra.

6,000 days since Chris Sabo gets suspended for seven games for using a corked bat.

6,000 days since the Angels trade Damion Easley to the Tigers.

6,000 days since Florida trades David Weathers to the Yankees.

6,000 days since Milwaukee trades Greg Vaughn to the Padres.

6,000 days since the Phillies trade Terry Mulholland to the Mariners.

9,000 days since Jose Oquendo becomes the first non-pitcher in 20 years to post a decision, losing in the 19th inning on a Ken Griffey Sr. double. The Braves beat his Cardinals, 7-5.

9,000 days since Rick Mahler has the best-known relief stint in Braves franchise history, as rated by WPA. He throws eight scoreless innings for a 0.943 WPA.

15,000 days since the Angels trade Jim Fregosi to the Mets for four players, most notably Nolan Ryan. Yeah, this is a winner for the Angels.


1899 Doc Adams, largely forgotten founding father of baseball, dies in New Haven, Conn. at age 84.

1906 Gus Suhr, star Pirates 1930s first baseman, is born.

1910 Frenchy Bordagaray, who for a long time was the last player to have facial hair, is born.

1911 A new rule bars players from taking part in barnstorming off-season tours.

1912 Cliff Melton, a pitcher who once started over 20 double-header games in one season, is born.

1913 The American Association’s Louisville club trades Mordecai Brown to the Reds.

1915 Sid Hudson, 1940s Washington Senators pitcher, is born. His career record is 104-152, largely due to his teammates’ terrible hitting.

1920 Boston’s sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 is made public.

1923 Boston trades George Pipgras to the Yankees.

1943 Hall of Fame second baseman Bid McPhee dies at age 83.

1945 George Stone, briefly a great hitter (and the best hitter in baseball in 1906), dies at age 68.

1949 Gary Lavelle, 1960s/70s reliever, is born.

1961 Frank “Trader” Lane quits his job as Cleveland general manager to becomes GM for the Kansas City A’s.

1962 Ground is broken for the Houston Astrodome.

1966 Baltimore releases veteran pitcher Harvey Haddix.

1974 The Yankees hire Bill Virdon as their manager.

1977 A.J. Burnett, pitcher, is born.

1977 Kansas City releases veteran pitcher Lindy McDaniel.

1978 Joe McCarthy, arguably the best manager in baseball history, dies at age 90.

1981 Lou Fette, a 20-game winner as a 30-year-old rookie in 1937 with the Braves, dies at age 73.

1982 Former Red Sox wunderkind Tony Conigliaro suffers a massive heart attack at age 37. He falls into a coma and will be in the hospital until March.

1984 Oakland signs amateur free agent Felix Jose.

1985 In the January draft, Houston takes Mel Stottlemyre, who it will sign, while St. Louis drafts Todd Stottlemyre, who it will not sign. Also drafted (and later signed) are Chuck Finley by the Angels and John Wetteland by the Dodgers. Pittsburgh drafts Greg Vaughn, but won’t sign him.

1985 San Diego signs free agent Jerry Royster.

1991 Hall of Fame shortstop “Old Aches and Pains” Luke Appling dies at age 83.

1996 Connie Ryan, All-Star for 1944 Braves, dies at age 75.

2000 The Mets release slugger Bobby Bonilla.

2002 Al Smith, AL outfielder from the 1950s, dies at age 73.

2002 Seattle signs free agent Ruben Sierra.

2004 Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner dies at age 69.

2005 The Angels announce that they will be known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

2005 The White Sox sign free agent Orlando Hernandez.

2006 The Nationals sign free agent Tony Armas Jr.

2006 Florida signs free agent Joe Borowski.

2007 Baltimore signs free agent Aubrey Huff

2007 Seattle signs free agent third baseman and former stud prospect Sean Burroughs.

2008 Oakland trades Nick Swisher, star of the 2002 Moneyball draft, to the White Sox for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos.

2011 Baltimore pitcher Alfredo Simon surrenders to the police in the Dominican Republic over an accidental fatal shooting on New Year’s Eve.

2011 Texas signs what’s left of Brandon Webb.

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Happy Mets Fan
9 years ago

“Wilpon is leaving the Mets due to his involvement in the Bernie Madoff pyramid scam.”

This is news to us.

Dennis Bedard
9 years ago

The Yankee free fall from 1965 through 1975 is interesting.  David Halberstam in his great book 1964 suggests that it was inevitable because the Yankees in the mid to late 50’s (read GeorgevWeiss) refused to scout and sign black players.  I don’t know how accurate this is, but Halberstam presented a convincing argument.