Sports Outside the Beltway

Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner Dies At 80

Steinbrenner_w_trophyOn the morning of the All-Star Game baseball fans woke up to the news that New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had died in Florida:

George Steinbrenner, who bought a declining Yankees team in 1973, promised to stay out of its daily affairs and then, in an often tumultuous reign, placed his formidable stamp on 7 World Series championship teams, 11 pennant winners and a sporting world powerhouse valued at perhaps $1.6 billion, died Tuesday morning. He was 80 and lived in Tampa, Fla.

“He was an incredible and charitable man,” the family said in a statement.

“He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again.”

Steinbrenner’s death came nine months after the Yankees won their first World Series title since 2000, clinching their six-game victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at his new Yankee Stadium.

Steinbrenner had been in failing health for the past several years and had rarely appeared in public. He attended the opening game at the new stadium in April 2009, sitting in his suite with his wife, Joan. When he was introduced and received an ovation, his shoulders shook and he cried.

He next appeared at the Yankees’ new home for the first two games of the World Series, then made his final appearance at the 2010 home opener, when Manager Joe Girardi and shortstop Derek Jeter, the team captain, came to his suite to present him with his 2009 World Series championship ring.


Steinbrenner was the central figure in a syndicate that bought the Yankees from CBS for $10 million. When he arrived in New York on Jan. 3, 1973, he said he would not “be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all.” Having made his money as head of the Cleveland-based American Shipbuilding Company, he declared, “I’ll stick to building ships.”

But four months later, Michael Burke, who had been running the Yankees for CBS and had stayed on to help manage the franchise, departed after clashing with Steinbrenner. John McMullen, a minority owner in the syndicate, soon remarked that “nothing is as limited as being a limited partner of George’s.”

Steinbrenner emerged as one of the most powerful, influential and, in the eyes of many, notorious executives in sports. He was the senior club owner in baseball at his death, the man known as the Boss.

A pioneer of modern sports ownership, Steinbrenner started the wave of high spending for playing talent when free agency arrived in the mid-1970s, and he continued to spend freely through the Yankees’ revival in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the long stretch without a pennant and then renewed triumphs under Torre and General Manager Brian Cashman.

The Yankees’ approximately $210 million payroll in 2009 dwarfed all others in baseball, and the team paid out millions in baseball’s luxury tax and revenue-sharing with small-market teams.

In the frenetic ’70s and ’80s, when general managers, field managers and pitching coaches were sent spinning through Steinbrenner’s revolving personnel door (Billy Martin had five stints as manager), the franchise became known as the Bronx Zoo. In December 2002, Steinbrenner’s enterprise had grown so rich that the president of the Boston Red Sox, Larry Lucchino, frustrated over losing the pitcher Jose Contreras to the Yankees, called them the “evil empire.”

But Steinbrenner and the Yankees thrived through all the arguments, all the turmoil, all the bombast. Having been without a pennant since 1964 when Steinbrenner bought them, enduring sagging attendance while the upstart Mets thrived, the Yankees once again became America’s marquee sporting franchise.

Love him or hate him, and there were plenty of times over the last thirty-seven years when even Yankees fans hated him, there’s no denying that Steinbrenner was unlike any other baseball owner before him. He took a team that had floundered under CBS’s ownership for the better part of a decade — the Yankees had not appeared in a World Series since 1965, and had not won since 1962 — and turned it into a powerhouse. His $ 100 million investment is worth today an estimated $ 1.6 billion and doing better than ever.

Coming only a few days after the death of legendary Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Shepard, this death will be felt deeply in the Yankee family and I’m sure we’ll see some kind of tribute when the team returns to the stadium that George built on July 16th.


Former NFL head coach Don Corryel dead at 85

The father of the modern NFL passing game, had a lifetime record of 111-83-1 as a head coach. From AP-

Don Coryell, the innovative coach whose Air Coryell offense produced some of the most dynamic passing attacks in NFL history, has died. He was 85.Don Corryel

The San Diego Chargers confirmed Coryell died Thursday at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in suburban La Mesa. The team did not release the cause of death, but Coryell had been in poor health for some time.

“We’ve lost a man who has contributed to the game of pro football in a very lasting way with his innovations and with his style,” Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, the quarterback who made Air Coryell fly, said from Oregon. “They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery — look around, it’s there.”

[+] EnlargeDon Coryell
George Rose/Getty ImagesThe innovations of Don Coryell, left, gave birth to Air Coryell, the inspiration for the modern-day offenses that dominate the NFL.

Coryell was one of the founding fathers of the modern passing game. He coached at San Diego State from 1961-72 and went 104-19-2. He left the Aztecs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. With Jim Hart at quarterback, the Cardinals won division titles in 1974 and ’75 behind Coryell.

Fouts said he became friends with Coryell after the two were finished with football.

“It’s not just me,” Fouts said. “All his players, Aztecs, Cardinals, Chargers, to a man, would tell you that he was their friend.”

Coryell returned to San Diego when he was hired by the Chargers on Sept. 25, 1978, the same day a Pacific Southwest Airlines jet crashed into a North Park neighborhood after colliding with a small plane, killing all 137 people on the two planes and seven people on the ground.

“It’s crazy that when you look back at the history of this city, he got hired on the same day as that PSA crash,” said Hank Bauer, who was a running back and special teams star with the Chargers then. “That really was one of the darkest days in this city’s history and it became one of the brightest days in the history of sports.

“He walked in and met our team for the time and he was just this little bundle of energy, flying around the meeting. He said, ‘You know what? We’re going to have fun, and we’re going to cry and laugh and battle our [behinds] off, but we’re going to have fun.’ We had fun for a lot of years.”

From 1978-86, Air Coryell — led by Fouts — set records and led the NFL in passing almost every season. Coryell guided the Chargers to the AFC championship game after the 1980 and ’81 seasons, but he never reached the Super Bowl.

The lack of a Super Bowl on his resume may have hurt Coryell last winter in voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist for the first time, but was not selected for induction.

Corryel was the first coach to win 100 games at both the pro and NFL level. He deserves to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. RIP Coach.


Former NBA Giant Manute Bol Dies At 47

1237813050_0Manute Bol, who literally towered over the NBA for ten years, died yesterday at 47 after contracting a skin disease:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manute Bol, a lithe 7-foot-7 shot-blocker from Sudan who spent 10 seasons in the NBA and was dedicated to humanitarian work in Africa, died Saturday. He was 47.

Bol died at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where he was being treated for severe kidney trouble and a painful skin condition, Tom Prichard, executive director of the group Sudan Sunrise, said in an e-mail.

“Sudan and the world have lost a hero and an example for all of us,” Prichard said. “Manute, we’ll miss you. Our prayers and best wishes go out to all his family, and all who mourn his loss.”

Bol played in the NBA with Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia and Miami, averaging 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks for his career. He led the league in blocks in 1985-86 with Washington (5.0 per game) and in 1988-89 with Golden State (4.3 a game).

“Manute’s impact on this city, our franchise and the game of basketball cannot be put into words,” 76ers president and general manager Ed Stefanski said in a statement. “He … was continually giving of himself through his generosity and humanitarian efforts in order to make the world around him a much better place, for which he will always be remembered.”

In the years after he left the NBA, Bol devoted himself to humanitarian work in his native Sudan and had actually just returned from there to start a project to build a new school in his home village. It’s believed that the skin disease he contracted may be related to something he encountered on that trip.


Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden Dies At 99

NCAA FINAL UCLA WOODENJohn Wooden, the UCLA basketball coach who led his teams to twelve NCAA Championships, died overnight at the age of 99:

John Wooden, a staid Midwesterner who migrated to U.C.L.A. and became college basketball’s most successful coach, earning the nickname the Wizard of Westwood and an enduring place in sports history, died Friday at Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26. He was 99.

His death was announced by the university.

Wooden created a sports dynasty against which all others are compared, and usually pale. His teams at U.C.L.A. won 10 national championships in a 12-season stretch from 1964 to 1975. From 1971 to 1974, U.C.L.A. won 88 consecutive games, still the N.C.A.A. record.

Four of Wooden’s teams finished with 30-0 records, including his first championship team, which featured no starters taller than 6 feet 5 inches.

Three of his other championship teams were anchored by the 7-foot-2 center Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Two others were led by center Bill Walton, a three-time national player of the year.

Wooden retired after U.C.L.A.’s 1975 championship victory over Kentucky. A slight man hugely popular for his winning record and his understated approach, he ultimately became viewed as a kind of sage for both basketball and life, a symbol of both excellence and simpler times.

Even in retirement he remained a beloved figure and a constant presence at U.C.L.A., watching most games from a seat behind the home bench at Pauley Pavilion. Lines of well-wishers and autograph-seekers often snaked their way to his seat in Section 103B. Wooden always obliged his fans, until the university and his family requested that he be granted privacy in January 2008, when he was 97.

A dynasty like Wooden’s would be almost impossible now, because the best players seldom spend more than a year or two in college before turning professional. No N.C.A.A. men’s basketball coach has won more than four championships since Wooden retired. Of Wooden’s eight coaching successors at U.C.L.A., only one — Jim Harrick in 1995 — won an N.C.A.A. championship with the Bruins, who have managed to retain an air of the elite among basketball programs largely on Wooden’s legacy.

Wooden’s success fed upon itself. When he won his first two national championships, landed Alcindor and moved home games to the new Pauley Pavilion, high school stars begged to play for him. Besides Abdul-Jabbar and Walton, Wooden turned out celebrated players like Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, Keith Erickson, Henry Bibby, Lucius Allen, Sidney Wicks, Jamaal Wilkes and Marques Johnson.

“He was almost a mystical figure by the time I got to U.C.L.A.,” said Johnson, a starter on Wooden’s final team. “I couldn’t really sit down and have a conversation with him about real things just because I had so much reverence for him — for who he was and what he had accomplished.”

College basketball is a much different game than it was in Wooden’s game, and it’s unlikely we’ll see the likes of him ever again.


Former MLB Pitcher Jeriome Robertson dead at 33

Robertson played for Houston and Cleveland in his short career. The Houston Astros/Colt .45′s have had quite a few players die young in their short history. Everyone remembers Don Wilson who threw two no-hitters, and Jim Umbricht who died of malignant melanoma and had his number retired. But other Astros who went before turning 40 include Darryl Kile, Johnny Weekly, Walt Bond, Brian Powell, and Ron Willis at least. I think that’s the most of any MLB franchise in the last 50 years, including the jinxed Angels. RIP Jeriome Robertson.Jeriome Robertson

Former major league pitcher Jeriome Robertson, whose 15 wins led all rookies in 2003, has died. He was 33.

Robertson was killed Saturday when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed, the California Highway Patrol said.

The left-hander went 15-9 with a 5.10 ERA for Houston in his one big year and topped the team in victories. Robertson was traded to Cleveland before the next season after the Astros signed free agents Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Robertson’s last game in the majors came in July 2004 — he hit Magglio Ordonez with his final pitch and was ejected. He later played in the minors for the Mets and Reds, and finished in 2007 in the Mexican and independent leagues.

Astros star Lance Berkman recalled Robertson’s success.

“When you play with someone a year, you remember them. It’s certainly a tragedy and what more can you say? It’s a bad deal,” Berkman said before Tuesday night’s game against Washington.

“He won 15 games for us. That’s what I remember about him that year. He was solid every time out. He made a big step forward in his development. Then we traded him and really he kind of dropped off the face of the earth,” he said.

Robertson pitched in only eight more games in the majors after getting dealt to Cleveland. He finished with a career record of 16-12 with a 5.71 ERA.


Former NFL DT Norman Hand dead at 37

He played for the Miami Dolphins for two years but unfortunately I don’t remember Hand. RIPNew Norman Hand.

Former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Norman Hand has died after collapsing at his home in South Carolina.

Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said the 37-year-old Hand collapsed at his home in Walterboro about 11 a.m. Friday and died about 90 minutes later at a local hospital.

The cause of death has not been determined. The coroner said an autopsy is planned Saturday. He said Hand’s family was with him when he died.

Hand’s 10-year NFL career included playing stints with the Dolphins, Saints, Chargers, Seahawks and Giants. Hand, who had 22 1/2 career sacks, was drafted in the fifth round by the Dolphins in 1995 after playing at Mississippi.


LPGA player Erica Blasberg dead at 25

This news is just shocking. The last active PGA or LPGA player* I can recall dying is Payne Stewart in 1999. Tony Lema died in 1966 less than 24 hours after competing in the PGA Championship but there is probably a more recent example. Heather Farr died of cancer at age 28 in 1993, but she hadn’t played the LPGA in 4 years before her death. Erica Blasberg

Blasberg had just finished T44 in Mexico last week. Her best ever LPGA finish was a tie for 8th in 2008.RIP.

The body of Erica Blasberg, an LPGA player, was found Sunday afternoon at her home in Henderson according to a police spokesman. The six-year tour player was 25 years old.< No cause of death was disclosed, according to a spokeswoman for the Clark County Coroner's Office, because of the pending investigation.

In her only start this season, Blasberg tied for 44th two weeks ago at the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, after having Monday qualified.

*- I deliberately omitted the Seniors or Champions Tour. Those players are older and a sudden death is more likely. Bert Yancey went into cardiac arrest in the scorer’s tent and died soon after. He was 56 at the time. Senior Tour player Jack Kiefer died in 1999 of spinal cancer a year after his last tour event.


Hall of Famer Pitcher Robin Roberts dead at 83

He won 286 games pitching for the Phillies when the franchise was mediocre or worse most of the time. Roberts gave up more homeruns than any pitcher in baseball history. Basically he challenged hitters to hit him but Roberts was one of those pitchers(Catfish Hunter, Tom Seaver, Jack Morris) who could do it and win even if some of them were home run prone. Roberts served in the Air Force and attended Michigan State before his pro baseball days. After he was through playing, Roberts was head baseball coach at the University of South Florida. RIP.

Philadelphia Phillie trivia- Who is the only Phillie pitcher since 1930 to win the National League MVP award? It is not Roberts. The answer will be at the bottom of this post.Robin Roberts

Long before pitch counts, setup men and closers, Robin Roberts usually finished what he started.

Roberts, the tireless Hall of Fame pitcher who led the Philadelphia Phillies to the 1950 National League pennant as part of the famed “Whiz Kids,” died Thursday at his Temple Terrace, Fla., home of natural causes, the Phillies said, citing son Jim. He was 83.

“He was a boyhood hero of mine,” team president David Montgomery said. “Then I had a chance to meet him personally. I remember pinching myself knowing I was talking to Robin Roberts. His career and stats speak for themselves. But first and foremost he was a friend and we’ll miss him badly.”

The right-hander was the most productive pitcher in the National League in the first half of the 1950s, topping the league in wins from 1952 to 1955, innings pitched from ’51 to ’55 and complete games from ’52 to ’56.

He won 286 games and put together six consecutive 20-win seasons. Roberts had 45 career shutouts, 2,357 strikeouts and a lifetime ERA of 3.41. He pitched 305 complete games, but also gave up more home runs than any other major league pitcher. Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer is on the verge of breaking that mark. The 47-year-old Moyer has given up 498 homers, seven fewer than Roberts.

Roberts played in an era when pitchers expected to go the distance. Put it this way: In the past 25 years, Phillies pitchers threw a total of 300 complete games — five fewer than Roberts all by himself. Roberts made 609 career starts, finishing more than half.

“Robin was one of the most consistent, competitive and durable pitchers of his generation and a symbol of the Whiz Kids,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Robin truly loved baseball and always had its best interests at heart.”

Long after his career ended, Roberts followed the Phillies closely and was still popular in Philadelphia, drawing boisterous applause from fans each time he came back.


Former Pittsburgh Pirate IF Pete Castiglione dead at 89

He also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and served in the United States Navy during World War II. RIP.

Peter P. Castiglione was born on February 13, 1921 in Greenwich, Connecticut. A high school baseball star he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in 1940 and played for the Carthage Pirates of the Class D Arkansas-Missouri League. Castiglione


Castiglione returned to home in January 1946 and played for the Selma Cloverleafs of the Class B Southeastern League that year. Following a strong season in which he batted .342 with 81 RBIs, he moved up to the Indianapolis Indians of the Class AAA American Association for 1947, and was called up by the Pirates in September.

Castiglione made his major league debut on September 10, 1947. He appeared in 13 games and hit .250. He was back with Indianapolis for 1948, but after another strong year in which he batted .308 with 88 RBIs, he secured his place with the Pirates.

Castiglione spent the next four-and-a-half years in Pittsburgh as a utility infielder. His best season was 1951, when he played 132 games and batted .261 with 42 RBIs.

At 32, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in June 1953, where he ended his major league career the following year. Castiglione continued to play in the minors until 1958 with Toronto, Buffalo, Binghamton and Little Rock.

Pete Castiglione moved to Pompano Beach, Florida, where he became a letter carrier for the Postal Service. He always kept active in the sports community, refereeing and umpiring. He also acted as a scout for the Pirates, and wrote a column for the Pompano Town News. In 1967 he coached the Cardinal Gibbons High School baseball team to a fifth place finish in the state. He also coached the American Legion team.

Pete Castiglione passed away in Pompano Beach on April 22, 2010. He was 89.


Former Cy Young winner Mike Cuellar dead at 72

I remember Cuellar very well. He was the ace of the 1969 Baltimore Orioles pitching staff that faced off in Games 1* and 5 against my favorite team, the New York Mets. Do I really have to recall what happened in that World Series?Mike Cuellar

Cuellar was dominating then. A left-handed screwball pitcher. He was tougher on righty batters than lefties, or at least Cuellar was in 1969. Cuellar was a mainstay of the Orioles pitching staffs from 1969 to 1974. He ended his Baltimore career with subpar years in 75 and 76 and apparently complained to manager Earl Weaver. Weaver replied “I gave Mike Cuellar more chances than my first wife.” Cuellar was a very good pitcher(but not strong enough for the who ended his career in 1977 with the California Angels and tallied 185 career victories. RIP.

*- Cuellar made his first WS appearance in 1969. He was on the roster(along with NY Met Ron Taylor who also pitched in Game 1) of the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Cuellar didn’t appear in the post season that year.

Mike Cuellar, a crafty left-hander from Cuba whose darting screwball made him a World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner with the Baltimore Orioles, died Friday. He was 72.

The Orioles confirmed Cuellar’s death, but did not release other details. According to The Baltimore Sun, Cuellar died of stomach cancer at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida.

Cuellar made his major league debut in 1959 and bounced around Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston for almost a decade before a trade sent him to Baltimore. Wearing the black-and-orange bird logo, he blossomed as part of one of the most imposing pitching staffs in baseball history — in 1971, he was among the Orioles’ four 20-game winners.

A four-time All-Star, Cuellar was 185-130 overall with a 3.14 ERA. He was voted into the Orioles’ Hall of Fame.

“He sure was an ace,” Hall of Fame teammate Brooks Robinson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday night. “He had a way of making good hitters look bad, making them take funny swings.”

Cuellar joined the Orioles in 1969, and that year became the first Baltimore pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award, sharing the honor with Detroit’s Denny McLain.

Cuellar went 23-11 with five shutouts that season, including a game in which he held Minnesota hitless until Cesar Tovar’s soft, leadoff single in the ninth inning.

Cuellar helped pitch Baltimore to three straight World Series appearances from 1969 to 1971. He finished off that run by teaming with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson to become the only staff other than the 1920 Chicago White Sox with a quartet of 20-game winners.


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