Trump as George Steinbrenner Writ Large
As a Los Angeleno, I’ve long felt that Donald Trump is the second New Yorkeriest New Yorker ever, behind only George Steinbrenner, who owned the New York Yankees baseball team from 1974 to his death in 2010.
The Yankees, America’s most famous sports franchise, like Manchester United if they were in London, had fallen on hard times in the mid-1960s. At the bottom of NYC’s fortunes, Steinbrenner bought the Yankees and invested heavily in these new-fangled free agents like Reggie Jackson.
But unlike most team owners of the times, he battled constantly with his players and managers, especially Billy Martin whom he fired five times. Virtually every week seemed like a crisis if you were reading the sports pages. From 1975-1989, Steinbrenner changed managers 18 times, winning two World Series. Eventually, Steinbrenner slowed down and let Joe Torre win four World Series for him.
His rise to prominence a decade earlier sprung from his purchase of a major New York institution. He was tall, an imposing figure with his hair just long enough to be swept flat behind his ears. He often bellowed, “You’re fired!,” a connotation embraced by households across the country.
He made note that Trump borrowed his trademark phrase for his NBC show, “The Apprentice,” from Steinbrenner, who first popularized “you’re fired” in his years-long, love-hate relationship with manager Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner hired and fired a total of five times.
Trump “borrowed that from the great George Steinbrenner, and people forget that,” Negron said. “I even used to ask ‘The Boss’ if he got upset with that and he said, ‘Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.’”
A controversial figure in his own right, Steinbrenner found himself in trouble at various points of his career. There were the illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon. Years later, he paid to have dirt dug up on a star Yankees player, Dave Winfield. At both points, he served suspensions from Major League Baseball. In the first, he pleaded guilty to criminal charges for which he was later pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.
Anyway, my point is that the Trump White House is very much like Steinbrenner’s Yankees: every day seems like a crisis. To a Los Angeles Dodgers fan like myself who was used to the Dodgers having two managers (Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda) over 45 years and an announcer, Vin Scully, for 67 years, the Yankee revolving door soap opera always seemed like it couldn’t possibly go on a day longer.