July 4th, 2010

July 4 – Happy Birthday George Steinbrenner

Like him or not, George Steinbrenner recognized better than anyone that the Yankee brand and New York City were the hottest sports properties on the planet. In 1973, he purchased the team from CBS for a bargain basement price using other people’s money and immediately began making the franchise more valuable by the minute. He pretty much single-handedly restored the aura of the interlocking N-Y logo. George was born on today’s date in 1930 in Cleveland.

The Boss was managing owner of  the Yankees for a record 37 years. His Yankee teams won 11 AL Pennants and 7 World Series. He changed the team’s manager 20 times and hired 11 different GMs. His enthusiastic pursuit of free agents, beginning with Catfish Hunter changed the salary structure of professional baseball forever. He was suspended from the League twice. His entrepreneurial vision was the driving force behind the YES Entertainment Network and when he died in July of 2010, the team he had paid $10 million for was worth $1.2 billion.

George shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher he once described as being “scared stiff” on the mound. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on Independence Day as was this long-time Yankee radio announcer.

July 3 – Happy Birthday Cesar Tovar, Juan Rivera & Brian Cashman

For Yankee fans not old enough to remember Cesar Tovar, think of a Chone Figgins with more defensive versatility. He spent his first eight big league seasons with Minnesota, where he played every position but catcher, led the league in hits in 1971, averaged .281 in 1,090 games and stole 186 bases. He then spent the final five years of his career playing for five different teams, ending up with the Yankees in 1976, where he played his final thirteen big league games.

Juan Rivera was a power hitting outfield prospect in the Yankee organization who played for the parent club in 2001, ’02 and ’03. New York was hoping he’d replace Paul O’Neil in right field.He got his longest shot during his last season in pinstripes, appearing in 57 games and smacking 7 home runs. But that wasn’t good enough for the Yankee brass, who bundled Rivera with Nick Johnson and Randy Choate in the trade with Montreal that brought Javier Vazquez to the Bronx the first time. Rivera’s now found a home in the Angels’ outfield.

Today is also Brian Cashman’s birthday. The Yankee GM started as an intern in the Yankee front office where he caught the eye of “the Boss” and the rest is history.