George Steinbrenner: The Donald Trump before Donald Trump?
George Steinbrenner, Donald Trump: birds of a feather?
Because the life trajectories of these two larger-than-life personalities are remarkably similar, revisiting the former may aid in deciphering the latter.
Both men were successful entrepreneurs before gaining fame (or notoriety) in mid-life ventures wholly foreign to their earlier endeavors.
Before purchasing the New York Yankees in 1973, George Steinbrenner was a shipbuilding tycoon. Earlier in life, he was an assistant college football coach and an investor in an American Basketball League franchise (defunct).
As everyone knows by now, before entering the political arena, Trump was a real estate tycoon and television celebrity. The Trump brand adorns hotels, golf courses, and condominiums worldwide.
Both men fit the profile of the big, brassy, boisterous New Yorker. John McMullen, a Yankees minority owner during the Steinbrenner reign, once quipped, "There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner."
Steinbrenner's nickname was "The Boss." His unorthodox ownership style set Major League Baseball's conservative private men's club atwitter.
Similarly, the Trump tsunami is turning Washington's entrenched culture of bureaucratic sinecures and career politicians interested more in their welfare than in that of their constituents inside-out.
He has poked the hornets' nest, and the hornets are enraged.
To Establishment types, Steinbrenner and Trump are like rowdy drunks crashing a debutante's coming out party. Neither gives a hoot about decorum and tradition.
The chattering class is in high dudgeon over Trump's post-Charlottesville news conference and aquiver over the prospect of a military junta in the wake of the West Wing's revolving door. Presidential strategist Steve Bannon joins a parade of presidential insiders now on the outs.
"The Boss" also was famous for his rapid turnover of management.
In his first 23 seasons, Steinbrenner changed managers 20 times. Billy Martin was hired and fired as manager five times. Steinbrenner went through 13 publicity directors in his first 23 years with the club. He employed 11 general managers over 30 years. When it comes to hiring and firing, Trump pales in comparison to his fellow New Yorker.
Likewise, it's no surprise that the untoward behavior of both men is an outrage to self-appointed purveyors of received wisdom, then and now.
Columnist George Will, an aficionado of both baseball and politics, has unabashedly criticized both men. Will once described Steinbrenner as an "error machine" and "baseball dumb-o-meter."
Will recently described Trump as "feeble," "an alpha male as crybaby," mocking the president's "increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations."
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, an early devotee of Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" grandiloquence and early critic of Donald Trump, the man and president, laments that unlike strong, silent American men of yore, Trump is "whiny, weepy, and self-pitying." She huffs that "Trump is Woody Allen Without the Humor."
Ridicule, ostracism, and derision bounced off Steinbrenner's hide like pebbles off a steel hull.
He who laughs last laughs loudest.
During Steinbrenner's 37-year ownership, the Yankees earned seven World Series titles and eleven pennants. No other team of his era came close.
Meanwhile, George Will's trophy case remains devoid of a World Series ring and Presidential Seal.
So is George Steinbrenner's past Donald Trump's prologue? Cognoscenti may scoff, but don't bet against it.