When Donald Trump was looking to make his mark in 1980s Manhattan, he found a role model up in the Bronx: the New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Trump was also a professional team owner: his New Jersey Generals competed in the short-lived United States Football League. But though Trump and Steinbrenner would ultimately become good friends, they didn’t get off to the best start.
As Maggie Haberman of the New York Times writes in her bestselling book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, the two men sat on the board of the New York State Sportsplex Corporation, which was looking into building new stadiums. Trump was eyeing one in Queens, where the Generals could play.
“At a press conference following the board’s first meeting, in 1984, Steinbrenner complained that Trump was hogging the microphone. ‘This isn’t going to be a one-man show or I’m not going to stick around,’ he said, raising his arms to obscure Trump so that photographers could not capture them together.
“That show of ego, and willingness to set the terms of debate, did not stop the men from becoming friends, and Trump was a constant presence in the owner’s box at Yankee Stadium.”
Years later, Steinbrenner provided inspiration for Trump on his hit TV show, The Apprentice.
“He ad-libbed the ‘You’re fired’ line used to dispatch each week’s loser as an apparent, and unacknowledged, homage” to Steinbrenner, Haberman writes, describing how the Yankees owner’s “revolving door of managers was one of New York’s great ongoing tragicomedies.
“As he was still trying to figure out how to be a boss of a company, Trump looked upon Steinbrenner – and the ease, even glee, with which he fired people – and other members of Steinbrenner’s social circle as examples. When he had to play an executive on television, Trump adopted Steinbrenner’s voice and recast The Apprentice’s spirit as gleefully punitive.”
Memorably, Steinbrenner cashed in on the catchphrase in a 1978 Miller Lite commercial, which shows him clashing with manager Billy Martin.
Steinbrenner says: “Tastes great.”
Martin insists: “Less filling.”
“You’re fired,” Steinbrenner says, with a grin.
“Not again!” Martin replies, as the two men chuckle.
In real life, Martin had five stints as Yankees manager.
Steinbrenner and Trump became etched into popular culture – as executives who made firing people an art form.
In 2010, following Steinbrenner’s death, Jim Caple on ESPN wrote: “During his prime, Steinbrenner single-handedly raised the national unemployment rate by a percent, firing managers so regularly that he made Donald Trump look like the head of a teachers union.”
Trump told the writer Mark Leibovich Steinbrenner had been his best friend, calling him a “big time winner”. Those comments were published in 2017, when Trump had taken Steinbrenner’s human resources philosophy to the White House, dispensing with officials the way Steinbrenner fired executives and managers.
However, when, in 1973, the syndicate Steinbrenner led bought the Yankees, he gave no indication he would be so involved in personnel matters.
“‘I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all,” he said, making arguably the least accurate prediction in sports business history.
“We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned,” Steinbrenner added. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”
Steinbrenner’s stint with the Yankees did feature one thing more scarce in Trump’s business career: eye-catching financial success. His group bought the team from CBS for a measly $10m. Last year, Forbes pegged the Yankees’ value at $6bn.
There was a reason for the bargain price. Steinbrenner, then 42, chairman of the American Ship Building Company and part‐owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, purchased the most successful franchise in baseball at close to rock bottom, at least by its standards. The year before, the Yankees finished fourth in the American League East and drew just 966,000 fans: their first time under a million since the second world war, when attendance was down across baseball. Steinbrenner’s group got the Yankees for less than the small-market Cleveland Indians had recently fetched.
Around the same time, Steinbrenner and Trump both got into trouble with the US justice department.
In 1973, the department sued Trump’s real estate firm for discriminating against Black tenants and thereby violating the Fair Housing Act, a case eventually settled.
The following year, the justice department indicted Steinbrenner for illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign. That case ended in a guilty plea in August 1974, two weeks after Nixon resigned, and Steinbrenner being suspended from running the team. (Trump would also befriend Nixon – he will include 25 letters from the former president in a book due out in April.)
Steinbrenner wound up returning the Yankees to the pinnacle, spending liberally on star players, especially in the early years of free agency, and winning 11 pennants and seven World Series titles.
In 2006, with the Yankees on their way to a ninth straight AL East title, Trump threw out the ceremonial pitch at Fenway Park before a game against the Boston Red Sox. In August 2020, as president, he said he had canceled plans to throw the opening pitch at Yankee Stadium, also against the Red Sox – citing his “strong focus” on the coronavirus pandemic. The Times said no invitation was made for that specific game.
We’ll never know how Trump would have been received. But he has weighed in from the peanut gallery himself. In 2013, with the Yankees on their way to a first playoff miss in five seasons, he called out the team.
“The Yankees are sure lucky George Steinbrenner is not around,” Trump tweeted, before going back to the firing imagery that marked both men’s careers.
“A lot of people would be losing their jobs.”
( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )