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Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies at 80

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(Reuters) - George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees owner who was one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the history of U.S. sports, died in Florida on Tuesday at age 80.

Known as "The Boss" for his tempestuous style, Steinbrenner was loved by Yankees fans and hated by his rivals. He resurrected the most successful franchise in U.S. sports from a period of decline, returning it to glory in the 1970s.


His family and baseball club announced his death but did not give a cause. Media reports said he suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Tampa and was rushed to hospital.


Steinbrenner demanded results and got them as the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants since he bought the fabled club in 1973.


He was twice suspended from baseball -- once for making illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign and then for hiring a private investigator to dig up information on one of his players.


"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing," he once said.


Steinbrenner handed over daily operations of the club to his sons in recent years. His Yankees empire, which he bought for $10 million, is now worth $1.6 billion, nearly twice as much as any other team in baseball, Forbes magazine estimated.


"He was an incredible and charitable man," his 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."


The family said the funeral would be private but there would be an additional public service.




Steinbrenner died on the same day as one of baseball's signature events -- the annual all-star game to be played on Tuesday night in Anaheim, California. His death closely followed that of another Yankees legend, announcer Bob Sheppard, who died on Sunday at age 99.


Steinbrenner, who turned 80 on the U.S. Independence Day holiday on July 4, was a well-known figure in popular culture, routinely pictured on the back pages of New York's tabloids wearing his familiar white turtleneck under a blue blazer and was regularly skewered on the television sitcom "Seinfeld."


His early days with the Yankees were chronicled in several books, including "The Bronx Zoo" written by player Sparky Lyle and "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning" by Jonathan Mahler, which was dramatized in a 2007 TV miniseries with Steinbrenner's character played by Oliver Platt.


"I am tough. Sometimes I'm unreasonable," Steinbrenner said. "I have to catch myself every once in a while."


The son of a wealthy Ohio shipping magnate, Steinbrenner followed in his father's footsteps as a hurdler at school and continued his interest in sports by earning a masters' degree in physical education and working as an assistant college football coach.



NEW YORK | Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:35am EDT


(Editing by John O'Callaghan and Frances Kerry)

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