July 14, 2010

IF GEORGE HAD BOUGHT THE INDIANS...:

George Steinbrenner (Joe Posnanski, July 13th, 2010)

You probably know that in 1971, George Steinbrenner put in a bid to buy the Cleveland Indians. Steinbrenner grew up in Cleveland and, even more, he was of Cleveland. The city’s charms and flaws, strengths and insecurities, outsized kindness and comical fury, all these gyrated inside Steinbrenner. The Indians were in desperate shape in the early 1970s — there were credible rumors that the team was going to split for New Orleans. This was a chance for Steinbrenner to save his hometown and, even more, become a legend. George Steinbrenner was one of those kids who grew up believing that somehow, some way, he would be great. Here was a chance.

I’ve often wondered how different baseball — no, American sports as a whole — would be if Steinbrenner had been successful in buying the Indians. Imagine baseball history without the the Bronx Zoo teams of the late 1970s. Imagine it without the Steinbrenner-Billy Martin tango. Imagine it without King George II spending all that money for the glorification of New York, the Yankees and, sure, yes, George Steinbrenner himself.

Imagine if he had bought the Indians. This alternative-history is not as simple (not even close to as simple) as just swapping the fates of the Indians and Yankees — I feel 100% certain that sort of swap would not have happened. Cleveland is not New York. And New York is not Cleveland. What would have been more likely to happen is that Steinbrenner, frustrated by his city’s limitations (and his own financial limitations) would have flamed out dramatically and probably ended up bitter and burned out, a Cleveland version of Charlie Finley. The Yankees probably would have sailed unsteadily through the next 40 years, not unlike the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning some and losing some, all depending on the motivations of ownership, the quirks of good luck and the direction of the wind.

But Steinbrenner did not buy the Indians. No. He bought the Yankees.


...mighn't we expect them to have their own cable channel that dominates the region? After all, the Yankees share a city with the Mets and their geography is limited by the Phillies to the South and the Sox to the North.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2010 6:23 AM
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