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A Friend Recalls George Steinbrenner

New York Yankees owner and Ohio native George Steinbrenner died Tuesday, a little over a week after his 80th birthday. Steinbrenner, who was born in Rocky River near Cleveland, had been in fragile health for years. The New York Yankees won 7 World Series championships during Steinbrenner's ownership. A friend and former Yankees employee Dick Smith commented Tuesday in Columbus on his long-standing relationship with Steinbrenner.

Well, I've known George for some 40 years. He's been a great friend for many, many years, long before I ever worked for him.

Q: So how did you meet?

George, years ago, coached at Aquinas High School in Columbus. And he coached at Lockbourne and then he coached at Purdue and Northwestern; football. So about 33 years ago he came to Columbus and signed a player development contract with the Clippers. And their team was here for 28 years. So you get to know somebody pretty well that many years. And you would never ever, ever meet a finer gentleman and a finer American than George Steinbrenner.

Q: His public persona was different from the man in private, is that right?

Well, I don't know if it was different or not, George had a thing about him, he was a winner and he liked to win whatever he did. So he sometimes would work toward that end on an everyday basis but he was a gentleman all the way, as far as I'm concerned. He was always very generous and very helpful and wanted to make sure that everyone was A-OK.

Q: You have a special Yankees ring, don't you? Could you tell us about it?

I was fortunate enough several years ago when George has won seven World Series and during those World Series he was nice enough to give me a World Series ring, which is very generous of him. He's an incredible guy. He was an incredible individual.

But he was a winner. He had a sign on his desk, I'll never forget, and it kind of went, Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. He was a determined individual. I will miss him immensely. He was a great friend and baseball will not be quite the same without him.

That's Dick Smith a former Yankees employee speaking today in Columbus.