In the spring of 1997 Derek Jeter asked me, half-jokingly, to ask George Steinbrenner to give him a multi year contract just like what the Cleveland Indians were doing for their young players.
Derek knew that I worked directly for the boss but didn’t really think that I would say anything to him but I told Derek that I would. When I got back to the office I did mention it to the boss.
He uncomfortably stared at me and then stared at the ceiling for a long time.
He then instructed me to tell Jeter to meet him a block away from the auditorium where we were having a baseball fan festival in Tampa. After the festival, Jeter and I went to the spot to meet the Boss. All of a sudden the Boss pulled up. (In Tampa the Boss usually drove himself but that day John Sabaen, his assistant, drove him.)
He jumped out of the car as if he was doing a movie. He was "as cool as Kool aid" and said, "let’s walk." We probably walked for a block without him saying anything, then all of a sudden he asked Jeter if he wanted a multi year deal. Jeter said, "Yes sir I do."
The Boss then said that he thought long and hard about it and decided that he wasn’t going to do it because he would really be taking advantage of Jeter and that two years from now Jeter would be angry and the trust angle between the two of them would not be good.
He told Jeter to be patient at this time because he was going t make more money than he ever dreamed of. After saying some other things he patted Jeter on the back, pulled over his car, which had been following us, then he jumped in. And just like that he was gone. Jeter looked at me, I looked at him and we smiled at each over and we never said a word about this historic meeting until the Boss died. Two years after that meeting, Jeter signed a 10 year contract.
Four years after that the Boss appointed Derek the Captain of the Yankees.
The boss was very proud of that appointment because he felt Jeter would be a core Captain like Thurman Munson and Lou Gehrig. When the Boss was inducted into the Ted Williams Hall of Fame, Derek inscribed a baseball that said "You deserve this honor because you have been so special." That ball sat in the case at the Museum for years. This past Saturday was the birthday of the greatest country in the world and also the birthday of the Boss, the greatest owner in the history of all sports.
George Michael Steinbrenner was born on the Fourth of July in 1930.
I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for sharing this man with us. I hate to think of where I would have been without him and for that matter, many others of us.
George Michael Steinbrenner lll died on July 13, 2010 but not before contributing so much to the sports world and to humanity in general. Thanks Boss.
Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Read Ray Negron's Reports — More Here.
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