S⁠t⁠e⁠i⁠nbrenner’s Shrewd T⁠i⁠m⁠i⁠ng

By: The James Madison Institute / July 21, 2010

The James Madison Institute


July 21, 2010

By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy DirectorTags: Sports, Estate Taxes, MediaI spoke with George Steinbrenner at an editorial writers’ conference in the 1980s. Baseball – then as now – faced money troubles. Big-city teams like the Yankees earned more than small-market teams such as Pittsburgh, and most teams lost money. Yet the players’ union wanted more, staging strikes to get it.So I asked Mr. Steinbrenner, who died last Tuesday at age 80, why baseball didn’t adopt the revenue-sharing model of the increasingly prosperous National Football League. He patiently explained the differences in local-vs.-national TV revenue and the vastly different prices baseball’s team owners had paid for their franchises – prices related to projected return on investment.Granted, Mr. Steinbrenner didn’t exactly overpay for the Yankees. He bought the team in 1973 for $8.8 million; today it’s valued at $1.6 billion. His shrewd timing even extended to his death. It occurred on the day of baseball’s All Star Game, where he was posthumously honored. He’d also lived long enough to see the Yankees’ return to World Series glory last season under his sons’ off-the-field leadership.Moreover, he died in a year when there’s no estate tax. This spares his heirs from the tax troubles (and family feuding) that, for instance, forced the heirs of Miami Dolphins’ founder Joe Robbie to sell the team.Mr. Steinbrenner also deserves credit for rescuing baseball’s most iconic franchise from its previous owner, CBS, whose ruinous mismanagement was on a par with that at CBS News.CBS, after all, is the company that kept Dan Rather employed for decades but fired one of the best sportscasters ever, longtime Tallahassee resident Red Barber.Mr. Barber’s sin: truth. During a home game in 1966, when the Yankees finished last for the first time since 1912, Barber noted that the crowd (only 413) was the proud stadium’s smallest ever. CBS fired him. Then again, CBS has never been a big fan of truth.