Not-so-fond memories of Steinbrenner

By Michael Kaufman

I wasn’t going to write about George Steinbrenner. I never liked the guy but it doesn’t seem right to kick a man when he’s down…especially when he’s down for the count. But after reading the outpouring of eulogies and tributes, I’ve had some second thoughts. Like I remember how the millionaire owner of the American Ship Building Company was convicted of knowingly funneling illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign. Was there ever a more aptly named organization than Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP)? This was no misdemeanor. It was a felony crime conviction ….but Steinbrenner was able to shrug it off and keep laughing all the way to the bank.

As head honcho at American Ship Bulding, Steinbrenner was known as fiercely anti-labor. After years of hard-fought negotiations with the unions representing workers at the Lorain, Ohio, shipyard, Steinbrenner shut it down in 1983 and moved all operations to Tampa, Florida. He is not remembered fondly in Lorain by the families of those who lost their jobs.  

Nixon and Steinbrenner were kindred spirits. They could “shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time,” which is what Hunter Thompson said about Nixon after Nixon died in 1994. Thompson, who worked for the Times Herald-Record early in his career, had some other choice words for the disgraced former president after his death. It seems appropriate to recall them now in lieu of mourning the passing of Steinbrenner. 

“If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles,” wrote the great Gonzo journalist. “He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

“These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern–but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

“Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man–evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him—except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.” Make that a sinking ship built in Tampa by non-union labor.

Goodbye and good ridance to Mr. Steinbrenner.  

Michael can be reached at


4 Responses to “Not-so-fond memories of Steinbrenner”

  1. Russ Says:


    I wanting to totally commiserate w/ your sentiment re: Steinbrenner and, of course, Tricky Dick. I had read somewhere that Steinbrenner traveled in fast company…or should I say slick company: Roy Cohan, Rudolph Guiliani, etc. I also recently heard that the great ‘philanthropist’ donated $million to a local symphony orchestra in Florida providing that they play pieces w/ which he was familiar—mandated by a true Republican…a political party short on honoring artistic freedom…among other freedoms!

  2. Russ Says:

    P.S. Mike,
    I noticed the headline in , I believe, The Star Ledger, at the health spa at which I work out in Wayne, N.J. re: Steinbrenner: “BIGGER THAN LIFE.” Mainstream journalism has hit rock bottom!

  3. Joe Haller Says:

    George Steinbrenner was no saint. BUT, he was a much better human being than Tricky Dick Nixon, or your golden boy Bill Clinton.

  4. Michael Says:

    I don’t think Steinbrenner was a “much better human being” than either Nixon or Clinton (who was certainly not my golden boy). I shudder to think what he would have been like as president. He had a plantation-owner’s mentality. If you worked for him he owned you. The world is a better place without him in it.

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