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George Steinbrenner and the New York of my childhood

I have no idea how to write about sports, and that's certainly not the topic of this blog, but George Steinbrenner had an enormous impact on the city I grew up in, and by extension on my childhood, so I wanted to take note of his passing.

Steinbrenner, who passed away today at 80 from a massive heart attack, will be chiefly remembered for his blustery personality, voracious ambition, and relentless perfectionism. But for me, Steinbrenner represents a very specific period in New York's history, one that has been largely forgotten: A time of violence, racial tension, severe fiscal instability, and profound turmoil on many levels.

I spent a fair amount of my early childhood in Yankee Stadium in the late 1970s with my father, who passed away a few years ago after six difficult decades. At the time, the Bronx really was burning. I remember vividly that New York fans (young people had long hair and droopy mustaches then) were allowed to swarm the field after games -- a relic of a lawless New York that was abruptly halted when Rudy Giuliani became mayor. It's a vanished time, and for me, one fraught with poignant and still-unsettling memories.

People who aren't from New York have trouble grasping what Steinbrenner's Yankees meant to New Yorkers in the 1970s. The team had very little in common with today's high-priced mega-stars. They were playing at a time when the city's very survival seemed in doubt. They were a scrappier ball club that seemed to embody the embattled city of that moment. As hard as it is to believe, they seemed, at least to me as a child, like a team of underdogs.

The Yankees' victories in the late 1970s provided a huge lift to a city that was reeling from violence, blackouts, and the Son of Sam murders. New Yorkers desperately needed a win, and Steinbrenner's team gave it to them, in thrilling fashion.

The Yankees also perfectly embodied that historical moment in another way. Steinbrenner, of course, will be remembered for his controversial decision to bring aboard Reggie Jackson. Few remember this now, but the resultant squabbles between Jackson and his boss, the tough, wirey manager Billy Martin, perfectly captured the wrenching demographic changes then underway in New York. Martin's rage at Jackson's strutting and showboating seemed to capture the disorientation that many aging white New Yorkers felt as the city -- and the world -- shifted beneath their feet.

The sight of Jackson and Martin hugging after Jackson hit all those World Series home runs made you think that everything was going to be okay, that the city's broader tensions -- ones echoed in other cities across the country -- would be magically resolved.

The old Yankee Stadium that Steinbrenner presided over for decades was the site of some of the greatest moments in baseball history the 20th Century had to offer. And it was pure magic. It was a rough place that seemed to embody a tougher time, and the children with their fathers in the seats gave it a timeless feeling that I've never experienced at any other ballpark.

Along those lines, a quick personal memory.

I remember going to a game with my father, who passed away earlier this decade, in the late 1970s. In those days you could wander around the stadium freely, and we moved down to the field-level seats (we generally opted for the cheaper upper deck). Hoping to catch a foul ball, I wandered alone with my glove down to the wall separating the front-row seats from the field.

A batter lifted a foul pop-up over my head and two dozen rows back into the crowd. As I later learned, the ball happened to land near where my father was waiting for me. After quite a scuffle he was able to come up with the ball. He was roughed up pretty badly, but he was thrilled to be able to give me that ball. We subsequently waited outside the stadium and managed to get it autographed by at least a dozen players on that great Yankee team.

Of course, once I got home I couldn't resist playing with the ball on the concrete streets, and soon enough, the ball's cover, with all those priceless signatures, was destroyed. My father shook his head as if to say, "Do you have any idea how much that ball would have been worth some day?" I didn't have any idea. Now I do.

At the time, of course, I didn't have any idea how much I'd later value the experience of having been a child in Yankee Stadium with my father. Nor did I have any idea that those times would pass as surely as those signatures got scuffed off the ball. For a brief moment, Steinbrenner's passing has brought it all back, and I'm grateful for that.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 13, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Comments

Beautiful, Greg. I can't help but remember the many Angels/Yankees games I enjoyed with my father.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 13, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey Greg, this is so nice. I have many similar memories of going to games at Yankee Stadium with my father. I also have one priceless memory of meeting George Steinbrenner. It was 1978, I was but a lad, it was spring training in Florida. I remember Reggie Jackson, Luis Tiant (smoking a huge Cuban cigar), Willie Randolph, etc. But the one memory that really sticks with me is meeting Steinbrenner, who took the time to sign my autograph book, "To Ethan, A future Yankee". I still have the book, but I'll never forget the inscription. George was loved and hated, but despite the drama (especially in the 70s and 80s) I think he was a true class act and above all, maybe most importantly, a WINNER. And that sentiment has stuck with me over the years and contributed in no small way to my own successes. Go Yankees! And in honor of George and Bob Sheppard, the inimitable Yankee Stadium announcer who also just died at the age of 99: "Now batting... Number 12... Alvaro Espinoza"

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that, Greg.

The pre-Giuliani NYC, warts and all, is missed. I'll never go to Times Square again if I can help it.

My dad died young (42) and just after I fled the rural midwest for NYC to get away from all the stuff I couldn't deal with. For a month I just wandered the city and I can't tell you how much it helped. It's the first time I'd ever been there (I was 19) and the beautiful, rough anonymity of it all took me in and left me alone all at the same time. That was 1987, and it was still a city that had lots of problems. It's a gentler place now, but I'm not sure it has as much character.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 13, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Very nice Greg, memories to cherish. I have similar stories with my Dad, going to games first at Dodger Stadium, which was a pretty wild place in the 60's, and then later to watch the Angels. Sandy Kofax comes immediately to my mind. But the best was having my dad's undivided attention, we only had two seats, and I was usually the one who wanted to go. I love baseball.

Posted by: lmsinca | July 13, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Nicely written, Greg. You never know the value of things until you destroy them. KnowhatImean ? :)

Posted by: amkeew | July 13, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"It's a gentler place now, but I'm not sure it has as much character."

It has almost none of the character. NYC is clearly a city in decline. Giuliani and Bloomberg have sold the city out to the big developers and chain stores and that has taken a dramatic toll on life in the Big Apple. I won't go on and on about it, but it is truly sad what has become of New York City.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

All, thanks so much for sharing your memories. There's nothing like baseball, is there?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 13, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the memories, Greg.

I'm a Yankee fan who couldn't stand Steinbrenner back then, but I mellowed as he did.

I miss a lot about the old NYC. Especially the fact that a father could take his child to a game and afford it. As a young, broke worker in NY, I could afford games. Or I could nab tickets, you didn't have to be a big shot. Then around the playoffs, "the suits" would take over. Now it's all "suits," all the time. Bummer.

One exception. A few years ago we (my husband, two teenage sons and I) went to a game during our April school vacation. It was a gorgeous night, and we got tickets for $5 each. Next to the last row in the far right field upper deck.

Rapper dudes to the immediate right of us, Dominican families in front, 60+ year old Bronx Irish couples to the left, Hasidic yeshiva kids in front of them. Views up Jerome Avenue and to the GWB when you looked up. A real eye-opener and a joyful experience for my sheltered Maine kids. They fell even more in love with New York that night.

Posted by: KathleenHusseininMaine | July 13, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I used to have a baseball signed by Ripkin Sr. And Jr, Murray and a couple other all-stars, MVP'ers and now hall of famers from the Oriols back in the 80's that suffered a similar fate.

:(

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 13, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

This is only slightly O/T, but for those interested in NYC history, further back than this conversation but still relevant to it, please do yourself a BIG favor and read Luc Sante's book Low Life. A perfect summer read if you like history.

And yeah, agreed Ethan. I know how naive it sounds, but I miss the edginess of the lower east side and of parts of the Village. It's safer now, but that's the problem: safe also leads to dull. And yes, I have run through parts of alphabet city before scared shitless.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 13, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Did my EE masters in Polytech Univ in 83-85. Stayed almost next to B'kyln bridge. Had some great jewish friends who took in a ferriner and showed NYC. But never been to a ball game. No money. No time. Koch was the mayor. Went for some campaigning work for Mondale along with those jewish friends. Had a great time. Hated raygun even then.

Posted by: amkeew | July 13, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

All this reminds me of what a suck-wad cesspool NYC was in the 70s. It still is, but in a totally different (more safe) way.

Posted by: ShovelPlease | July 13, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"It's safer now, but that's the problem: safe also leads to dull."

Dull and EMPTY! The culture in NYC is dead or dying. Music clubs, restaurants, boutique stores... Nobody can afford the rent. I have had literally half a dozen of my favorite restaurants close in the last few months, most of which had been there 10 years or more.

But hey, there's plenty of brand new office space and plenty of brand new luxury apartments for sale/rent at top dollar (even though they are made with the cheapest materials). They just sit empty waiting for rich foreigners to come and snap them up. It's beyond sad. I'm obviously bitter about it. But I promised not to go on and on about it, so I'll stop here! Go Yankees (you're just about all we NYers have left)!

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Sweet, Greg. (Sports Illustrated might come calling.) New Jersey bred here.

"The sight of Jackson and Martin hugging after Jackson hit all those World Series home runs made you think that everything was going to be okay, that the city's broader tensions -- ones echoed in other cities across the country -- would be magically resolved."

I was AT that game! My friend got bonked on the head by a cop's nightstick when we tried to jump onto the field from the bleachers at game's end. Ah, good times! (At least it wasn't MY head.) Also at Dave Righetti's July 4th No-Hitter against the Red Sox. Hottest baseball game I've ever attended.

BG: I miss the pre-Giuliani NYC, too. Times Square is like Disneyland now. I guess Brooklyn is the new Manhattan, though I haven't been recently.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 13, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

BG: Just put Sante's book in my Amazon cart. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 13, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne -- no kidding. that's amazing. I was at one of the world series games in either 1977 or 1978 but I can't for the life of me remember which.

But that one -- you'll never be forgetting that.

and all, I agree that there's a lot to miss about that vanished New York...

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 13, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

We owe all this to Ronald Reagan

On his penultimate day in office, Reagan pardoned George Steinbrenner of his felony conspiracy conviction. GS had pled guilty to making illegal corporate campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. I believe one of the counts charged him with extorting contributions from his subordinates at American Ship Building.

Here are GS's application for clemency and RR's pardon:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/george1.html

Without Reagan's pardon, MLB would never have taken GS back.

Posted by: jzap | July 13, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Brooklyn is really great, but it's more about neighborhood than complex urban space. It reminds me more of Chicago than Manhattan ever did. Did a house-sit in Fort Greene in the early part of this decade and fell in love with that 'hood.

Anyone ever spend time at the no-longer-extant Cafe Lebowitz on Elizabeth St?

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 13, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I will never forget the night of the 3 Reggie homers. I was living in exile from NJ, out in San Diego. I went out to The Pennant bar in Mission Beach, which was famous for cheap dinners--25 CENTS bought you spaghetti and meatballs, salad and bread.

For some reason, just south of Dodgers country, it was packed with Yankee fans, screaming and jumping up and down. What a blast.

Posted by: KathleenHusseininMaine | July 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

JZAP --- GS. George Steinbrenner. Greg Sargent. Heh.

Posted by: KathleenHusseininMaine | July 13, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

If they don't print this on the Washpost oped page tomorrow, Fred Hiatt must be a Bosox fan. Nicely written, Mr. Sargent. I couldn't stand Steinbrenner back in the day (who fires Yogi six games into the season?), but his passing is bringing back a lot of fond memories of a New York and 'Bronx Zoo' Yankee squads now long gone. I'll take Nettles over a-roid anyday.

Posted by: MMinMd | July 13, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in NYC in the 70s and 80s, and went to the Stadium every year as a kid. Always took the subway, (almost) always sat in the upper deck. I still think Rizzuto and White on WPIX is the only way to watch a game.

But I'm sorry, with all due respect to the other posters, but if you want to return to the New York of those years you're flipping insane. Times Square is like Disneyland? What do you think it was in the 30s and 40s? How long do you think restaurants and stores and cultural institutions used to last? Do we bring back Delmonico's, or the first MSG, or maybe the els that ran up the East Side? And are you going to volunteer to play the role of the drug addict, or the prostitute, or the mugging victim? Or are they just background characters in your little vignette where you go home safe and sound every night?

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 13, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Boston fan here, come to praise the fallen enemy.

And I mean to praise sincerely. I don't think any single human being caused my hometown more frustration for a longer period than Steinbrenner. It's a testament to his commitment to winning at all costs.

Of course, for us the upside came in 2004. Can't feel like giant-killers if there aren't any real giants to kill. Steinbrenner built the biggest giant of my lifetime, and to that I tip my cap.

Posted by: scarpy | July 13, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

scarpy -- to me, the key to that Bosox win was that it came after the 2003 Yankee comeback in game seven of the playoffs.

That was one of the most miraculous comebacks ever, and Boston picked themselves up and replied a year later with a comeback performance that, to my mind, will never be duplicated in baseball history.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 13, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

simpleton1: I hear ya. My sister lives in Manhattan and she thinks what Giuliani did was great. And maybe it was. But I still miss the funk. A middle ground, perhaps?

Posted by: wbgonne | July 13, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Nice memories.

But the fact is King George did as much to ruin the sport as he did to re-establish the Yankee franchise. Money rules, and that means most teams cannot compete. It also means teams routinely build palatial stadiums with luxury boxes and jack up ticket prices beyond the reach of the average family. In that context, all the comments about the corporatization of NYC here are fairly ironic. RIP George, but I hope MLB survives your reign.

Posted by: bodypolitic1 | July 13, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Greg: The most amazing thing is that I wasn't even a Yankees fan at the time. I was a Mets fan. Shea Stadium was awful, a monstrosity directly in the flight path of the airports. I didn't go to all that many Yankees games but I had really good luck when I did.

That was then. Now:

GO RED SOX!

Posted by: wbgonne | July 13, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

All, check this out, this proves that GOP obstructionism is working for Republicans and hurting Dems politically:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/07/the_gop_strategy_of_obstructio.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 13, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"if you want to return to the New York of those years you're flipping insane"

"With all due respect," "simpleton" your arguments are totally bogus. NYC has lost a good deal of its authentic flair and originality. Once the crime wave of the 70s and 80s ebbed, there was an opportunity to re-develop the city into a truly people-driven city in the late '90s, early '00s, but that was abandoned by Giuliani as he proceeded to sell out the city to the highest bidder aka corporations and chain stores instead of mom and pop. Bloomberg only made things worse. But by all means, enjoy your box stores and your luxury high-rises and all the richness of character they bring you.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

A bit of selective memory is on display here. George did a NYC a tremendous service with the 1976-81 Yankees, but after that, he impeded the Yanks rather than helped, overpaying for mercenary players and trading away prospects for players past their prime. If it wasn't for George's suspension, players like Derek Jeter and M. Rivera would never have worn pinstripes. There were no Series appearences for the Yankees between 1981 and 1996. Joe Torre's hiring was the other peice of the puzzle in bringing back the Yankees to prominence. George getting pardoned? Nothing to do with their renaissance!

Posted by: howiehunt | July 13, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Nice story Greg. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: SDJeff | July 13, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Simpleton, I forgot there are no prostitutes or homeless people or mugging victims in NYC now.

Oh, that's right, there are, and plenty, but now at least "order" and similarity, and mediocrity, help us to forget that stuff.

That's your America right there, buddy: out of sight, out of mind.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 13, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

RIP Mr. Steinbrenner, and thanks for a great run.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | July 13, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

A fan since I attended my first game with my Dad in 1957. We admired The Boss from day one. His vision and sometimes frenetic behavior drove the Yanks. He will be missed.
Having lost my dad several years ago-I feel as if I've lost another part of him today with the news of Mr Steinbrenner's passing. RIP Boss.

Posted by: alyd69 | July 13, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Maybe New Yorkers and Yankees fans who are mourning his death and crowing about his greatness could meet in the city parks in the Bronx near the New Yankee Stadium....

Ohhhh, that's right - those parks are GONE. Destroyed to build the NYS, with the promise of rebuilding the parks within a year of NYS opening.

http://nycitynewsservice.com/2009/05/05/kids-shut-out-at-home-by-yanks/

You see, they would take the land where the old Yankees stadium stood and turn it into parkland, with {gasp} baseball diamonds for kids to play on, fields for them to run in, etc. But it seems the Yankees and city reneged on that promise.

But not to worry, Steinbrenner's Team has a shiny new field to play on, and I am sure there are plenty of practice fields for the team... Just because the area residents who were promised replacement parks have diddly squat, that is nothing to worry about.

If Steinbrenner was THAT good of a guy, he would have made sure the area residents were taken care of. Was Steinbrenner the only actor in this farce? Of course not - but he was one of a few that could have ensured that the right things were done. He failed.

RIP if you can, George.

Posted by: Tom_Woolf | July 13, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

BG, 100% correct.

And btw, I love Brooklyn. It has much of what I used to like about Manhattan. Charm, character, culture. Let's enjoy it while it lasts and before the Bloomberg pet project Atlantic Yards destroys THAT too. Urghhh.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Um, Ethan2010, please re-read what you wrote above:

"I have had literally half a dozen of my favorite restaurants close in the last few months, most of which had been there 10 years or more."

Think just for a minute about the absurdity of that statement in light of the argument you are trying to make.

And BGinCHI, I'm honestly not sure what your point is. By any statistical measure, NYC is much safer now than it was in the 1970s. That applies for everyone. I don't want to return to the "good old days" when they weren't so good for a lot of people.

Other posters are right -- we can have a middle ground. Considering how many thousands of people move into New York every year, and how many thousands of other people move out, it's a little strange to complain that the city bears some resemblance to other places.

Oh, and howiehunt @ 1:07pm is dead on about Steinbrenner. Anybody who lived through the Mike Pagliarulo, Ed Whitson and Andy Hawkins eras knows Steinbrenner was definitely a mixed bag.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 13, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

""I have had literally half a dozen of my favorite restaurants close in the last few months, most of which had been there 10 years or more."

Umm, yeah. That's what happened. Why is my "argument" (which was just a series of facts) "absurd"? Giuliani and Bloomberg gave carte blanche to big developers in their pathetic attempt to "clean up" the city. That resulted in real estate going through the roof, driving out everyone but corporate chains. That is what happened. It is not an "argument" it is a fact.

"Anybody who lived through the Mike Pagliarulo, Ed Whitson and Andy Hawkins eras knows Steinbrenner was definitely a mixed bag

Yeah. Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson. Damn you Steinbrenner! There were a few really bad trades and some tough breaks, but they just didn't get it done on the field.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The best headline I ever saw was "Hell Freezes Over" on the back page of the NY Daily News when the BoSox completed their comeback against the Yanks in 04. Having said that just about everybody outside of NY hates the Yankees and always has. But to Steinbrenner's credit he rebuilt the Yankees into a team worthy of our disaffection even if it has distorted baseball to the point where many teams just aren't competitive. I was disgusted when the Yankees signed Mussina, Weaver and Clemens, cherry picking the best starters from their division rivals. But the opposite of love isn't hate, it's disinterest. It's always better to beat the team that spends the most money, and a majority of the time somebody does. That's what made the Yankees and Steinbrenner interesting.

Posted by: markg8 | July 13, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Well actually, Ethan2010, you didn't just state a series of facts. You repeatedly asserted that NYC's culture has disappeared, that the city is safer but duller, and that the character that pervaded the city in past decades no longer exists (at least in Manhattan), thanks to Giuliani and Bloomberg. Those are opinions, not facts.

And then you stated, as an example, that many of your favorite restaurants have recently had to close due to the new real estate environment. Restaurants that opened 10 years ago, at the end of the Giuliani Administration. In other words, the very sources of culture and character that you miss were themselves the stores that replaced what was actually present in the 1980s and 1990s. None of those restaurants whose passing you lament were around back when you say the city was a better place to be. There were probably people ten years ago saying the same thing about your restaurants that you now say about what has replaced them.

And that's the more nuanced view that you completely miss. You're like the guy who moves to a new subdivision on the edge of suburbia, only to complain that the rural landscape is disappearing. You keep demanding that there was this snapshot in time of New York that has to be preserved, all the while missing the point that New York has always been -- and will always be -- changing. Sure some of Manhattan's edginess has moved to Brooklyn. But past generations moved to Harlem, or to the Village, or to the Upper West Side, or wherever. Sure big developers have gone on a rampage, but how do you think Park Avenue got the way it is? Or Fifth? Who do you think built all those brownstones that run up the avenues for miles on end?

Get over yourself and stop thinking that the city has fundamentally changed. It hasn't.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 13, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

His lasting legacy will be the city's debt for the new ballpark. More than $1 billion!

The Red Sox on the other hand, they don't take a penny from the city, and they foster a thriving neighborhood.

We CAN thank George Steinbrenner for providing the motivating force for the Red Sox, without him the Red Sox would just be another sleepy team.

Posted by: frantaylor | July 13, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Think what you will about George Steinbrenner, but anyone who expresses nostalgia for the New York City of the mid-1970s has a very selective memory.

There was a pervasive sense of decay, of irreversible decline. It was said over and over that the city was ungovernable, that everyone was moving to the suburbs. Howard Cosell famously intoned "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning," and the Daily News reported "Ford to NY: Drop Dead." Indeed, Steinbrenner, more than once, threatened to move the Yankees to New Jersey unless he was given a new ballpark. It may sound like an empty threat now, but then it did not.

Filtered through the haze of nostalgia, decay may look like funkiness, crime like character. But they were no such thing. It was a depressing, discouraging, frightening place to be. It is a much better place now, and while I wish we still had the old Stadium -- in its original form, the way Chicago still has Wrigley Field -- New York is an infinitely better place now than it was then.

Posted by: Meridian1 | July 13, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

"Restaurants that opened 10 years ago, at the end of the Giuliani Administration"

One was 10 years old. Another 25 years old. Another 45 old. Mkay?

"You keep demanding that there was this snapshot in time of New York that has to be preserved, all the while missing the point that New York has always been -- and will always be -- changing"

Actually, that's not AT ALL what I said. Do you have a hard time reading English?

I said this city had a chance in the '90s boom time to really convert the city from a total mess (70s-80s) to a real people-driven city with open space, better transit options, and a more sustainable and urban environment-friendly approach.

Giuliani and Bloomberg have done everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen. Bloomberg's GreeNYC plan is estimated to actually have a NEGATIVE environmental effect, and that doesn't include the development of so many luxury high-rise complexes in Manhattan nor does it include massive complexes like Atlantic Yards.

"Park Avenue got the way it is? Or Fifth? Who do you think built all those brownstones that run up the avenues for miles on end?"

The buildings on Park Ave and 5th Ave have some character and legit commercial value. Ditto the brownstones (residential urban living at its finest). This is clearly NOT what I am complaining about. What I am talking about is luxury high-rises in the Lower East Side. The "Midtownization" of all of lower Manhattan. The suburbification or homogenization of Manhattan as a whole, turning what once was a unique urban landscape into one gigantic, putrid MALL.

So, simpleton, ease up on the harsh personal attacks and wake the heck up. Or don't, I could honestly care less.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 13, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

There'd be no good without evil. Thanks George.

Ok, so that's a bit sarcastic but I lived through the post dynasty Yankees of Linz, Michaels, Clark, Kekich .. and he delivered. You can rationalize it all you want but you watch because you want to. It's all entertainment.

Posted by: tslats | July 13, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't mean for this to be a tit-for-tat, Ethan2010, since you and I probably agree more than you realize. But don't revise your whole theory just because somebody's pushed you a little. You didn't just make some statement about the late 1990s. You also made a point of agreeing "100%" with the BGinCHI guy who was longing nostalgically for the times when hookers and muggers were out on the streets. You complained about NYC losing culture, becoming bland, and being overgrown with developers and high-rises and the like. All the while forgetting that New York's always been like that. Saying there's no problem with real estate developers putting up apartment buildings and brownstones on either side of Central Park, while complaining about real estate developers putting up apartment buildings on the Lower East Side, is incoherent. I just don't think you've thought through your argument very well. Don't take it personally.

Maybe I'll see you one of these days at a Nets game at Atlantic Yards. It's getting built, you know.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 13, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Love him or hate him, King George is a baseball icon. The game will be a little less interesting without him. RIP George.

Posted by: EKruse | July 13, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Let me say, first of all, that I love New York. And the Yankees are okay, too, but they're not my home team. I didn't take my kid to Yankee games and show him how to score a game, I took him to Expos games, may they be mourned. And I don't want to wish evil on a man who has so recently died. I know how history and baseball get so closely intertwined with our emotional lives, too. I will always remember the nun who gave us kids permission to listen to the Yankees-Dodgers World Series in 1955.

But Steinbrenner was quite bad for baseball, and so was the financial ascendancy of the Yankees. Coming from Montreal, I know all about dynasties. It's a lot of fun to live there, but not so much fun for the others. And the Montreal dynasty had an awful lot to do with the financial support of Molson, and the way that General Manager Sam Pollock figured out a way to fix the draft so we got the best players.

Posted by: jimhass | July 13, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Nice reminiscence, Greg. I, too, was a huge Yankee fan around the same time, when I was growing up in northern NJ. I was thrilled by their success, but oddly enough my fondest memories are of the "mediocre years," 1972-75, when they seemed to be permanently ensconced in 4th place. Horace Clarke, Ron Bloomberg, Bobby Murcer, Gene Michael, Jim Ray Hart, Roy White, Ralph Houk, et al. Watching uneventful games on quiet summer afternoons on a dusty TV screen (or listening on a small radio) in a quiet suburb, where you lose as often as you win, and nothing substantial seems to be at stake -- that to me is real baseball magic. Favorite moment -- Horace Clarke hitting 15 foul balls in a row. He then hit a homer, but how could that compare to 15 foul balls? --Mark in DC

Posted by: mtarallo | July 13, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I for one, will shed no tears for George Steinbrunner.
How much did his company get from the Feds in terms of tax breaks (corporate welfare).
How much did the new Yankee Stadium get from the City in terms of Corporate Welfare?
The fact is, pro sports are the biggest examples of Corporate Welfare in the US.
Just read "Baseball Billions."
Enough said!

Posted by: sfmaster | July 13, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Vote Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame already. Let George get buried and then get Pete in there. RIP George but you wouldn't deal with steroids but held strong on Pete. RIP.

Posted by: OMGWTF | July 13, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Rush Limbaugh's Steinbrenner Eulogy: 'That Cracker Made A Lot Of African-Americans Millionaires'

and... "that cracker made a lot of African-Americans millionaires," and, "at the same time, he fired a lot of white guys."

Today's conservatives: let no man's death not serve as an excuse to show your bigotry.

Posted by: losthorizon10 | July 13, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

If anyone is still reading (after all the back-and-forth messages)... and if you appreciate Mr. Sargent's piece - whether you agree or not - I commend to your attention the TV mini-series (shown on ESPN; I hope they repeat it) "The Bronx Is Burning", and the Jonathan Mahler book from whence it came.

Posted by: nan_lynn | July 13, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

It's a gentler place now, but I'm not sure it has as much character."

It has almost none of the character. NYC is clearly a city in decline. Giuliani and Bloomberg have sold the city out to the big developers and chain stores and that has taken a dramatic toll on life in the Big Apple. I won't go on and on about it, but it is truly sad what has become of New York City.

Yeah, we all long for those days when NYC was like LA, Detroit, Wash DC or Chicago is now...Right doooushbag, Hopetard a$$wipe.

Posted by: 65apr | July 13, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I also think the side talk on how the city is more boring is nonsense. Ask a kid anywhere from 14 to 25 how much fun they're having in town. Everyone older is always looking at the world through rose colored glasses. But, if I have to trade muggings, filth and a crack epidemic for a little dose of Disney, I'll gladly take the medicine.

As to frantaylor - the person ranting about the city putting out a billion for the new stadium - wrong-o. The stadium itself is privately financed, although the parking lot has city-backed municipal bonds, a pretty common practice. The big thing the city did pay for is the relocation and improvement of the parks the stadium displaced. But the parks on River Ave were begging for a makeover anyway.

Posted by: rdl114 | July 14, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

PS - I grew up here in the 50s and 60s... my parents were saying the same thing about how they wished I could have gotten to see New York when it was "really something."

Posted by: rdl114 | July 14, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

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