George Steinbrenner III, the longtime owner of the New York Yankees and in past years an owner of Standardbreds, died Tuesday morning in Tampa, Fla, at age 80.
Steinbrenner, a native of Cleveland, owned Breeders Crown winners Personal Banner (who defeated Moni Maker at Vernon Downs) and Pacific. He also owned Incredible Finale, the first Illinois-bred to win $1 million, and his family shares ownership of Balmoral Park.
Steinbrenner often attended the fall Tattersalls Yearling Sale, but was known for being as tough as a horse owner as he was as a baseball team owner. For example, when Personal Banner didn’t step up and win big races early, Steinbrenner moved her from trainer Bill Gallagher to the Ron Gurfein Stable. When the filly still didn’t respond, she was sent back to Gallagher and immediately beat Horse of the Year contender and Hambletonian winner Continentalvictory in the Bluegrass Stakes, then beat Act Of Grace in the Kentucky Filly Futurity.
Other horses Steinbrenner campaigned included Orange Sovereign, Rod's Deal and TK's Skipper, and he also bred 1999 Hambletonian Oaks winner Oolong in partnership with Castleton Farm.
Steinbrenner’s father and his uncle, Mark Zettelmeyer, introduced him to harness racing when he was just a boy. In the 1980s he participated in the George Plimpton Celebrity Driving Championship at The Red Mile, and during the years when the Yankees had spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he often attended the races at Pompano Park, spending time with his friend Allen Finkelson.
Educated at Culver Military Academy and Williams College, Steinbrenner joined the Air Force after college and was stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base, just a two-minute drive from Scioto Downs. He coached while in service and later enrolled at Ohio State University to earn a master’s degree in physical education. He subsequently held jobs at Northwestern and Purdue universities before his father lured him back to Cleveland to enter the family marine shipping business.
Steinbrenner established himself as a successful businessman, noted philanthropist and community leader in Cleveland before purchasing the New York Yankees in 1973. His rise to prominence as the Yankees' principal owner, and his exploits in the media spotlight are well-documented.