Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Bill Madden: New Steinbrenner Bio and Hall of Fame Award

Bill Madden, long-time columnist for the New York Daily News, has had quite a Spring.  He has just released a biography on Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and was recently awarded the 61st annual J.G. Taylor Spink award by his colleagues — the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA).

The book is entitled:  Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball  (see excerpt below)

Through contacts with the family of Gabe Paul, an ex-partner of Steinbrenner, Madden was able to obtain a large number of audio tapes which Paul had left as a diary of sorts.  These tapes opened up some fascinating glimpses into Steinbrenner and the creation of Yankee dynasty. 

One of the episodes from the book tells the story how Steinbrenner, a Cleveland-based ship builder, came very close to purchasing the Indians before the deal fell through and how, almost by happenstance, he got an opportunity to purchase the Yankees. George famously stated at the press conference announcing the sale of the Yankees that he would be largely a hands-off owner.

Hear interview with Madden and former Yankee employee and Munson biographer Marty Appel

Madden recently won the 2010 J.G. Taylor Spink Award given annually by the Baseball Writers’ Assocationa of America (BWAA) “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”  Madden will be honored July 25th in Cooperstown, NY at the annual Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Madden was encouraged to read the New York dailies by his father and his writing was shaped by baseball writing immortals such as Damon Runyon, Red Smith and Dick Young. A New Jersey native, Madden attended the University of South Carolina on a track scholarship where he began his journalism career at The State, a Columbia S.C. newspaper.

His next job was with United Press International.  While at UPI, Madden worked his way to the baseball beat through his mentor Milton Richman, another Spink Award Winner.  Madden left UPI in 1978 to join the New York Daily News and has been covering the Yankees ever since. (Source: Memories and Dreams  National Baseball Hall of Fame Spring 2010 p.16)

Before the current Steinbrenner bio, Madden had penned:

  • Damned Yankees: A No-Holds-Barred Account of Life With “Boss” Steinbrenner (1991, with Moss Klein),
  • Zim – A Baseball Life (2001, with Don Zimmer),
  • Pride of October: What it Was to Be Young and a Yankee (2003), and
  • Bill Madden: My 25 Years Covering Baseball’s Heroes, Scoundrels, Triumphs and Tragedies (2004),

Excerpt from Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball

July 17 would turn out to be the nadir of the 1978 Yankee season and the beginning of the end for Billy Martin as George Steinbrenner’s manager.

The Yankees were playing the last night of a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals, having lost eight of the previous 10 games.

At Steinbrenner’s request, Reggie Jackson was hitting cleanup. After going hitless his first four times up, Jackson came to the plate in the 10th inning with the score tied 5–5, with one out and Thurman Munson on first. When he looked over at third-base coach Dick Howser, Jackson was dumbfounded to see that he was being given the sacrifice sign.

This was the first time all season he’d been asked to sacrifice, and when the first pitch from Royals reliever Al Hrabosky came in high and inside, he backed away.

Noticing that the Royals infielders had picked up the sacrifice sign and moved in, Martin called it off. Jackson, however, decided to bunt anyway.  He didn’t care that he was openly defying Martin’s orders.

Martin was not amazed – he was livid.

“How dare he defy me?” Martin screamed. “Who the f— does he think he is? I’m running this team. This time he’s gone too far. I’m finished with him!”

Several days later at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Martin confronted New York Times reporter Murray Chass to solicit his opinion as to whether Jackson’s defiance constituted conduct detrimental to the Yankees.

“I’m saying, ‘Shut up, Reggie Jackson, we’re winning without you,’ ” Martin said. “If he doesn’t shut his mouth, he won’t play, and I don’t care what George says.”

As Martin spoke, Chass was writing everything down in his notepad. And, lucky for the reporter, the Yankees’ charter flight to Kansas City was delayed, giving him time to dictate his new story back to his office from a pay phone. It also gave Martin more time to further drown his anger in drink.

A half hour later, Chass was waiting at a newsstand with New York Post reporter Henry Hecht when Martin approached him.

“Did you get all that in the paper?” Martin asked.

When Chass assured him he had, Martin smiled with satisfaction. But he was not through whining about Jackson. As the three of them walked to the gate where the Yankees’ plane was boarding, Martin, his eyes reddening, continued his diatribe.

Read the rest of the excerpt here…

Video of Bill Madden talking about the book



Kirkus Book Review

Veteran New York Daily News sportswriter Madden (Pride of October: What It Was to Be Young and a Yankee, 2004, etc.) examines George Steinbrenner, irascible owner of the New York Yankees. Venal and vituperative, generous and loyal, no owner dominated both his team and the headlines as Steinbrenner did. When he bought the Yankees for less than $10 million in 1972-the team is now worth more than $1 billion-he said, “I’ve got a ship company to run. I won’t have much time for baseball.” However, for the next 30 years he proceeded to micromanage the team in ways no owner ever had or, probably, ever will-from keeping track of players’ hair length to ensuring no trash bags were littering Yankee Stadium. Most importantly, riding the wave of free agency, in which players would go to the highest bidder, usually Steinbrenner, he was able to return the Yankees to greatness, winning seven World Series titles between 1977 and 2009. But success came at a price for his employees. Public humiliation was common, and no general manager or manager could know from one day to the next whether or not he would still have a job. Born in 1930, the son of a demanding father he could never please, Steinbrenner had always been drawn to sports, even coaching college football until called to run the family shipping business, which he did with great success. Madden speculates that his bullying manner, though he was capable of great personal kindness, grew from an unrequited desire to impress his father. Whatever the case, the author covers the soap-opera tales of Steinbrenner’s relationship with superstar players like Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, and with a revolving door of managers, including the troubled Billy Martin, whom Steinbrenner would hire and fire five times. Old age and illness finally removed Steinbrenner from the Yankees’ center stage, and with that an era ended. Having covered the Yankees for 30 years, and with access to previously unavailable material, Madden provides a definitive and captivating biography of “The Boss.”


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  1. […] 2010 ceremony,  Jon Miller will be awarded the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence and Bill Madden will receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for journalists.  In addition, musician John Fogarty will […]

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