ANAHEIM, Calif. -- He was the Babe Ruth of owners, the lion of summer, the scourge of anybody who dared step in his path when the New York Yankees were on the move.
Rival teams, fellow owners, free agents ... nobody had a chance when Steinbrenner was in full howl and packing that fat wallet.
All good things come to an end, but you could be forgiven if you figured Steinbrenner would own the Yankees forever, even in light of the health failures that caused him to recede into the background over the past few years and turn day-to-day operations over to his sons.
Ding, dong, The Boss is dead.
But imagining the Yankees without Steinbrenner is like picturing the Yankees without a baseball.
He was Yankee Stadium, the World Series and the Fourth of July all rolled into one blustering, colorful, maddening package. Fact is, he was born on the Fourth of July, which is just about perfect, and he died on the morning of the All-Star Game, which is among the top few most fitting dates for his passing, trailing, maybe, only the day after another Yankees world title.
He loved his country and he loved his Yankees as much as anything in life, sometimes to his credit (seven World Series titles won during his ownership) and sometimes to his detriment (in 1974, he pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign).
To those baseball fans who hated him, I would only ask this:
If you could have, would you have traded the owner of your club for an in-his-prime Steinbrenner if, with the package, came Steinbrenner's same zeal to win and gusto to make the hometown fans proud?
Of course you would have. No questions asked.
He was quintessentially American, an icon, a baseball all-timer and, as he would want to be remembered I'm sure, a true Yankee.