If George Steinbrenner is indeed resting in peace, that would be quite a contrast to how much of his life played out. Because it was hardly peaceful.
Mention Steinbrenner and you tend to think of words like brash, overbearing, belligerent, egotistical, quick-tempered, a win-at-all-costs mentality. This was a guy who fired and then rehired Billy Martin -- five times. He clashed with other owners. He ripped his own players. He was banned from baseball not once but twice.
But in the only encounter I ever had with The Boss, a completely different persona emerged.
Steinbrenner once was active in the U.S. Olympic Committee. He sat on the USOC board as a public sector member and served two terms as a vice president. He took those responsibilities to heart.
After a pitiful showing by the U.S. at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Steinbrenner chaired a commission that urged the USOC to refocus on winning medals and supporting athletes. The report is credited with spurring a major increase in the U.S. medal haul in succeeding years.
And Steinbrenner backed his words with his checkbook. He personally supported several athletes. In 1993, for example, he gave $10,000 to a 13-year-old skater whose family was struggling to come up with the money to fund her ambitions. Her name: Michelle Kwan.
So it was that Steinbrenner showed up in Des Moines in June of 1989, when the USOC's executive board met to choose the U.S. city that would bid for the 1998 Winter Games. After Salt Lake City was selected, several of us gathered around Steinbrenner to get his thoughts on the vote.
Someone had told me that I'd see a new side to Steinbrenner when he talked about the Olympics. That person was right. Steinbrenner was accommodating, good-natured, thoughtful and knowledgeable. Most of us in the group were "locals," yet he treated each question seriously and never acted like he was too big or important for us.
As I walked away to start writing, I'm thinking to myself, "That was George Steinbrenner? Wow."
But don't jump to any conclusions here. It wasn't enough to turn me into a Yankees fan.
Sorry, George. I respect what you did for the Olympic movement, but become a fan of your team?
Not this Indians fan. Not then. Not today. Not tomorrow.