Believe me when I tell you I have tried to write this post over and over; again and again. I have failed every attempt to keep myself from digressing and straying way off course. George is that complicated for me. Almost anything you want to say about the man could very well be fair game. He's all of it; Good, Bad and Ugly.
I was 10 years old when I attended that 1976 ALCS Game 5 Chris Chambliss moment. As a native New Yorker and the right age range, I think I can safely say I've seen George's entire (just about) body of work.
I have good opinions about George. I also have bad opinions about George. In my previous attempts to post I kept delving into the minutia of Baseball. I kept clouding my judgement with my own stubborn ideals concerning the Game. That's why I failed miserably.
I would gladly debate anyone on his record. That's fun and that's Baseball. And that would be a hell of a debate indeed which is a testament to George's impact and complexity.
I might have given you very different opinions about George 10 years ago, 20 and 30 years ago. And it occurred to me none of the preconceived notions I have of the man have any relevance, much less importance to me now. As a matter of fact nothing regarding Baseball as it concerns George preoccupies my thoughts like the overwhelming sense that I lost one of my own. George is all I've ever known on the other side of town. But you see...it's not the Baseball. One of my own and being one of us has everything to do with being a New Yorker and nothing about Baseball.
The Mets fan in me has skewed thoughts about the owner across town. The New Yorker in me embraces with both arms the native Ohio'an and Tampa resident like he was "ONE of Us". He was. We gave him that cred years ago. He was one of those people OF the Town whom you always heard from, saw, read about and talked about.
The nick-names are known and aren't exclusive to our usage as silly as you can envision such a notion. My point is he existed here as the one name entity; George. There was no mistaking when the name George was mentioned who it was being spoken in reference to. There was only one George in this town; and it was that guy in the Bronx.
You know I'm a Mets fan and I have admitted to you I say I hate the Yanks more than I really do. That just comes with the territory. Another thing is I generally think public figures are pretty full of $hiite when they address the public. Somehow when George, say after winning a Series, says he's happy for the people of New York City, I have absolutely no reason to respond to such a comment. But I believe him. I genuinely believe he feels that. And like I said there's no reason for me to even address that.
But why do I then? Because everything bad you can say about him you can say bad about New York City back in the 70's. It was bad, violent, crime-ridden, dirty, dangerous (you get the picture...rent Warriors!) (anyway)....So was George. When the famed "BRONX was literally BURNING" on national TV during the World Series, when South Bronx became more dangerous than a Vietnamese jungle in 1973, when the city went dark in the Blackout of '77 for three days and turned the city into a looted, torn city, ripped apart to it's skivvies, GEORGE had every opportunity to run and turn his back on South Bronx, NYC and New York State. He threatened city officials here and there with a move to Jersey. He never meant it. I believe GEORGE had a tremendous sense of guilt hanging over his head concerning any movement of the Yankees away from 161 Street and River Ave.
This city was tough back then, and he got tough right with it. He set a model for business in a dark time and forced a standard of accountability and preached a stead-fastness; stay the course; stay tough and gut it out mentality when everyone was trying to flee the city as fast as they could pack their things into a moving truck.
GEORGE STAYED!! ~ Because he had more gumption and intestinal fortitude than the fleas who deserted this town like the dried up dog they called us. In those days after President Ford told NYC to drop dead, we almost did. But as close to death as this city came, George kept fighting, sometimes against Billy and Reggie or both, but he like no other fought like hell and fought for this city till his very end when so many turned their backs on us. He gave not only Yankee fans but all NY'ers SOMETHING when it seemed like everything was gone, dead or ruined in 1977. Just like when Detroit was burning down and the Tigers and Willie Horton and that big freakin Special D meant things had to get better ~ This could not be the norm could it? We can't let it can we? Baseball as much as anything help Detroit COOL-OUT for a sec back in '68. George is also a symbol of such a calamity of society and one who didn't turn his back. George ran towards the fire and loved it. Get in your time machine and ask anyone alive in the 70's and early 80's if such a thing as the New Yankee Stadium in all it's grandeur was possible in South Bronx EVER?...if you do not get laughed off or beat up first!
As far as happier days in NYC like the ones we currently enjoy, George is as much responsible for the over-all feel good as ANYONE ~ !
George may be many things to me as a Baseball fan and not all of them good. But as a MAN of this city I appreciated every friggin second he walked our city streets. Because! Because the guy had guts and that's what you needed here. Yankee Stadium lay center mass of every blight that comes with urban decay and ruin. George never blinked. George never flinched. George engaged in a game of chicken allied with the willing against everything wrong in this city back in the day....fought the long fight....and won.
That's why I have his back! Because he freakin stayed. The Dodgers thought things got bad in their neighborhood and eloped with the Giants because this town wasn't good enough for them anymore. Times changed. It wasn't the good old days anymore. Things got ten times worse for George in his neighborhood than things ever got in theirs. George had the Baseballs to stick it out in this town when so many chose to tuck theirs between their legs and scatter like roaches when the lights go on.
To hell with anything negative I think about him regarding Baseball. Be well my friend!