I can imagine how the phones are ringing off their hooks in the Yankees office after George Steinbrenner’s passing, because here in Baltimore our house phone and Ken’s cell haven’t stopped jingling yet.
Radio stations that typically call Ken during the baseball season for interviews about the game in general, double their calls when any big news breaks.
This week they want Ken’s reaction and thoughts on Mr. Steinbrenner.
I can tell my husband feels sad and melancholy. He happened to be golfing during the All-Star break when he heard the news. Because his cell phone sounded off repeatedly on the links, he stopped after nine holes to return home, handle the calls and silently process the news.
It didn’t feel proper to continue the golf round while the Steinbrenner family grieved, along with Yankees fans everywhere.
“Mr. Steinbrenner was always good to me,” said Ken. “This is not a good week for the Yankees and their fans. We had just learned about Bob Sheppard a few days before.”
Fourteen years ago, Mr. Steinbrenner had the final say whether to hire Ken. In Steinbrenner’s Tampa office before spring training at then Legends Field, Ken and two MSG executives met with the Yankees owner.
“I don’t think our fans are going to like you,” Ken recalled Mr. Steinbrenner’s comment.
“How come?” asked Ken.
“I can’t recall all the bad things you used to do to us,” said Mr. Steinbrenner about Ken as a Baltimore Orioles right-fielder and designated hitter.
“With all due respect, Mr. Steinbrenner,” Ken responded. “I was just doing my job.”
“Well, you did it very well.”
After Ken left Tampa, he was unsure he would be offered a seat in the booth to broadcast for the Yankees. Yet the next day he received an affirmative phone call.
“I appreciate the opportunity – and every single minute I’ve been there,” Ken said. “Mr. Steinbrenner said I could work for his team even though I never played for the Yankees … probably because I am from New York.”
Ken feels grateful that even after The YES Network was established nine years ago, Steinbrenner kept him around. Over the years he hasn’t encountered the boss often because Steinbrenner was usually in Tampa. (I have never met the man.)
“I guess he liked what he heard on TV,” said Ken. “If he had had a problem with our broadcasts, I’m sure we would have heard.”
About Mr. Steinbrenner as a team owner, he said, “I have a lot of respect for the way he built the Yankees into a championship franchise. When he bought the team in 1973 they weren’t very good.”
I would venture to guess that the eight All-Star Yankees played their hearts out during the All Star game in honor of an all-star owner. It was suitable that his team was so well represented by more players than any other and fitting that he chose All-Star game day to find his way to heaven.
Rest in peace
to watch Ken’s conversation with Michael Kay and Jack Curry.)