The Boss never changed his persona or guise — not in front of his administration, his coaches, or even his exalted Core Four.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada spoke of the late George Steinbrenner recently in The Players’ Tribune, admitting that their relationships with the Yankees owner was instilled with fear, regardless of their early success in the majors twenty years ago.
“We had fun, but that didn’t mean we weren’t always on our toes,” Jeter said. “We were all scared to death of the Boss. Because Mr. Steinbrenner would get rid of you. No hesitation. If you weren’t up to his standard, you could be traded. We all knew that. I had a good relationship with the Boss, but I think it’s fair to say that he ruled by fear. It was a tactic he used to get the most out of us.”
“Everyone was scared of him,” Pettitte added.
While the pressure mounted on the rookies in New York, life in the farm system was even more nerve-racking, especially for Rivera when the Boss was in attendance.
“Forget about the majors, when you were in the minor leagues, Steinbrenner was even more scary,” the all-time saves leader added. “He’d walk around the locker room and just… look at people. He’d just look at us, make sure that we were up to code.”
Steinbrenner’s mantra was “winning first” — two simple words that were imprinted in a players’ brain from the get-go. But the mission statement carried strict orders and expectations, which fostered a boot camp atmosphere for the newly drafted men.
“The discipline was intense,” Posada claimed. “You could only wear one chain. You had to be clean-shaven. No beards. No hair touching your uniform. Everything was measured and had to be perfect. He made it clear that Yankees look a certain way, and we were so young that it stuck with us. It kind of brainwashed us in the minor leagues.”
It was always tough love from Steinbrenner, no matter the circumstances, but if the tension was concealed and the production on the field was first-rate, success would overcome the fear.
“All we wanted to do was win. And the beauty was, whenever spring training came, we were ready to play,” Rivera said.
“None of us would ever show up out of shape. You might see other guys huffing and puking. But we were always ready.”