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Port Chester Yankee Fans Reminisce Over Heyday of The Boss

As George Steinbrenner is mourned, local Yankee fans relate baseball memories that are indelibly linked to the era of 'The Boss.'

Forgive young Yankee fans if they don't remember the George Steinbrenner of old.

Before he went into seclusion, before his statements were made through a spokesman and before his power was relinquished to his sons, Steinbrenner was the ultimate micro-manager. He was a man who cared deeply about his team, and was prone to angry outbursts -- with his players often on the receiving end -- as he reached deep into his pockets to outfit New York's most beloved baseball team with dynastic ambitions.

To fans like Mike Campbell of Port Chester, it's that Steinbrenner -- the one who called Hideki Irabu a "fat toad" and scolded Derek Jeter for becoming too fond of the city's nightlife -- who remains seared into his memory.

"The thing I remember most about him was when he kept bringing Billy Martin back in the '70s," Campbell said, recalling a stretch that saw Steinbrenner hire and fire the former manager five times from 1975 to 1988.

To hear it from the YES Network's sentimental specials, the championship era that began with Jeter, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera was predestined. With the benefit of hindsight, Steinbrenner had a master plan, and no one ever doubted the confetti would fall and Frank Sinatra would croon as New York conquered baseball once again.

But for decades, that outcome was in doubt, and the image of an often-furious Steinbrenner watching from the owner's box was a familiar scene in New York. Unlike many other owners who only watched the bottom line, Steinbrenner wanted championships as desperately as the team's fans.

"He did a lot of things that were idiosyncratic," said Michael Smith of Rye. "He was a strange guy, almost bizarre. The guy was out there. Then again, that's why he was so successful."

Just ask Joe Torre, who frequently found himself the target of Steinbrenner's abuse despite bringing home four championships. Or Don Mattingly, the revered hitter who was benched in 1991 for defying Steinbrenner's famous grooming policy.

Not everyone sided with The Boss, and there were times when fans and media alike lampooned him for his stubbornness and micromanagement. But few doubted his desire to win.

"When it came down to it, he was a hardass, and he was all about the tradition of the Yankees, which was winning," Smith said. "And if you crossed him you were done."

A small core of aging superstars still represents Steinbrenner's dynastic Yankees on the field -- Jeter, Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada are the only remaining players from that era. All four are entering the twilight of their careers, but some see it as a credit to Steinbrenner -- and his organization -- that all of them except Pettite have played their entire careers in New York.

"Obviously, he had a commitment to excellence. And he was eccentric," said William Brown of Port Chester. "He may be berated by the small market teams and fans, but he will be remembered in a good way in New York. He was always loyal to the people who were loyal to him."

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