George Steinbrenner III, who bought a lackluster Yankees ball club and turned it into a synonym for winning and a billion dollar sports franchise — while becoming the most colorful and controversial owner in baseball history — died yesterday. He was 80.

His volcanic bluster, profligate salary spending, temperamental hiring and firing of players and managers and love of the spotlight often earned him the enmity of fans — particularly during the team’s fallow-period in the 1980s and early 1990s — and the baseball world outside of New York. But, above all “The Boss” was driven by a passion to win and the belief that anything short of a championship was failure.

“I hate to lose. Hate, hate, hate to lose,” he once told The New York Times.


He mellowed in recent years as the team won four World Series in five years starting in 1996. The championships helped restore fans’ appreciation of the polarizing owner.

In declining health, he handed control of the team to his sons Hank and Hal in 2007. He last appeared at Yankee Stadium at this season’s home opener.

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