Born in Rocky River, Ohio, Steinbrenner bought the Yankees along with a group of investors from CBS on January 3, 1973 for $10 million. Since that time, they have won 9 pennants and 6 World Series. Steinbrenner has been known during that time frame for his pursuit of high-priced free agents, and, in some cases, publicly feuding with them.
He is also known for changing personnel; he changed managers 20 times in his first 23 seasons (including firing Billy Martin five times and, of course, re-hiring him four times) and general managers 11 times in 30 years. Martin once said of Steinbrenner and $3 million outfielder Reggie Jackson, "One's a born liar and the other's convicted." The comment resulted in Martin's first firing.
The "convicted" portion of the comment referred to Steinbrenner's connections with former president Richard Nixon and Watergate: He was indicted on 14 criminal counts on April 5, 1974 and pleaded guilty to two: illegal campaign contributions and obstruction of justice. He was fined $20,000. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him from baseball for two years, later reduced by nine months. He returned to the Yankees in 1976.
On July 30, 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after Steinbrenner paid Howie Spira, a small-time gambler, $40,000 for information on Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield during a contract dispute. Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993.
Steinbrenner grew up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio and made his money as owner and chief operating officer of the Cleveland-based American Shipbuilding Company. He ran track and played football at Culver Military Academy in Indiana and ran track at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1952. After two years in the United States Air Force, Steinbrenner coached high school basketball and football in Columbus, Ohio before becoming an assistant football coach at Northwestern University in 1955 and Purdue University in 1956. He married in 1956 and joined his father's struggling shipping business in 1957.
In 1960, Steinbrenner bought the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League. The team joined the American Basketball League the next year and won a championship, but Steinbrenner was unable to raise the necessary funds to join the National Basketball Association. The team went bankrupt, and Steinbrenner returned to his father's business, later buying the American Shipbuilding Company.
In the early 1970s, Steinbrenner offered $9 million to buy the Cleveland Indians but was turned down. In 1973, he bought the Yankees with a group of investors, and his general partner quit after four months.