George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees from CBS in 1973; the franchise today is now worth more than a billion dollars. He also helped build the team to a point where it won ten pennants and six World Series.

Yet along the way, he constantly berated his players, tortured his managers and employees and was twice suspended from baseball for actions that nearly landed him in jail. All this and much more are covered in George: The Poor Little Rich Boy who Built the Yankee Empire, Peter Golenbock's engaging biography of the guy well-known by his nickname of "The Boss."

Steinbrenner's father was a successful business owner, but he was anything easy on young George. You could run three races in one day and get two firsts and a second, and the only thing he wanted to talk about was, How did you get beat? What did you do wrong? One lesson he taught me that stayed with me more than anything is that you can learn more from your mistakes than you can from successes.

I enjoyed reading about his childhood, as well as about his initial foray into sports ownership with a basketball team called the Cleveland Pipers. George's philosophy was "What's the point of playing unless you want to win?" And I think that's commendable. That's why they won the championship. He pushed them. He wanted to win even though we weren't making any money, because he figured if we had a championship team, why, we'd draw fans. He didn't have the money he needed, and he still went out and got the players. The only thing was, we didn't draw fans. In a way he was way ahead of his time. He was on the right track, wanted to raise money, but not with that crew.

He was determined never to enter a deal without having enough money behind it. He learned that. He was determined not to make that mistake again. And he never did.

The book especially came alive for me, though, when it shared stories of the Yankees -- many of whom I had grown up rooting for as a kid. I got a particular kick out of this tale involving Dock Ellis. Gabe Paul had made headlines for the Yankees in October the year before when he traded talented, dependable Bobby Murcer for the exciting fan-attractor Bobby Bonds. On the same day, he traded the quiet, dependable pitcher Doc Medich for three Pittsburgh Pirates: Willie Randolph, a future All-Star second baseman; relief pitcher Ken Brett, George's big brother; and Dock Ellis, who gained fame for pitching a no-hitter for the Pirates while on LSD. Dock would later cause his teammates to crack up when he issued the lines, "I love it when Gorge Steinbrenner flies. The more he flies, the greater the odds his plane will crash." Dock, who was never dull, was not a Yankee for a long time.

George: The Poor Little Rich Boy who Built the Yankee Empire also pointed out many of the good things that Steinbrenner has done for charities and individuals. I only regret that he hadn't been a nicer person to many of his players and specifically to Billy Martin, his manager on five separate occasions. There would have even been a sixth had Martin not died in an auto accident.

Nine pages of pictures added to my enjoyment of the book, though I do wish there had been at least some from before 1962.

AHP Rating: 3 Balls writes its book reviews with the following rating scale in mind:

Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.