Cox shares memories of Steinbrenner

Cox shares memories of Steinbrenner

Almost anyone in the game touched by George Steinbrenner has two-sided stories to tell about him -- the hot and cold, the bright and dim, the compassionate and apathetic sides of The Boss. Before Bobby Cox began his managerial tenures with the Blue Jays and Braves, he worked for Steinbrenner as manager of the Yankees' Triple-A Syracuse affiliate, and one of his favorite Steinbrenner stories has two distinct sides.

Cox had left the Braves -- he was replaced by Joe Torre -- to manage the Jays in 1982. At one point during his four-year run with the Jays, they were in New York for a series against the Yankees. Before one of the games, a former Syracuse player called Cox to see whether his former manager could make arrangements for complimentary tickets for the game that night.

Cox happened to take the call in the clubhouse laundry room rather than his office, and mechanical noises interfered with the conversation.

"So I'm talking loud, telling my buddy, 'The owner here has these rules -- four for the family, two for friends, and you can't use someone's else tickets,' " Cox recalls. "And I'd already given my six away. I told him there was nothing I could do because this blankety-blank owner was different from others, and there was nothing I could do to help him.

"And then I get a tap on my shoulder. It was George. He was right behind me. He heard everything I said. He'd come downstairs just to say hello. It was a little awkward.

"Next day, I get a long note from George saying, 'Any time you want tickets, Bobby, whatever you need, you got 'em.'

"That's the way George was. He'd go from giving less than you got anywhere else to giving you anything you wanted."

Steinbrenner had denied Cox previously in a more significant circumstance. The Angels, impressed by Cox's work in Syracuse, wanted to interview him for their manager's job at the big league level.

"George just said no, a flat no," Cox recalls.

Despite those denials, Cox developed warm feelings for the late Yankees owner.

"Working for him was tough. He was demanding. But we got along pretty good for some reason," he said. "He was real hands-on. He used to call me almost every day when I was in Syracuse. He'd want to know everything. He'd have some crazy idea -- making Otto Velez a second baseman or something like that. But we'd talk.

"And when he finally let me go and I was managing in the big leagues, he's send me notes after a season if it had been a good one. He probably did that with a lot of managers. You don't know, he might have been looking for his next replacement for Billy [Martin]."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.