A year later, Boss' passion for winning lives on

A year later, Boss' passion for winning lives on

A year later, Boss' passion for winning lives on
Hours before each game at Yankee Stadium, fans queue by the dozens among the cement walkways to gain entrance to Monument Park beyond the center-field wall, weaving their way through the treasured tributes to the past.

And placed front and center among the greatest to wear pinstriped uniforms is a large bronze likeness of George M. Steinbrenner, who passed away last July 13 at age 80.

It has been a full year without The Boss, but his presence is still felt around the big ballpark in the Bronx, the first-rate facility of which Steinbrenner dreamed and was so pleased to see come to fruition.

"I think he's a father figure to everyone that was in our organization in the past or present, because he really took care of his players," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said.

The head of the Yankees since purchasing the club in 1973, Steinbrenner receded from the helm in his final years, often repeating a favorite saying that it was "time to let the young elephants into the tent."

Increasingly, more responsibilities were issued to Steinbrenner's sons -- Hal, the team's managing general partner and co-chairperson, and Hank, the team's general partner and co-chairperson.

Steinbrenner's daughters, Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Jessica Steinbrenner, also continue to be heavily involved on a day-to-day basis between New York and the Tampa, Fla., facility that was renamed for The Boss in 2008.

"I realize it's a great responsibility," Hal Steinbrenner has said. "Needless to say, my dad is a tough act to follow."

In addition to the Monument Park plaque that was unveiled last September, Yankee Stadium also features a 40-by-13-foot mural of Steinbrenner behind the right-field bleachers that was installed last July.

At the Spring Training complex where Steinbrenner made many of his most pivotal decisions, the Yankees also unveiled a life-size statue this spring, a replica of which stands inside Yankee Stadium's Gate 2.

"If you think about our stadium and how beautiful it is, and how big and how fortunate we are to go to work there every day, it has his mark all over it," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "His legacy will live forever, and I think that stadium is just one big sign of how great this man was."

Much of Steinbrenner's impact, however, cannot be measured by physical tributes. Often subscribing to the philosophy that "the greatest form of charity is anonymity," countless stories of Steinbrenner's benevolence surfaced after his passing.

Many of Steinbrenner's philanthropic endeavors were performed without fanfare. However, he was repeatedly recognized by the communities in which he immersed himself, particularly New York and the greater Tampa area.

"To me, one of the things that is not talked enough about Mr. Steinbrenner is how giving of a man he was," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "and a man that really cared about people and tried to change people's lives; whether it was a first chance, a second chance or a third chance. And that's who he really was."

As for the Yankees, the generally perceived mission statement -- win it all in October, or else! -- could have been etched right from Steinbrenner's desk.

"I think winning the World Series meant a lot to him, but the next day he was back at work," Girardi said. "He was like, 'OK, how are we going to win next year?'"

Steinbrenner loved to quote one of his favorite sayings from Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, who once said, "There is no substitute for victory." Steinbrenner also offered his own spin, saying, "Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning second."

Those became familiar refrains around the Yankees universe, and words to live by.

"In 2004, he wrote me a note, and it was hand-delivered by a clubhouse kid," Rodriguez said. "And at that point, I got a little nervous. In the end, he basically said, 'I'm counting on you,' with capital letters and an exclamation point. So I think to this day, we are still playing for him, not to let him down."

Under Steinbrenner's leadership, the Yankees posted a Major League-best .566 winning percentage (3,364-2,583-3 record) while winning 11 American League pennants and seven World Series championships -- the most in the Majors during that period.

"He didn't want to hear excuses," Jeter said. "He wanted to win every single day, which I think I understood a little more than he did, that you can't win 162 games in a row.

"But he had that old football mentality and felt that you should win every single day. And I appreciated that."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.