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October 28, 2009

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Steinbrenner coming for World Series

ONCE he was omnipresent at Yankee Stadium, micromanaging so much that World Series tickets could not be sent out until he revised the seating charts in his office. He raged at his players and celebrated them with equal gusto.

Now George Steinbrenner is 79 and frail. Still the owner but no longer the leader of his beloved Yankees, he saw just three regular-season games this season.

But he's coming back to New York just for the Series, and the Yankees can't wait.

"We're trying to do this for pops, Mr. Steinbrenner," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

George Steinbrenner was missing from the bubbly fueled celebration in the well-appointed clubhouse of the new Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, after the Yankees captured their first American League pennant in six years. He preferred to watch from home in Tampa, Florida.

But he was very much talked about. His deeds were praised. Toasts were made in his honor.

"It means a tremendous amount to him," son Hank Steinbrenner said on Monday. "And then winning the World Series would mean a tremendous amount to him."

Billions of dollars were spent to assemble baseball's priciest collection of talent, and they came from Steinbrenner's bank accounts. After erecting the fanciest ballpark ever seen, at a cost of US$1.5 billion, it could even be said that he laid the very foundation for the franchise's latest restoration.

Yet he's been more an absence than a presence at the new stadium, visiting from Florida only for opening day, a 10-2 loss to Cleveland.

He speaks haltingly in public and walks with difficultly following the second of two fainting spells that required hospitalization in December 2003 and October 2006. When he's seen, most often during spring training, he appears withdrawn.

His trademark attire used to be a turtleneck and navy blazer; now it's dark glasses. George Steinbrenner largely has been silenced, at least for Yankees fans.

He's said to easily get emotional in recent years, a wave of sentimentality he fought to suppress during his younger days. Hank Steinbrenner said his father has singled out Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez for special praise.

"This has taken him back 10 years, this team," Hank said. "It's very important to him. It's very special."

"We want to win this whole thing. We're one step away. We want to do it for my dad." said Hal Steinbrenner, who succeeded him in office. "I know we all feel the same."


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