The Steinbrenner – Corleone Connections


Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.15.07 PM

There are two families who controlled a powerful empire that was founded in New York. These two families were feared, respected and faced a potential downfall.

One would be the Steinbrenners, whose New York Yankees are now at a crossroads. The mightiest franchise in baseball history not only missed the 2013 postseason, but face tough decisions in the next few years. The Steinbrenners are watching their superstars either retire, recover from injury or drag everyone into court. They tried being frugal but opened their wallets to help fill empty seats in the new stadium and kickstart the team’s fortunes.

The other family is the Coreleone family. What began as a few opportunistic Italian immigrants committing small crimes, using an olive oil company as cover, became a multinational Mafia syndicate, led by a passionate man who desperately wanted to become legitimate.

Both families had a larger than life patriarch, conflicts among the children and a web of loyal allies and back stabbing traitors.

How are the two families similar and how are they different? Other than the fact that one is real and the other is ficticous, the parallels are certainly there.

There are spoilers from The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III in this article. If you have not seen those movies before, what the hell is the matter with you?

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.15.21 PM

George Steinbrenner is Don Vito Corelone

Why the comparison works:

Both are larger than life patriarchs of not only a family but also an empire. They also both went by a name that seemed to embody their power and authority. (The Godfather for Don Vito, The Boss for George.) Both struck fear into their subordinates. Remember how Luca Brasi trembled and stuttered when he met his Don during the wedding? No doubt many Yankee players, managers, coaches and hot dog vendors had a similar experience with Steinbrenner.

Both faded towards the end of their life and had to make hard decisions of which child would take over the business. After their death, both The Godfather and The Boss still cast a looming shadow over their empire and their offspring. All of the actions of the next generation carried the question “would HE approve if he were still alive?”

Both made offers that you couldn’t refuse.

Where the comparison falls apart:

Don Vito knew he was scary. He didn’t need to chew out his hitmen in public and chances are didn’t call them in the middle of the night, screaming, as Steinbrenner did. In fact, The Godfather never seemed to fire anybody, unlike The Boss. Also George liked to air out his issues through the media. It is safe to say that The Godfather liked to stay out of the papers. (Although he was front page news after he was shot.)

Don Vito would have hired someone a little more savvy than Howie Spiro to shadow Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner was caught doing shady deals and was suspended twice. Nobody ever caught The Godfather.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.15.43 PM

Hank Steinbrenner is Santino “Sonny” Corleone

Why the comparison works:

Hank and Sonny are both firey hot tempered older sons hoping to step into their father’s shoes. Hank tries to play to the media as if he is a chip off of the old block. Sonny acted like he was already the prince of the city, even interrupting Solozzo in the secret meeting and tipping his hand. Both make rash and impulsive decisions, whether it is whacking Bruno Tataglia or signing A-Rod to a 10 year deal when nobody else was offering him a contract.

Where the comparison falls apart:

Hank never saw a camera he didn’t like nor would play to. Sonny broke that camera at Connie’s wedding. There is no evidence that women fawn over Hank like they did for Sonny. Likewise, Hank can go through toll booths with no problem.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.16.01 PM

Hal Steinbrenner is Fredo Corleone

Why the comparison works:

Both are a younger son of the patriarch. The family sent Fredo off to run the hotels and casinos when things got violent in New York. Hal also ran the hotel division of the Steinbrenner’s company, no doubt to learn the business. Fredo, despite screaming to Michael about how smart he is, is not that clever.   He struck a deal with Johnny Ola and Hyman Roth that he was told would be good for the family. Instead, he nearly got Michael killed and betrayed the family and everything it stands for.

And despite Hal trying to make smart long term moves, his handling of the team has been odd at best. At one point he abstains from signing big free agents, trying to stay under the salary cap. Then he opens the wallet for several good players with injury issues while letting his best hitter, Robinson Cano, walk.

Where the comparison falls apart:

For all I know, Hal does not go out fishing on a row boat. If he does, he probably is not in danger.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.16.15 PM

Brian Cashman is Tom Hagen

Why the comparison works:

Not a blood relation, but both Tom and Cashman are close advisors to the patriarch. Both try to tell the hot headed son to not take things so personally. Both needed a drink before telling their boss bad news. Plus they want to make deals that secure long term growth, whether it was Cashman wanting to develop the farm system or Tom wanting to get into narcotics.

Where the comparison falls apart:

I have a hard time seeing Tom Hagen jumping from airplanes and climbing down buildings like Brian Cashman does in the off season. Plus most of Tom Hagen’s deals worked. The horse’s head Tom put in the bed would have been more effective than pitchers Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain and it tied Michael Pineda’s number of healthy days with the Yankees.

Maybe Cashman should have refused a few offers.

 Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.16.32 PM

Jennifer Steinbrenner is Connie Corleone

Why the comparison works:

Both Jennifer and Connie are the daughter of a big shot. And because they are not sons, they have been passed over in any involvement in the family business. Connie barely knew what was happening until she was much older and learned how to put poison in a cannoli.

Jennifer told the New York Times that “even if she wanted to move up in the organization, I would’ve never been allowed. Not in this family.” Both saw their husbands be more involved with the organization than they ever would be.

Where the comparison falls apart:

I have a feeling that George Steinbrenner found a way to refuse a request on his daughter’s wedding day.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.16.51 PM

Steve Swindal is Carlo Rizzi

Why the comparison works:

Both married into the family of power. Steve married Jennifer Steinbrenner and suddenly shot to the front of the line of potential heirs to the kingdom. (Heaven forbid the daughter runs the team.) Likewise, Carlo married Connie at the beginning of The Godfather and set himself up for a great life. And both turned out to be dopes who screwed it all up. Carlo cheated on Connie and beat her, all the while wanting a more significant role. And then he sold out Sonny to Barzini, a move that Michael figured out.

Meanwhile Steve and Jennifer’s marriage was already on shaky ground when he was arrested for a DUI. She filed for divorce and his ability to run the richest baseball team in history went up in smoke. Chances are he is going to spend the rest of his life wishing he had called a cab.

Where the comparison falls apart:

To my knowledge, Hank Steinbrenner never beat Steve Swindal to within an inch of his life in public like Sonny did to Carlo.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.17.12 PM

Joe Torre is Sal Tessio

Why the comparison works:

Both were strong willed old Italian men with sad emotional eyes. Tessio had a good sense of strategy, knowing that the restaurant in the Bronx had the old fashioned toilets that could hide a gun. Torre knew not to panic down 0-2 against the Braves in 1996 and handled the bullpen perfectly.

Tessio had great loyalty to the father but was suspicious of the son. Ultimately Tessio struck a deal outside the family. Torre respected George Steinbrenner but did not see eye to eye with Hank nor Hal and did not accept the Yankee offer and moved on. He may have asked to be kept aboard, “for old times sake.”

Where the Comparison falls apart:

When Tessio went against the Corleone family, he was whacked.

When Torre went against the Steinbrenners, he signed a multi million dollar contract in Los Angeles.

The difference is subtle.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.17.48 PM

Joan Steinbrenner is “Mamma” Carmelo Corleone

Why the comparison works:

The steady matriarch sat in the background of the volatile world of a powerful family. Even people who follow the families closely knew little about them. Be honest. Did you know that George Steinbrenner’s widow was named Joan? Did you know “Mamma Corleone’s” first name was Carmela? You never heard Joan’s take against Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield or Hideki Irabu.

And besides chewing out Connie at Anthony’s communion and sitting with Michael by the fireplace, when did Mamma Corleone insert herself into the story?

Where the Comparison falls apart:

It is doubtful that any Steinbrenner child will be whacked once Joan passes.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.18.06 PM

Derek Jeter is Johnny Fontaine

Why the comparison works:

Both were heart throbs that everyone wants to meet and makes the girls scream. Johnny was fiercely loyal to his Godfather and that continued to the children as he signed the big deal in Vegas. Jeter was close with the Boss and signed his contract extension with Hal and Hank. Both acted kind of whiny during contract issues, but sadly The Boss couldn’t slap Jeter in the face yelling “You can act like a man!”

Where the Comparison falls apart:

Jeter was a home grown prospect, so no gun to the head of a band leader nor a decapitated horse was needed to keep his career going.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 10.18.22 PM

Nobody is Michael Corleone

And this is the problem with the team now. They have the foundation that was left over from the patriarch, but no clear direction. Are they developing players? Are they cutting costs? Are they signing stars? Are they doing anything to fill those empty seats around home plate? Are they making smart trades? Do they have anyone to point out the P.R. gaffes like the whole Stub Hub debacle or the mess at Mariano Rivera bobble head night? And how many injured players in their 30’s can they compile onto one team?

Rivera and Pettitte both retired and somehow the team got OLDER.

For all the talk about the Yankees being “The Evil Empire”, they are an organization of sentimental softies who need to make some tough decisions. They need a Michael.

No doubt Hal thinks he is a Michael. He might act like a Michael. But he is Fredo. And he needs a Michael to plant that kiss on him and then say “I know it was you Hal. You broke my heart.”

Say what you want about Michael, but he made some hard decisions with good long term thinking. Nobody else saw the advantage of shooting Solozzo and Captain McClusky, but he did. Michael knew when to take out the members of the five families and that Carlo was a rat. He knew when to move the family to Nevada. He realized when to deal with Hyman Roth and when to get out of Cuba and how to deal with Frankie Pentangelli.

Not all the moves were popular and they resulted in the death of his brother in law, his brother, the break up of his marriage. But it was all in the name of business.

But for the Steinbrenners… there wasn’t enough time. Just wasn’t enough time.

There are more comparisons. Andy Pettitte’s reversal of his Clemens testimony makes him Frankie Pentangelli. Lon Trost and Randy Levine can fight over who is Clemenza and who is Al Neri. Joe Girardi could very well be Enzo the Baker.

Right now the Steinbrenners need that man holding the strings, making the calls and protecting the family business.

Godfather Photos: Paramount Pictures, Zoetrope Studios

Baseball Photos: AP, Getty Images, Sports Illustrated, YES Network

2 thoughts on “The Steinbrenner – Corleone Connections

  1. That was terrific. But I’m a Houston Astros fan and we need somebody like Michael Corleone even more than they do in New York. Major league baseball is like the Kefauver Comission trying to destroy the Astros with all this b.s. about cheating in the World Series.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s