Remembering George Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday of a heart attack in his Tampa home, USF baseball coach Lelo Prado recalled the generosity the legendary New York Yankees owner showed to him during his time at the University of Tampa, where he won two Division II national championships.
Steinbrenner paid for the school’s championship rings because it couldn’t afford them.
“There aren’t too many guys in this whole country that have done what George Steinbrenner has done for people,” Prado said to the St. Petersburg Times. “Forget about baseball – for anyone that needed help.”
Steinbrenner, who had owned the Yankees since 1973, was known by the average sports fan for his unmatched passion for winning while rebuilding the Yankees’ dynasty. His philanthropic side, though, reached many, including some at USF.
In 1977, Steinbrenner paid for the first set of lights used at Red McEwen Field. In 1994-95, the Tampa Yankees needed a place for its home games while Legends Field – now known as Steinbrenner Field – was being built. Steinbrenner compensated USF to let the Tampa Yankees, who at the time fielded future baseball Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, use its facility until the stadium was finished.
“His positive contributions to baseball are timeless. George was a great friend and philanthropist to USF and Tampa Bay,” USF athletic director Doug Woolard said Tuesday. “As we celebrate his successes in the sporting world, I also hope we all take time to applaud his generosity and the giving spirit he fostered throughout his life.”
“The sports world lost a legend (Tuesday),” he said. “George Steinbrenner will go down as one of the greatest owners and leaders in baseball history.”
Benefits received from Steinbrenner weren’t limited to athletics. He donated to USF’s music sdepartment throughout the years. Steinbrenner also “mobilized Tampa business leadership on behalf of the University,” sportscaster Ann Liguori, a former USF broadcast student, wrote on the Huffington Post.
“Every time I had an opportunity as a student to talk with him at an event in Tampa, he seemed genuinely interested in my work at the University and my broadcasting career,” she wrote. “Needless to say, to me, at the time, he seemed larger than life.”