BLOG: Steinbrenner represented the last generation of Cleveland prosperity

Jason Singer
Jul 13, 2010

Most people will remember George Steinbrenner as the polarizing New York Yankees owner who led his team to seven World Series championships and 11 American League pennants.

But here in northern Ohio, where Steinbrenner grew up, the billionaire symbolized something else: A bygone era of Cleveland prosperity.

Steinbrenner died Tuesday morning at age 80 in Tampa, Fla. He suffered a massive heart attack Monday night.

Steinbrenner made his money in the 1960s as head of American Shipbuilding Company, the dominant shipbuilding business on the Great Lakes. It was based in Cleveland and Lorain.

But northeast Ohio's fortunes have changed since then. The statistics don't lie:

• Between 1950 and 2000, Cleveland lost 100,000 residents per decade, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
• About 80 percent of manufacturing jobs that existed in the city in 1950 are gone, according to the United States Department of Labor statistics.
• And in 1920, Cleveland was the nation's fifth largest city, but now ranks 40th and dropping, says The Wall Street Journal.

The result? Even those Ohioans who make nowadays end up leaving.

Like LeBron James, Steinbrenner wanted to stay in Ohio. In 1961, he started the Cleveland Pipers in the American Basketball League. But the league folded, and few expansion opportunities remained for "The Boss."

So he moved to New York, where he purchased the struggling New York Yankees and invested heavily in Broadway musicals. It's there he went from a millionaire to a billionaire.

There's no denying Steinbrenner's affect on baseball. His determination to fix the Yankees' woes by using absurd sums of money led to a nuclear-arms race in the American League. The Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays all had to get better to compete with the Yankees.

Hence, most of the best teams in baseball now reside in the American League.

But Steinbrenner will also represent that last generation of Cleveland prosperity. The ones who could make millions and even billions in Ohio manufacturing. The days when everyone in northeast Ohio could get a manufacturing job and support a family with their wage.

Those days are gone, and they're not coming back.

Comments

brutus smith

 He was responsible for taking the ordinary family out of the ballpark. Just look at the size ballparks use to be and the smaller suite filled parks now. Shame.