Throughout his career, the media — and, to some extent, Steinbrenner himself –worked in tandem to cultivate an image of The Boss. He was portrayed as angry and ruthlessly competitive, with a tunnel vision focused solely on baseball. He was someone who would do anything to win, no matter the cost.
But as is the case with many public personalities who often only reveal their brash, cold exteriors, Steinbrenner had a human side, just like anyone else.
He did his best to keep it a secret, but following his death on Tuesday morning, Lorraine Blakely decided to break the silence and reveal the heart behind a man many unfortunately assumed to be heartless.
In 1977, when she was in second grade, Blakely was the victim of a freak accident in which her skull was fractured in a Fire Department demonstration gone wrong. She needed three hours of emergency surgery, which kept her alive. The accident coincided with Game 2 of the World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers.
Later, Blakely would require a four-hour operation to implant a plastic plate to protect her brain, replacing a chunk of bone that she lost during the accident — and that's where Steinbrenner stepped in. The Boss met with Blakely and her family and handed over a check to compensate for the expensive procedure, but before he did so, Blakely had to agree that she'd keep the generous gift a secret.
Steinbrenner was obviously a generous man, but he was one who didn't feel the need to be lauded by the public for it. He didn't help for the sake of positive press; he helped for the sake of helping.
"It just shows what a good man he was," Blakely, now a Long Island mother of three, told the New York Daily News. "He didn't want any notoriety for it. He was just doing it out of the goodness of his heart."
Blakely, for the most part, kept her word and didn't share her story. But upon hearing about Steinbrenner's death earlier this week, she mentioned the act of goodwill to her son, who was flabbergasted that his mom had met — never mind had her life saved — by the notorious Yankees owner.
This isn't the first philanthropic endeavor Steinbrenner has undertaken; he has donated money to fund hospitals, aided the terminally ill and helped children of slain cops, according to the Daily News.
But he didn't feel the need to be recognized for it. He was perfectly fine with the persona he was afforded by the media, a persona that seems to contradict the tremendous good he did for his community.
Some things are best kept secret. It's a shame that this one was.