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Agent Recalls Negotiating With "The Boss"

George Steinbrenner at the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium
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George Steinbrenner at the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium

Earlier today, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 80.

What was it like to negotiate with George Steinbrenner? What was he like as a person?

For those questions, we went to Tom Reich, a longtime baseball agent who represented some of the biggest players in the game in the 70s and 80s and negotiated against — but also went on to become — good friends with "The Boss."

This is Tom’s take, in his own words, on the larger-than-life baseball owner:

"I loved the guy and I’m deeply saddened today. But I have a lot of memories of the man who is probably the most fascinating mix of a person you’ll ever find.

My negotiations with him over the years were actually pretty informal. We’d meet over breakfast or lunch and he’d tell me how much he wanted a player. Just because it wasn’t in an office didn’t mean he wasn’t always aggressive. We’d talk over a player and ultimately if the player was willing to play in New York.

He definitely kept you on your feet. One year, I had checked into the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills and free agency had literally just started. So I go to check in and the person behind the counter tells me there’s a message waiting for me. It was him. He started talking about how he wanted this guy and what can we do and I said, ‘George, can I put my bags down first?’

I remember a time in the early 80s when George called me and told me he was concerned about a Yankee client of mine who had gained weight. It was a very serious discussion. And definitely confidential, or so I thought. The next day Dick Young— who George gave every story to — had the piece in the Sporting News the next day. Not only did it have the story but George had told Dick that we both agreed that the player was fat. So I flew down to Fort Lauderdale to confront George. He was loud. I was louder.

One thing about George that people should know is that he respected you if you could stand up to him. If he went into a rant and you could take it and make your points, that got through to him. For us, it was the gateway to a long lasting relationship.

What people don’t know about George is his compassion. If there was a player who was struggling, there’s no one who I’ve seen in my 40 years in the business who tried so hard to help. He would give second, third and fourth chances to players who wore the pinstripes and carried his flag.

And the way he wrote checks. When the flood happens in Venezuela, he gives $1 million. When the Virginia Tech Massacrehappens he cuts $1 million check and sends his players there. When the earthquake happens in Haiti, he gives.

He was a powder keg, but he also had a giant heart. There will be many owners that are as brash and out there as George was, but the combination that was George will never be found again. I'll miss him.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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