Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies at 80

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[photogallerylink id=33312 align=right]George Steinbrenner, who rebuilt the New York Yankees into a sports empire with a mix of bluster and big bucks that polarized fans all across America, died Tuesday. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4.

Steinbrenner had a heart attack, was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and died at about 6:30 a.m, a person close to the owner told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not disclosed those details.

For more than 30 years, Steinbrenner lived up to his billing as “the Boss,” a nickname he earned and clearly enjoyed as he ruled with an iron fist. The Yankees won six World Series titles during his reign.

He was known for feuds, clashing with Yankees great Yogi Berra and firing manager Billy Martin twice. But as his health declined, Steinbrenner let sons Hal and Hank run more of the family business.

Steinbrenner was in fragile health for years, resulting in fewer public appearances and pronouncements. Yet dressed in his trademark navy blue blazer and white turtleneck, he was the model of success: The Yankees won seven World Series titles after his reign began in 1973.

Till the end, he demanded championships. He barbed Joe Torre during the 2007 AL playoffs, then let the popular manager leave after another loss in the opening round. The team responded last year by winning another title.

His death was the second in three days to rock the Yankees. Bob Sheppard, the team’s revered public address announcer from 1951-07, died Sunday at 99.

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