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George Steinbrenner: architect of the multimillion-dollar athlete

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By exploiting those opportunities in the world's largest entertainment market, Steinbrenner was a trailblazer in the commercialization of baseball, followed by the other pro sports in the United States," he adds. “He spent money not only on the players but also on the front office, promotion and advertising.”

After buying the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for $8.7 million as the majority owner of an investor group, his impact on the franchise was enormous and immediate. “Those CBS teams were awful,” recalls Doug Muzzio, a political commentator at Baruch College and a long-time Yankee fan. “He brought back the premier sports franchise and he did it in a swashbuckling way.”

In 1974, he signed free agent pitcher Catfish Hunter to a $750,000-a-year contract. At the time, most of baseball's top players were making little more than $100,000 a year. Two years later, Steinbrenner signed outfielder Reggie Jackson.

In subsequent years, the trend only accelerated. Today, the Yankees pay third baseman Alex Rodriguez $33 million a year, the highest salary in baseball.

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