As soon as we heard about the death of George Steinbrenner, we couldn't help but think about his Fort Lauderdale connection. After all, the Yankees did spend 33 spring-training years down here. Not all of those were good years, if memory serves, since more than once did ol' George pull one of those stunts that earned him such a jerky reputation. A great 1981 profile ("Boss Steinbrenner") in New York magazine recounts the afternoon that Steinbrenner kept the mayor of Fort Lauderdale and the American League cooling their heels until he was finished making phone calls; about the way he threw a tantrum after finding a crumpled Budweiser can on the fairway; about the way proud parents handed him their kids to hold during candid snapshots and how every kid bawled as soon as he got into Steinbrenner's beefy mitts.
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- The fact that Steinbrenner could freak out so fanatically over meaningless exhibition games that didn't count for shit was just one of his bad attributes. On April 1, 1999, he allowed his frustrations to get the better of him during a spring training match. He'd already expressed disgust over chubby Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu before, but after Irabu failed to cover first base on a ground ball, Steinbrenner called him a "fat pussy toad." Then he kept the pitcher from flying with the team to Los Angeles -- though he eventually relented and apologized. The whole incident was commemorated on the final episode of Seinfeld, when George's dad berates Steinbrenner in a courtroom for Irabu's huge salary requirements. Then, just two years ago -- perhaps as a result of that long-repressed anger -- Irabu drank 20 Sapporos at an Osaka bar and tried to beat up the manager.