Is there any chance that the people who came up with the language for the plaque on the monument honoring George Steinbrenner did it with a thought about making people laugh for decades to come?
Given the rather joyless way the Yankees present their history under most circumstances, that seems unlikely. That's too bad because there will be generations of Yankee fans who get a good belly laugh from reading the last line of Steinbrenner's plaque. It tells us that the longtime Yankee owner "followed a personal motto of the greatest form of charity is anonymity" and the laugh comes when you realize that the monument to Steinbrenner is more than twice the size of any of the other tributes in center field.
Yes, twice the size of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra and Mantle. Those are just five of the guys who created what Steinbrenner's plaque calls "the most recognizable sports brand in the world," a brand that Steinbrenner bought in 1973. Contrary to the legend they're selling, he didn't create it nor did he surpass any of the other men honored at the Stadium.
Speaking of the Stadium, we should probably be happy that they didn't just rename the entire thing after the late owner. The building really is a monument to him and his ability to leverage Rudy Giuliani's love for the Yankees and long simmering fear stoked by Big Stein that they'd move to Jersey into a grand new temple for baseball. Faced with that prospect, a garishly huge monument really is the lesser of two evils.
No one is arguing that Steinbrenner doesn't deserve his spot in Monument Park. He belongs there as surely as any of the five men mentioned above because he's an integral part of Yankee history. Anyone who knows that part of history knows that Steinbrenner doesn't do humility, regardless of what the plaque might say, so you can't be surprised by what resulted. That doesn't mean you have to like it, however.
There should have been a bit more forethought involved in the planning process so that Monday night's ceremony didn't wind up taking a museum devoted to Yankee history and turning it into a Steinbrenner family mausoleum.