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The Boss


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May 19, 2006 -- HE has been the New York media's go-to guy for more than 30 years. He's the back-page man, the front-page man. On TV and radio we hear, "More about the five-alarm blaze in Queens and other top stories, but first, The Boss is at it again . . ."

He has faithfully served as a slow-news-day, give-him-a-call guy and a fellow who will not go unheard even on busy news days.

 

And now it's time for the media, if they can possibly overcome their addiction to George Steinbrenner, to cut it out.

 

Steinbrenner, nearly 76 years old, has grown chronically and increasingly forgetful. He forgets names and faces. And almost everyone he regularly deals with, especially Yankee business intimates, knows it.

 

Several of those intimates regard the continued quoting of Steinbrenner - and continued pursuit of quotes from him - as "cruel" and "unfair."

 

"He just can't be held accountable for what he says these days," said one. "And anyone who quotes him on any issue or tries to read things into what he says is not playing fair, not applying common sense. That A-Rod thing the other night was a perfect example."

 

Last week, Steinbrenner was quoted as mocking Alex Rodriguez for an open-the-doors error against the Red Sox. By referring to Rodriguez as, "the third baseman," Steinbrenner was widely portrayed as being sarcastic, attaching a generic label to his star third baseman as a means of tweaking him.

 

 

 

"George simply forgot his name," said one of Steinbrenner's charges, a fellow who has both covered and worked for Steinbrenner.

 

And even had Steinbrenner been looking to take a shot at Rodriguez - even had he called the media to the owner's box to do so - he should not, at this stage, be quoted.

 

That position has been fully supported by others who closely follow the Yanks and Steinbrenner. Said one, a longtime Steinbrenner friend and business associate who, over a year ago, told us that Steinbrenner's thoughts had become clouded by age:

 

"He forgets my name; he forgets lots of names. He gets that blank, gray look. Other times, he's fine. But it's just not right to pretend that he's the George Steinbrenner of the past, the guy whose words make headlines.

 

"We'd all excuse a member of our family for growing forgetful. It's a sad but natural part of aging, one you treat with understanding. You don't hold that person to what he says or the way you think he says something.

 

"It doesn't matter what you think of him or anything he did or said in the past. To go looking for newsy quotes from him these days, well, that's just not right."

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