In 1973, George Steinbrenner, then the new principal owner of the New York Yankees, uttered one of the most comically inaccurate forecasts in sports history. "We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned," he told the assembled media at his introductory press conference, after buying the then woeful Yankees from CBS for $8.8 million. From that moment, Steinbrenner, who died July 13, of a massive heart attack, would become the most nonabsentee owner in the history of sport. His impulsive hiring and firings and free-agent signings highlighted a career of meddling that got him temporarily banned from baseball, memorably spoofed on Seinfeld and even earned him a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live. But under his "absentee" reign, the Yankees won seven World Series titles; the club is worth some $1.6 billion. At the dawn of the free agent era, it was the Boss who proved the power of his checkbook, bringing stars likes Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Dave Winfield to the Bronx. No one would outspend the Yankees, and every overpaid player in baseball today owes his heirs a commission.
A version of this story previously appeared on TIME.com on July 13, 2010.