From Msnbc.com's Tom Curry and Carrie Dann
Politics and The Old Ball Game have often gone hand in glove, and George Steinbrenner was no exception.
The legendary Yankees owner, who died Tuesday, was one of the ever-dwindling links to the era of President Richard Nixon and one of the few people to achieve notoriety in both Major League Baseball and politics.
Steinbrenner’s political involvement spanned from the White House and the halls of Congress to the receiving end of a felony charge for a campaign finance violation.
Records at the Nixon presidential library show that Steinbrenner, then the chairman of the Cleveland-based American Ship Building Company, showed up at least twice at the White House during Nixon’s presidency: once as part of a group of Ohioans awarding Nixon a certificate from the Robert Taft Institute of Government and at a 1973 state dinner for the Japanese prime minister.
In 1974, the iconic sports executive was suspended from the sport for over a year after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge for having conspired to give an illegal $100,000 contribution to Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign.
Steinbrenner was fined $15,000, but pardoned in 1989 by President Ronald Reagan.
(Despite his historical association with GOP commanders-in-chief, Steinbrenner’s political donations flowed on both sides of the aisle. He donated to many Democrats’ coffers, including those of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. His contributions appear to have not gone unheeded; he succeeded in winning millions in congressional appropriations for Navy vessels constructed by his ship-building operation.)
The felony charge haunted Steinbrenner after he returned to baseball. Yanks manager Billy Martin coined a famous 1978 taunt about slugger Reggie Jackson and Steinbrenner -- “one’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.”
But despite the controversy, Steinbrenner and the former president did not completely part ways. After leaving the White House in disgrace, Nixon used to appear from time to time as Steinbrenner’s guest in his box at Yankee Stadium to watch a game.
But one thing that The Boss appeared not to heed during his life was Nixon’s comparatively mellow philosophy about victory and defeat, as confided to New York Times sports columnist Ira Berkow after the two met during one of the former president’s trips to Steinbrenner’s box.
“Never be afraid of losing,” Nixon said, “because losing only has to be a temporary condition.”