Sunday, February 03, 2008

Steinbrenner Stadium? Sure, why not.

Hillsborough County commissioner Rose Ferlita and Tampa city councilman Charlie Miranda are proposing that Legends Field be re-named George Steinbrenner Stadium in honor of New York Yankees principal owner and part-time Tampa resident George Steinbrenner. If you're a baseball fan who lays the conjoined plagues of outrageous player salaries and lack of competetive balance squarely at Steinbrenner's feet, or if you just happen to have a (healthy) general hatred of the Yankees, you might have a problem with this on first sight. However, the fact of the matter is that Steinbrenner the man has been extremely generous to and supportive of a number of worthwhile endeavors here in Tampa (and elsewhere) for a very long time and is as deserving of anyone of some lifetime recognition. It makes as much sense as anything to name a ballpark after him.
What's really disturbing and off-putting about it is Ferlita's recurrent efforts to shove the New York Yankees down the county's collective throat. In 2006, Ferlita led an unsuccessful bid to have the Yankees included on Tampa's "City of Champions" signage that noted the championships of Tampa Bay's Buccaneers, Lightning and Storm. In attempting to explain the logic behind her idea, Ferlita said the Devil Rays are "out in St. Petersburg. So to me, the Yankees are the home team". Never mind that the Yankees are "home" for about six weeks out of the year or that not one of the Yankees 26 world champions was ever won on behalf of Tampa. Or Tampa Bay for that matter. Regardless of what you think of the Rays' prospects in the future, the odds are still 100% higher that there will be a local parade celebrating a championship for them before there's one for the Yankees. Also never mind the fact that the Yankees have only been "home" in Tampa since 1996. The Cincinnati Reds were the "home" team for 30 years before that. Local government honored the "home" team by neglecting Al Lopez Field, making it untenable and basically driving them out of town to Plant City so they could tear it down and build an ice arena. Ironically, as a result the monument built to honor the achievements of Tampa native Al Lopez was razed...while he was still alive...and the property stayed undeveloped, serving as another parking lot for Bucs games, until Raymond James Stadium was built 10 years later. Ferlita is quoted in the Tampa Tribune as saying "I want to do it as quickly as possible so maybe it would be in concert with their first (2008 spring training) game". What's the urgency? After all, next year there's going to be a new high school in Lutz named after Steinbrenner. I would say that's actually a more significant and profound monument to someone's good works than re-naming a stadium. Why does there need to be a priority placed on establishing a second one? Well, you probably don't get to wear your Yankees cap and pal around with Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra at some stupid school grand opening, I guess.

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