I won't pretend that I "knew" George Steinbrenner. I didn't. I spoke with him on several occasions, and he never chewed my head off, but I can't say I knew him.
At least 20 years ago at spring training when the Yankees were still at Fort Lauderdale, I encountered the Boss at Fort Lauderdale Stadium on a day the Orioles had bussed up from Miami for an exhibition game. He was on the field with a lot of reporters hanging around him and I asked him if he had any feelings about Washington getting another ballclub. He replied that he didn't have a problem with it, and it would probably be good for baseball, but he didn't think anyone of financial substance had yet stepped forward to stake a claim on a franchise.
He was in attendance at a handful of Orioles' games in Baltimore over the years and never really shied away from the media. He was always interested in plugging the US Olympic program and seemed interested in chatting about pro football as well. Heck, he'd talk about anything; no subject seemed off-limits.
I had friends who worked for Steinbrenner with the Yankees, "worked" as in past tense. He was a demanding employer, though many fans will always remember just the back of his head - actually, an actor's head - and Larry David's voice on "Seinfeld," though he actually appeared in one episode and played himself like he was born for the part.
Steinbrenner arrived in baseball just prior to the advent of free agency, and he played the system to the advantage of his franchise. He spent millions, and wasted millions, over the years, and the pre-Joe Torre managerial machinations are the stuff of legend.
Like it or not, George will have a Hall of Fame plaque with his face on it as soon as next year. He was a game-changer who made the Yankees relevant again. It remains to be seen if his sons can build on that legacy.