Fans gather at Yankee Stadium for Steinbrenner

July 14, 2010 3:11:18 AM PDT
Flags were lowered to half-staff at New York's City Hall and fans began to gather at Yankee Stadium to pay respects to owner George Steinbrenner.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Steinbrenner a larger-than-life figure who gave his heart and soul to the team he loved. Bloomberg said Steinbrenner leaves "in the only that would be appropriate: as a reigning world champion."

At the Bronx stadium, someone left roses, one white and one yellow, on top of the team emblem on the pavement.

Laura Delorey had gone there with her father there for a tour. She was raised in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, before moving to Westminster, Mass. - Red Sox turf.

She tearfully admits: "I still bleed blue."

The neighborhood around the stadium was remembering Steinbrenner for the impact that he had on the community.

Joe Bastone says Steinbrenner left a legacy that helped the area thrive.

"He brought it from nothing to something again," he said.

Bastone, a bar owner, recalled the days when only a few thousand fans showed up for games. But once Steinbrenner bought the team, the crowds swelled. And as the Yankees became more successful, business at the Yankee Tavern grew five times.

"We have 50 people show up, and then when George took over, we would have a 150 people, 250 people," Bastone said.

Bastone and other businesses in the 161st corridor have benefited from Steinbrenner's desire to bring and keep a winning franchise to the Bronx.

The Boss's team gave the neighborhood an identity, tied directly to the man who created the best team money could buy, the most winning franchise in all of sports.

New businesses have arrived in the neighborhood, and with the new stadium, there is hope that more economic development is in store. The Bronx has a billion-dollar sports team that attracts millions of fans and tourists every year. Along with that success has come jobs and financial stability, which are all lasting testaments to the Boss's importance in the Bronx community.

Die-hard fans at the Yankees Clubhouse store on 42nd Street says the team is Steinbrenner's living legacy.

"I've known George all these years as owner of the Yankees, and he was a great man because he wanted to win," said Ira Goldstein, a Yankees fan from Texas. "And to Yankees fans, that's really the main thing - winning."

And, as if in tribute to Steinbrenner, winning was on the minds of some customers in the Times Square store, even as they learned news of the team owner's death.

"I think the Yankees are gonna win this year because of this," fan Jarred Norsworthy said. "They're gonna go all the way and do it again."

Norsworthy is that rarest of creatures: a Yankees' fan from Boston. His brother, John, is all Red Sox, but even he tipped his hat to Steinbrenner, saying his loss is a loss for the game.