Word and Handshake Seal the Relation with Showalter

A Yankees Courtship: How George Steinbrenner Tried to Win Back Buck Showalter

Yankees Manager Buck Showalter, left, with George Steinbrenner early in the 1995 season, which ended with a close playoff loss to the Seattle Mariners. Steinbrenner would fire Showalter after that defeat, then quickly try to rehire him.
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Yankees Manager Buck Showalter, left, with George Steinbrenner early in the 1995 season, which ended with a close playoff loss to the Seattle Mariners. Steinbrenner would fire Showalter after that defeat, then quickly try to rehire him.CreditCreditBarton Silverman/The New York Times

George Steinbrenner sat in the living room of Buck Showalter’s ranch-style home on the Florida Panhandle, roughly 10 miles from the Alabama border. Three days before, on Oct. 31, 1995, Steinbrenner had discarded Showalter as Yankees manager and replaced him with Joe Torre.

But Steinbrenner had changed his mind. Now he wanted Showalter back even if it meant shunting Torre to a desultory desk job.

Only a few people knew that Steinbrenner had flown in his private jet to surprise Showalter at home with his startling offer.

Except Showalter was not there. He was returning from Phoenix, where he had been offered the job as manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks.

This was before cellphones became common, so Buck’s wife, Angela, answered on a land line at home that morning and listened as her husband’s Tampa-based agent, Jim Krivacs, hastily explained that he and Steinbrenner were en route and that someone needed to pick them up at the Pensacola, Fla., airport.

Shocked, Angela tried summoning Buck by using a beeper, but he was on a flight and unavailable. Thirty minutes later, while he was changing planes in Texas, Buck returned Angela’s call.

She posed a question, “Guess who’s going to be here at the house in a couple hours?”

Angela answered her own question. Her husband was thunderstruck.

“What? What’s he want?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Angela said. “I just know he’s coming here, and I have to pack up the kids and go get him at the airport.”

Together, they figured Angela would have to entertain Steinbrenner for about an hour before Buck arrived in Pensacola.

Joe Torre, left, at spring training in 1996, his first season as the Yankees manager. Shortly after Torre was hired, Steinbrenner was ready to replace him with Showalter.CreditChris O’Meara/Associated Press

“Well, Nathan tried some shrimp, which he had never eaten before,” Angela said. “He made a face, said it was too chewy and spit it out onto George’s plate. I’m sitting there staring at George and this half-eaten, gooey pile of shrimp on his plate.

“I wanted to die.”

The group eventually retired to the living room, which is where Buck found them when he walked in the front door.

What exactly did Steinbrenner say that day in the living room?

“I’ve thought about this, come on back and manage,” said Showalter, who has turned aside scores of questions about the clandestine meeting since 1995.

Asked if Steinbrenner had tried to persuade him to resume managing the Yankees immediately, Showalter, sitting inside his spring training office with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017, nodded and answered, “Uh-huh.”

Dumbfounded, Showalter told Steinbrenner he had shaken hands with Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo and agreed to take over his team.

“Did you sign anything?” Steinbrenner asked.

When Showalter said he had not, Steinbrenner was elated (not knowing the man).

“Because I hadn’t signed anything, he thought that was good enough, and he said we’d work it all out for me to come back to the Yankees,” Showalter said.

Blogger:  Showalter had rebuilt the Yankees from nothing into a dynasty, He was fired because of a close loss to Seattle. He is picked up immediately by the Diamondbacks [new team] with whom he closes the deal on a handshake. He broke his own heart and winning with the greatest team in baseball of his own construction, for the next four years on the commitment of his word and a handshake. And Steinbrenner wanted him back – badly. The reality of the man fits the photo above. It fills me emotionally.

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