Steinbrenner laid to rest at family-filled Florida funeral
The body of the beloved baseball giant, who resurrected the Yankees and transformed the sport, was entombed at a Florida cemetery in an imposing blue-gray crypt with pillars and stones the color of those at Yankee Stadium as his widow, Joan, and children watched and wept.
His daughter Jennifer wiped away tears and leaned her forehead on Joan's head while sons Hal, Hank and team Vice President Felix Lopez wheeled Steinbrenner's gray casket from a hearse into the structure, framed by potted bouquets of red roses and carnations.
It was a fitting, final farewell to the sports world's most grandiose sportsman.
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Lopez told The Post that the family was holding up "as well as can be expected."
The Boss' wife, four children and grandkids began assembling at about 2 p.m. at Trinity Memorial Gardens cemetery in Trinity, some 35 minutes from the team's spring-training complex, Steinbrenner Field, in Tampa.
They were among about 40 mourners who drove in a parade of dark vehicles into the Trinity compound, which includes a building where private memorial services are held.
The cars included a black Rolls-Royce with the team's NY logo on the front plate.
After more than 90 minutes inside, the group emerged and piled into a half-dozen black Cadillac Escalades for a somber ride to the crypt.
A hearse carrying George's body rolled through Trinity's front gates at 3:50 p.m. and headed to the stone monument.
There, at 4:05 p.m., George's casket, bluish-gray with silver handles, was taken out of the vehicle, wheeled inside and carefully placed.
The stone of the crypt remains blank -- it's not been engraved with Steinbrenner's name or any epitaph.
The family did not issue any statement and remained mum about the memorial service.
Lopez, who was with The Boss when he passed away of a heart attack on Tuesday at 80, called the experience of that final moment "hard."
There wasn't a dry eye among his friends in Tampa.
"We loved George and he loved it here," said Malio Iavarone, who owns a steakhouse in the city's downtown and had been close pals with Steinbrenner for 30 years.
Bomber bluster: Players' fave George stories:
Goose Gossage, pitcher, 1978-83, 1989
I had some pretty good sparring things with him. When I broke my thumb in the Cliff Johnson fight [a clubhouse brawl with his teammate after an April 1979 game], he called me up to the office and he said, ‘I’m going to have to dock you three months pay, that’s all there is to it. What the hell were you doing?’ And I said, ‘George, if I walked over there and reached across the table and smacked you upside the head, what would you do?’ He goes, ‘I’d probably smack you back.’ I said, ‘Well, there you have it.’ He said, ‘Get the hell out of my office.’
Cecil Fielder, first baseman and designated hitter, 1996-97
The funniest story was with Kenny Rogers. We were in the clubhouse and playing Baltimore. We weren’t playing good at that point in ’96, and Baltimore was starting to creep back on us. George came into the clubhouse and came into the players’ lounge, and there was a big bowl of fruit on the table. So he said, ‘Kenny, do you know where those strawberries came from?’ And Kenny said, ‘Probably from the great state of Florida and my city, Plant City.’ He said, ‘Well, if you don’t go out there tonight and pitch well, that’s where you’re going, back to Plant City.’ That’s George.
Bucky Dent, shortstop, 1977-82
Upon bumping into Steinbrenner in a Boston hotel before the 1978 one-game playoff with the Red Sox in which Dent hit the game-winning home run:
I was going down an elevator and the doors open and he got on and I went, Oh boy, this is going to be a cold ride down. And he mumbled something about, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be your day.’
Charlie Hayes, third baseman, 1992, 1996-97
When I think of George, I remember when we won the 1996 World Series. And I go home and, maybe a month later, I got a knock on my door and it’s the trainer. The trainer was there to help me lose weight, and to try and get better. That says a lot about George. We won the World Series and the next day, he was trying to win in ’97.