Penn Relays Loses A Friend

Posted: 14 July by Brett Hoover in Penn
Tags: ,

In the massive wake of the passing of George Steinbrenner, I have been reading about his contributions to the Penn Relays, which ‘saved’ the event. Contrary to some of the reporting, the Penn Relays would have existed without his largesse in the 1990s, but it could have been a diminished event with continued ramifications.

And it was through his connection with the Penn Relays that I had a memorable brush with “The Boss.”

On a typically busy April day in the Relays’ office, Director Dave Johnson was having a face-to-face conversation with Texas Coach Bubba Thornton and the office phone was ringing off the hook. I usually acted like I didn’t hear it, hoping someone else would take the call, but on this day I answered.

“Dave Johnson, please,” said the caller.

“May I ask who’s calling,” I asked. The response was a muffled mumble.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that,” I said. Again, the response was indecipherable.

“One more time?”

This time the answer was forceful and clear. “STEINBRENNER.”

With that, I politely told Coach Thornton that while he was important, he was going to need to wait for Mr. Steinbrenner. Without hesitation, Bubba raised his hands to acknowledge he’d been trumped.

He was one-of-a-kind and track and field — and the Olympic movement — is better for it. To read about his connection to the Olympics as well as track, you can read pieces from Eddie Pells of the Associated Press and Katie Thomas of the New York Times.

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