The titan of 20th-century sports is gone.

Long before Jerry Jones became an NFL diva, Mark Cuban tormented the NBA and Dan Snyder tried to buy a Super Bowl, George Steinbrenner did it all.

The New York Yankees owner, who died Tuesday of a heart attack, was the straw that stirred the drink -- not Reggie Jackson. Steinbrenner created the modern era of team owners. "The Boss" spent lavishly, ruled tyrannically and sometimes acted stupidly.

Before Donald Trump stole Steinbrenner's act of firing people, the Yankees owner became a national icon with his irrational commitment to winning. He went through 22 managers -- Billy Martin five times -- en route to seven World Series championships and 11 American League pennants over 38 years.

Steinbrenner created two major impacts onto all of today's pro sports leagues -- high player salaries and hyped gameday experiences.

Every player in every league should thank Steinbrenner for their inflated paychecks. Buying the Yankees in 1973 positioned him perfectly for the dawning of free agency. Steinbrenner gave pitcher Catfish Hunter $700,000 in 1974 when many players weren't yet at six figures. He spent $3 million on Jackson.

Competing owners were forced to spend more and suddenly ballplayers were businessmen. Steinbrenner became the first owner to sell cable rights to finance the Yankees payroll and outspend rivals for the best players.

Of course, ticket prices skyrocketed, too. While winning means everything to attendance, Steinbrenner's spending forced teams to create gameday marketing. Fans paying crazy ticket prices need to receive more than just a game they could have watched on TV for free. Fans now attend "events" with overbearing announcers, persistent giveaways and unending commercials. Too often, the score seems secondary to the marketing. While others like fellow baseball owners Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley excelled in gameday experiences, Steinbrenner best profited from it.

Steinbrenner made mistakes. He was twice suspended from the game -- first for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and then for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield. For all his spending, the Yankees didn't truly succeed until Steinbrenner's second suspension when team officials created a farm system that led to five titles. Upon returning in 1993, Steinbrenner finally learned winning is about more than money.

The Cleveland ship builder promised not to become involved in daily operations when he purchased the team in 1973. Yet, the sports world is so much better because he did.

Steinbrenner changed everything.

Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at and Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail