The prevailing opinion of George Steinbrenner is that he’s mellowed. But when Mark Mandrake, publications director for the Yankees, recently called me in for a job interview, I got a fleeting view of real life at the Stadium. “Dress nicely,” Mandrake said. “And don’t mouth off to him; that’s a sure way to not get a job in this organization.” He implied that it had happened before.
It was the first time I’d been to a ballpark in a suit. “I’m going to start off by telling you two things,” Mandrake said. “First, the hours: Steinbrenner expects every employee to be here – in addition to regular working hours – for every home game, beginning to end. Sometimes when he’s in a bad mood, he’ll call everyone in on a Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until 9 at night, and if you’re not here, you’re fired. I worked 120 hours two weeks ago. Second, the pay. It is $26,000. That salary comes from above me, and it is firm. I cannot give you $26,000 and one cent. If the team goes to the playoffs – and this being the Yankees, that’s a good bet – you will travel with the team, all expenses paid. If you play your cards right, you’ll get to hang out with the players. If we win the World Series, you would be the last eligible hire this season to get a cut of the Series check, which could be as much as your salary. And then there’s this … ” Mandrake held up a hand to show me his golf-ball-size ring. “This thing alone is worth several thousand.”
Saturday night, I came home to a message: Mandrake had offered the job to someone else. On Tuesday, he called again; the other choice had fallen through. I had until the game that night to decide. I made a show of agonizing, but when Mandrake called me back, half an hour after the Yankees won, I said no. “Is it anything other than the money and the other circumstances?” No. “I understand,” he said. “I’ve had this conversation several times already.”