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08/27/09 12:46 PM ET

Steinbrenner reflects on loss of Kennedy

Yanks principal owner pays respects after senator's death

NEW YORK -- George Steinbrenner remembers Ted Kennedy as a courageous warrior, a vital political voice -- and, last but certainly not least -- as a good-natured rival.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Yankees principal owner paid his respects to the longtime Massachusetts politician, who lost his fight with brain cancer on Tuesday night at the age of 77.

"Ted Kennedy and I were friendly for many years, and I was honored to have him as a guest on my farm in Florida," Steinbrenner said. "Of course we talked baseball. He was a die-hard Red Sox fan. That never stood in the way of our friendship.

"It was a good-natured rivalry. He understood competition and winning, but he also he had a great sense of humor and sportsmanship. Our relationship was probably stronger because we were on opposing sides in sports, but still respected and admired each other."

Kennedy threw out the ceremonial first pitch to open the Red Sox's season in April at Fenway Park, and was honored there on Wednesday after his passing at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass.

The Yankees also observed a moment of silence in Kennedy's honor prior to Wednesday's game against the Rangers, a 9-2 New York victory.

A nine-term member of the United States Senate, Kennedy had been in office since November 1962. Through his diagnosis and battle with cancer, Kennedy continued to fight for universal health care legislation.

"What impressed me most about Ted Kennedy was his commitment and never-quit attitude," Steinbrenner said. "He was focused on using his position to help those who needed it the most, even against great odds. He was a warrior in that. And you had to admire the courage and strength he displayed throughout his life right up until the end. He'll really be missed."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.