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03/10/10 7:05 PM EST

Steinbrenner mourns passing of old friend

Longtime associate, former Yankees employee dies at 79

George Steinbrenner issued a public statement on Wednesday in reaction to the loss of an old friend and colleague. Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees who has receded from the spotlight in recent years, issued a statement regarding the passing of Dick Kraft, a friend since their shared tenure at Williams College and a former Yankees executive who spent a decade with the team.

Kraft, who started his Yankees tenure as an administrative assistant, progressed all the way up to vice president of community relations. Kraft left that position in 1994, but Steinbrenner remained close with him all the way up to his passing.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of Dick Kraft, who was my great friend for 60 years," Steinbrenner said. "We were roommates at Williams College and played together on the football team. He was a strong, tough lineman, who we called 'Pusher' for his driving abilities on the line of scrimmage."

Kraft, a seasonal resident of Tampa , Fla., passed away Monday at the age of 79.

"Dick worked for the Yankees beginning in 1984 as an administrative assistant," said Steinbrenner. "He retired in 1994, and ever since had worked with me closely during spring practice in Tampa. Dick was -- and always will be -- a champion to me, and my loyal friend, who I will miss dearly. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Emily, and their daughters, Debbie and Pam, and his entire family."

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