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07/16/10 4:44 PM ET

Boss always kept future options open

Notes to competitors might have served multiple purposes

George Steinbrenner always kept his options open. As part of that practice, he often sent telegrams, letters, flowers, etc., to baseball men outside his employ. They typically were congratulatory in nature, but they may have served a second purpose in Steinbrenner's oft-time duplicitous mind. The Boss may have been canvassing potential managers or pitching coaches.

When the late George Bamberger was hospitalized following cardiac surgery in 1980, Steinbrenner had flowers sent to his room for days in a row, and Bamberger wondered if he was being courted.

"Maybe he wanted me to be one of his pitching coaches," Bamberger said.

Bobby Cox said he received notes and calls, though never a feeler from Steinbrenner. And news seeped out in 1996 that, soon after the late Yankees owner had hired Joe Torre as the successor to Buck Showalter, The Boss contacted Showalter trying essentially to keep the man he had dismissed on retainer, in case Torre failed.

And now there is this from soon-to-be Hall of Famer manager Whitey Herzog, whose Royals teams lost to the Yankees in the ALCS in 1976-78. Herzog recalls receiving a telegram from Steinbrenner in '87, after his Cardinals had secured the National League pennant. Jose Oquendo had started 17 games in right field and played right in 20 others for the Cardinals. And, according to Herzog, The Boss' telegram said, in part: "How can you win a pennant with Joe Oquendo in right field, and I can't win one with Dave Winfield."

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