In 1972, a group of Cleveland-based investors headed by George Steinbrenner attempted to purchase the Cleveland Indian baseball team from frozen food magnate, Vernon Stouffer. Having negotiated the terms of the deal himself with the owner’s son Jimmy, who was his good friend and former school classmate, the Boss-to-be had confidently assembled many of his fellow investors at the headquarters of his Cleveland-based shipping company and waited for the elder Stouffer’s phone call, telling them the offer had been accepted.
The phone rang, Steinbrenner answered it and proceeded to listen in disbelief as Stouffer angrily rejected the deal, accusing Steinbrenner of trying to steal his team with an undervalued offer. A bitterly disappointed Boss did not at that moment realize that Stouffer had done him a gigantic favor, actually two favors. The rejection left Steinbrenner and many of his investor buddies free to purchase another baseball team at a later date and the Cleveland negotiations had given the Boss the opportunity to get to know Indians’ GM Gabe Paul.
As Bill Madden later detailed in his book; Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, Steinbrenner placed a call to Paul after the offer was rejected and let him know how much he had enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. In the process, the Boss had discovered that Paul knew everybody who was anybody in the game and business of baseball and he now told the veteran GM to keep his ears open for news of another club for sale so the two men could go in on it together.
A few months later, Paul made a phone call to Steinbrenner and told him CBS was interested in selling the Yankees. When the deal was complete, Steinbrenner was the new managing owner of the Bronx Bombers and Gabe Paul was the club’s President. Over the next few years, Paul orchestrated transactions that put Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Oscar Gamble, Dick Tidrow, Lou Piniella, Ed Fiqueroa, Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent in pinstripes and he signed free agents Catfish Hunter and Don Gullett. He hung around long enough to see the Yankees win the 1976 AL Pennant and the 1977 World Series and than he went back to Cleveland, claiming he had to escape the maniacal management style of George Steinbrenner, who Paul had grown to detest.