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    George Steinbrenner had ties to Florida State Seminoles

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    Courtesy of Bob Ferrante, Palm Beach Post

     -- George Steinbrenner's passion for the New York Yankees was obvious, but he also had a love of college sports and quietly gave money to support Florida State athletics.

    Steinbrenner provided the FSU baseball program with a $50,000 check in the mid-1980s, money that was used to add lights to the stadium.

    The Yankees also played exhibition games in Tallahassee in 1978 and 1985.

    "George was one of the first gentlemen in the major leagues that showed a tremendous interest in college baseball," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "He just was a tremendous humanitarian. He genuinely cared about the growth of college baseball."

    Martin can also attribute his ascent from assistant coach to head coach at FSU to Steinbrenner.

    In November 1979, FSU was holding fall baseball practice when a Yankees front-office official called the dugout phone asking to speak with Dick Howser, who had just finished a 43-17-1 season in the spring.

    Steinbrenner hired Howser, and FSU then promoted Martin.

    Howser served just one season as Yankees manager and in the end was part of The Boss' revolving door of managers. Martin, meanwhile, has won more than 1,600 games at FSU since 1980.

    Steinbrenner also donated annually to Seminole Boosters, Inc., since at least 1984 (which is as far as the club's records go back).

    But Charlie Barnes, the Executive Director and Senior Vice President of Seminole Boosters, said Steinbrenner had contributed to the club well before 1984.

    Steinbrenner also owned a Yankees-themed Ramada Inn in Ocala, which is where then FSU coach Bobby Bowden and Barnes would stay on Bowden's spring booster tour.

    The Yankees' owner, who was an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Purdue in the 1950s, always wanted to talk football with Bowden.

    "Steinbrenner would wait in the lobby to say hi to Bobby when we drove in late at night," Barnes said. "Very, very impressive man."

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