In A Nutshell
Most people these days know the late George Steinbrenner either as the tyrannical former owner of the New York Yankees, or the guy Larry David voiced and who George Costanza worked for on Seinfeld. What most people don’t realize is that, back in the 1970s and 1980s, Steinbrenner worked as a confidential informant for the FBI.
The Whole Bushel
George Steinbrenner is famous for a few things. One is being insanely wealthy, of course, and being arguably the most infamous professional sports owner in history. “Big Stein” also gained fame as a fictionalized version of the man came to prominence on Seinfeld as George Costanza’s boss, who famously once traded George for some chicken.
But what a lot of people don’t realize about the man they call “The Boss” is that, for a time in the 1970s and 1980s, he worked as a confidential informant (CI) for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As with most other informants, he did this in an effort to save his own skin. You see, it was discovered that Steinbrenner faced charges of illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, and he performed as a CI in order to earn a pardon.
The FBI first used Steinbrenner in the mid-1970s, working with undercover agents who would meet him in his office in New York. In 1978, he was used as an informant in what appears to have been a terrorist investigation that, according to his own lawyers, he became personally involved in but it is unclear whether he was already involved in it when the FBI came calling or whether he infiltrated the group on orders to do so.
He was contacted by the FBI again in 1981 to help the organization with a matter of national security, and later he allowed the bureau to use Yankee Stadium to stage a raid on an illegal gambling syndicate. In 1989, he was finally granted his pardon for his numerous contributions to several deep-cover investigations over the course of a decade and a half.
The details of the operations in which he was involved in are still pretty hush-hush, but the fact that undercover agents have made it clear his involvement helped prevent potential terrorist acts gives us a much different view of Big Stein. We have to assume that even Frank Costanza would now forgive him for trading Jay Buhner.