On Thursday, we described the FBI's internal investigation into Steinbrenner's curiously close relationship with the bureau's Tampa field office. We will now commence with the presentation of amusements and oddities found in the nearly 700 pages of new Steinbrenner records the FBI turned over to us.
The first entry should serve to remind you that while The Boss's reputation received a heavy buffing in his latter years, there was a good chunk of time—namely, the balance of his adult life—when Steinbrenner was loathed, especially in New York. Most people feared him, some respected him, very few loved him. Steinbrenner didn't just hold grudges; he cultivated and nurtured them. And he routinely humiliated his employees. This is one such humiliating tale. It's about a guy named Charlie Cusick.
Once upon a time, Charlie Cusick was the FBI special agent in charge (SAC) in the Cleveland office. The SAC is a position of significance within the bureau, tasked with overseeing an FBI field office. So it was a fairly notable transition for Cusick to retire and go to work for Steinbrenner in the mid-1970s as a "troubleshooter" and the chief of security at Steinbrenner's American Shipbuilding Company.
Cusick's hiring would mark the beginning of a decades-long association between the Yankees owner and the FBI, one that would eventually lead to the 1990-91 internal investigation whence these documents originate. (Docs relevant to this post are attached below.) In the beginning, however, before things turned squirrely, the relationship between Steinbrenner and the G-men appeared mutually beneficial, according to the internal FBI memorandum we posted yesterday, a summary of the investigation sent from D. Carroll Toohey, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Inspection Division, to a "Mr. Clarke," who must have been FBI deputy director Floyd Clarke:
Steinbrenner's association with the FBI apparently began when he hired retired Cleveland SAC Charlie Cusick (deceased) as an executive in Steinbrenner's American Shipbuilding Corporation. Cusick, acting on a request to him by Special Agents of the Tampa Division, was instrumental in arranging for Steinbrenner's cooperation in several foreign counterintelligence investigations the FBI was conducting.
A few vague details about these investigations came out this May, when the FBI released a slew of different Steinbrenner records the AP had requested after Steinbrenner's death in 2010. We'll hopefully have more on Steinbrenner the Spook in a later post. For now, let's keep the focus on Cusick because he so perfectly illustrates how tough it was, even for a leathery former FBI agent (to say nothing of a coddled 20-something baseball player) to work for Steinbrenner. All it took was one act of dissent to make Steinbrenner your everlasting enemy, according to the summary of an interview the FBI did with a former Tampa agent:
When STEINBRENNER became the subject of a Federal Election Law violation investigation, he called a meeting of key persons in his employment to discuss his situation. During this meeting, STEINBRENNER fabricated a story in defense of the election case. After the meeting, CUSACK [sic] called his own meeting with the same STEINBRENNER employees, cautioned them that what STEINBRENNER had suggested was against the law, and convinced the rest of the group to confront STEINBRENNER and refuse to go along with his fabricated story. When STEINBRENNER was told of the group's refusal to cooperate with the fabricated story, he blamed CUSACK [sic] and relegated him to a position with no responsibility within the STEINBRENNER organization. CUSACK [sic] was, in effect, reduced to "carrying STEINBRENNER's bags."
Now we can understand what happened on the fateful night that George Steinbrenner clogged his toilet. Until the FBI declassified information about this grave incident this September, the following was secret. The source appears to be the summary of a confidential interview with a former Tampa agent conducted by MLB:
Charlie Cusick [...] lived not far from where George lived, and one night George called him up and told him to come over and fix the toilet which was overflowing, because he said that Cusick worked for him and should do what he was told. Cusick apparently told Steinbrenner what he could do and quit.
Even more tragic than George Steinbrenner ordering a former FBI agent to snake the shit out of his john is what happened next:
Two years after that, Charlie Cusick died and George Steinbrenner [redacted] went to Cusick's funeral. Steinbrenner had sent some flowers to the funeral and thought they were moldy and told [redacted] to immediately call the florist because he thought he had been ripped off.
This might be the best anecdote I've ever read about Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner hires a man from an organization he reveres, ostensibly because the man embodies law-and-order values. When the man stands up to Steinbrenner after the Yankees owner lies about breaking the law, Steinbrenner orders the man to, literally, clean his bathroom. The man quits. He dies. At his funeral, Steinbrenner—a paranoiac to the marrow—suspects he's been chiseled by a florist and becomes enraged. So much rich imagery here. Metaphors abound. An overflowing vessel of excrement. A moldy death flower. To meet George Steinbrenner was to know the beast.