ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Derek Jeter had George Steinbrenner on his mind long before he got the news. He hoped to visit him in Tampa, Fla., in a day or two, as he often did when he was in his offseason home.
Once you had been touched by the Boss, he was never out of your thoughts for long.
While it was Steinbrenner who would appoint Jeter as the Yankees' captain, his demanding nature wasn't lost on the shortstop with five World Series rings. He wonders if Steinbrenner ever recovered from his days as a football coach at Northwestern, viewing the grind of a baseball season as if it were a football schedule, where every loss is a big one.
Jeter once got doubled off first base on a line drive. The Yankees would go on to win, but that didn't stop Steinbrenner from yelling at Jeter when he made his clubhouse rounds afterward.
"He expected perfection, and that rubbed off," Jeter said. "That was whether it was the players, the front office, the people working in the stadium. It didn't make a difference. He expected perfection."
Steinbrenner, 80, died Tuesday morning of a heart attack. His death was no surprise, as it seemed he was saying his farewells to baseball when he was wheeled to the middle of Yankee Stadium infield before the 2008 All-Star Game.
His health had been up and down the last few years but he was at the new Yankee Stadium last fall when the Yankees won their 27th World Series, the seventh since he bought the team from CBS in 1973. It seemed fitting that he died before one of baseball's biggest events, assuring that those in the game always would remember where they were when he left them.
Commissioner Bud Selig, a rival of Steinbrenner's when he owned the Brewers, hasn't always endorsed Steinbrenner's free spending, impulsiveness and relentless need to exercise his freedom of speech. Selig clashed with Steinbrenner over baseball's need for increased revenue sharing and an approach to labor negotiations that sometimes seemed like 29 teams vs. the Yankees (and the players union).
Yet Selig said he and Steinbrenner never went to sleep angry with each other.
"No two people who had as differing agendas as we had ever should have gotten along," Selig said. "I know he was controversial, I know all the arguments. (But) he was clearly a giant in the sport. ... Nobody loved his team more than he did."
Nor fired more people, and made so many others tremble.
Steinbrenner's temper was legendary, but he often rehired the people he sent away -- including Billy Martin four times. He once fired a summer intern for some perceived indiscretion. A Yankees staffer saw him packing his things and told him it would be OK.
"Just go home for the day and come back tomorrow," the staffer told him. "It'll be fine."
As Jeter learned the day he was doubled off first, there were no small losses for Steinbrenner. He kept everyone who worked for him on his toes.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin recalled being afraid to go home after bad losses when he was beginning his front-office career as a lowly assistant. He and others sometimes would spend the night at the office in fear that Steinbrenner would think they weren't working hard enough.
"His toughness came out to me in (his) expectations," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think the expectations that he had carried over into the clubhouse. We had the same expectations as he did, which I think is the sign of his influence on all of us."
Steinbrenner wasn't just from a different millennium. He was from a different breed than current owners, who have become so removed from the headlines under Selig's leadership that we barely know their names anymore. This might be a good thing for labor negotiations, but what about the sport?
In everything Steinbrenner did in a life that took him from football to shipbuilding to baseball, he went 110 mph when the speed limit was 55. His competitive fire burned passionately. He always was driven to win for his fans and his own oversized ego, and he didn't mind letting the public see it.
Bill Madden, a longtime New York baseball writer, chronicles Steinbrenner in a book released this spring entitled "The Last Lion of Baseball," and the title fits.
Brian Cashman, the brainiac who along with Gene Michael has run the Yankees during the Jeter years, has said it's hard to imagine the Yankees without Steinbrenner.
He's right, but that day is here.
Will the Yankees be the same with the next generation of Steinbrenners controlling the team on their own? Will they take as good care of Jeter as their dad would at the end of this season, when his contract runs out? Will they have the passion to fight the annual battles with agents and his fellow owners? Or with their father gone, will they decide to cash out and enjoy lives out of the public eye?
There's no telling. But baseball won't be the same without the Boss.
There's a Hall of Fame induction in 10 days. Why not end any discussion and put him in now?