Steinbrenner talkative in ambulance

Updated: December 27, 2003, 11:52 PM ET
Associated Press

SARASOTA, Fla. -- New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner fainted Saturday at a memorial service for football great Otto Graham and was hospitalized in stable condition, an emergency official said.

"Right now, he's fine," Paul Dezzi of the Sarasota County Fire Department told The Associated Press.

"He fainted. When we arrived, he was alert and oriented. He was very talkative in the ambulance," he said. "He was stable."

The 73-year-old Steinbrenner was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He was given oxygen, an electrocardiogram and intravenous fluids in the ambulance, Dezzi said.

Based on the preliminary tests, "Everything showed up fine," Dezzi said.

"There's nothing obvious from our side," he said. "I just talked to someone who was with him in the hospital, and Mr. Steinbrenner seemed OK."

Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Doug Fernandes said he was about 20 feet away when Steinbrenner fell during a slide show. The presentation, prepared by Graham's grandchildren and shown at a reception, featured pictures of Steinbrenner and Graham together.

"He went to reach for a chair but he missed, and he went face-first into the carpet," Fernandes said. "People were stunned. They started loosening his tie and his collar. He was out for a few seconds. By the time they wheeled him out, his color had returned."

Temperatures were normal for this time of year, in the mid-70s. The reception room was full.

Graham, a longtime friend of Steinbrenner, died Dec. 17. The Hall of Fame quarterback was 82.

Hospital spokeswoman Lynn Cassan did not comment to the AP, citing patient confidentiality.

Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone said he had no information on Steinbrenner. Team president Randy Levine had no immediate comment, and Steinbrenner publicist Howard Rubenstein did not immediately return telephone calls.

A small group of Yankees officials that did not include Steinbrenner left the hospital at 11:35 p.m., but none would comment. No further details were expected Saturday night.

Steinbrenner, who has owned the Yankees since 1973, lives in Tampa, about 60 miles north of Sarasota.

Steinbrenner grew up in Cleveland, and later became longtime friends with Graham, the Browns' star quarterback from 1946-55. They were golfing partners, attended banquets together and helped each other with charity events.

In 1959, boosted by Steinbrenner's recommendation, Graham became athletic director and football coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Almost two decades later, Steinbrenner got a call from the old quarterback's family. Graham had suffered a seizure, and Steinbrenner rushed up to see him at the Coast Guard in New London, Conn.

"I saw him and told him, 'You can't go now! You're not going to get out of the game that easily!' " Steinbrenner recalled the night Graham died. "Fortunately, he recovered and we had him for many more years."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press