Why Are the New York Yankees Mourning Henry Kissinger?

The death of Henry Kissinger has brought up a lot of opinions among Americans, who — depending upon their age, political leaning, or how much they hung out with the guy — either view the 100-year-old diplomat as a Nobel Peace Prize–winning architect of American foreign policy or a war criminal responsible for millions of deaths in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Chile, and beyond.

In 2023, corporate America has decided, generally for the worse, that businesses, universities, and nonprofits must issue a statement responding to dramatic or controversial developments in the news. Of the many organizations that have commented on Kissinger’s passing, most have regarded him as a once-in-a-century statesman. You can probably guess the type of places that are doing this: the Reagan Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Then there’s a curveball: the New York Yankees.

Sentences that begin with “the Yankees are profoundly saddened” are normally reserved for events like having a jolly old bench coach thrown to the ground by a Hall of Famer in his prime or spending north of $280 million in payroll just to finish two games above .500. But as the statement explains, Kissinger and legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner were friends, attending many games together in the luxury box. (Kissinger and Steinbrenner also had a friend in Richard Nixon. While the presidential adviser never got bogged down in Watergate, Steinbrenner was indicted in 1974 for illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign and was later pardoned by Ronald Reagan.)

Kissinger thought highly of his time with Steinbrenner. In a 2008 op-ed for the New York Times commemorating the end of the original Yankee stadium, he expressed what it meant to him to sit with the bigwigs. “In the early days, the idea that the day might come when I would sit in the owner’s box next to Joe DiMaggio would have seemed beyond even America’s capacity to fulfill dreams,” Kissinger wrote. “Yet that is what happened, starting in the 1970s, proving America’s ability to make the impossible come true.” Perhaps it was a telling choice for a favorite ball club, considering the Yankee’s long-standing nickname — the evil empire.

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