The 19 letters describe a 60-year-old story of the friendship between a collegian named George Steinbrenner and Mary Jane Elster, a girl two years his junior.
Despite the letters’ lack of controversial content, the Yankees are emphatically refusing to let the woman, now Mary Jane Schriner, use them in a small book about the relationship, which began in 1949 when she was 16 and living in Bay Village, Ohio.
Lonn Trost, the Yankees’ chief operating officer, told Schriner’s son Michael in an e-mail last month that “regardless of anyone’s intent,” publication of the letters “will cause untold embarrassment and damages to the Steinbrenner family and the Steinbrenners’ business interests.” Trost declined to say what offended the family.
“We just think it’s insensitive and because of that it would be inappropriate to proceed on their request,” Trost said in an interview on Wednesday.
Michael Schriner said he was angry and perplexed by the Yankees’ decision.
“Lonn could not have been more of a bully,” Michael Schriner said. “George looks so great in the letters. We wanted his kids to see the letters. But no one wants to mess with the Steinbrenners. People are afraid of them.”
Mary Jane Schriner, who is 77, said: “Michael was offended. I’m too old to be.”
In addition to denying Schriner’s permission to use the letters, Trost asked the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum not to display any of the letters. The Hall would be more interested in the originals for research purposes; copies would be added to Steinbrenner’s biographical file. The Hall learned of the letters when The New York Times published one of them, along with an essay by Mary Jane Schriner, two days after Steinbrenner’s death on July 13. At the time, Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, objected to The Times’s story.
She offered a possible reason for Trost’s threatening directive not to publish the letters, which she kept in a dresser drawer until she learned that Steinbrenner had died. There were about 60 letters at one time, she said; the others were lost over the years.