Howard "Hop" Cassady in 2007 and he'd known both personally and as a coach for his Yankees, for more than 40 years, according to The New York Times.
"He's tough, he's honorable, and I value him both as a friend and as a special instructor," Steinbrenner told The Times through his spokesman. "I have the highest possible opinion of him. I've told him, 'You should win a Heisman for being a great guy.' "
That's the Heisman Trophy from college football. Cassady joined the Yankees in the mid-1970s after a career in pro football. He played in the NFL after winning the college game's highest honor and the man to inform Cassady he'd won, according to The Detroit Free Press: Then-Purdue assistant George Steinbrenner.
Cassady's path to baseball and the Yankees began at Ohio State, playing baseball and football.
Cassady played football four years there. In 1955, he ran for 958 yards, 14 touchdowns and he won the Heisman and All-America honors three years running.
The Lions took him in the first round, third overall, in the 1956 draft. He played in eight NFL seasons, seven with the Lions. He also saw brief time with the Browns and Eagles in 1962.
He saw 12 games in his first season in Detroit, rushed for 413 yards. He didn't score a touchdown, but helped his team in other ways, his coach Buddy Parker told UPI in October after two particular games.
"He was our only consistent ground gainer and kept the opponents guessing," Detroit coach Buddy Parker told UPI. "When Cassady is on the field, the defense can't relax for a second because if he gets even the slightest jump he'll go a long way."
Cassady played his last down in the NFL in 1963.
Cassady went on into the private sector and did work selling steel for Steinbrenner's shipbuilding company, according to The Times. Then, in 1973, Steinbrenner brought Cassady on with the Yankees as a scout and later as conditioning coach.
"George felt that since he was paying these guys a million dollars, like he first did with Catfish Hunter, that they needed to work out year-round," Cassady told The Free Press in March 2000. "So I learned all about the Nautilus and set up the team's physical conditioning program."
By 1981, Cassady was back in Columbus as a coach for the Yankees' AAA squad. He returned there for 1982 and then again a decade later for a longer stretch. In between he coached with the Yankees in Florida. He served in 1990 as a coach with the rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees.
In 2003, with Columbus, he caught the ceremonial first pitch of the game from Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. Cassady then struck the Heisman pose to the Columbus crowd's loud applause.
By 2007, he was still with the Yankees, as a special instructor.
- Coshocton Democrat, UPI, Oct. 10, 1956: Cassady silencing critics
- Detroit Free Press, March 9, 2000: Cassady: Ex-Lion with Yankees since '73 season
- New York Times, March 25, 2007: Cassady a Special, Special Instructor for Yanks
Made the Majors:1,137-36.6%
Never Made Majors:1,974-63.4%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 471
10+ Seasons in the Minors:282