Friday, October 15, 2010

You Can't Always Publish What You Want

Mary Jane Schriner thought she had a memoir in her. The estate of George Steinbrenner wants her to keep her memories to herself. Or else.

Long ago, when the grandmother was Mary Jane Elster and George Steinbrenner was a young man gone a-courtin', the future owner of the New York Yankees wrote often to his sweetheart. She, in turn, saved the letters, for what sixteen-year-old girl with a college boyfriend wouldn't cherish such missives?

After Mr. Steinbrenner's death, Mrs. Schriner wrote a short essay which was published in the New York Times, along with one of the letters.

Lonn Trost, CEO of all things Yankee, fired off a letter of his own but it wasn't the least bit sweet.

By law, Mr. Steinbrenner holds the copyright to the letters because he wrote them. Mrs. Schriner is nothing more than a holder of the sole copy. That means she has no right to publish them. That right rests with the estate, and the estate isn't letting anything Steinbrenner get loose.

Michael Schriner can't understand what the problem is. He says the manuscript is nothing more than a sweet re-telling of a long ago age, and presents George Steinbrenner as an average eighteen-year-old who's quite taken with a girl.

But the Steinbrenners are having nothing of it. They're claiming that publication would damage their business interests and embarrass the family. Wouldn't want it to get out that the old man was once young and charming and capable of penning sappy love notes. Why, the value of the Yankess would plummet. The players would fall apart on the field and get swept in the pennant series.

The potential damage is so great that Mr. Trost asked the Baseball Hall of Fame to not display the letters, least a few syrupy words drip out and people start thinking that Steinbrenner wasn't such a horse's ass after all.

Curious about what the fuss is all about?

Mrs. Schriner is going to sell the letters. She's 77 and losing her sight. She has no use for the letters anymore. You could buy them and read them and write a thinly veiled roman a clef, then claim it's all fiction and you made up the epistles and aren't quoting Steinbrenner directly.

Or you can read Mrs. Schriner's blog, and decide for yourself if her tales of going to a movie with George Steinbrenner are too racy for print.

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