The House That Steve Built

  • Posted: 17 January 2009 04:28 PM

    Many of us have witnessed the spectacular demolition of obsolete sports arenas or other gargantuan structures with the flick of a switch. There?s a science to taking down large structures through the strategic positioning of explosives and the timing of each stage of the demolition. Literally within a few short minutes giant structures are felled, leaving in the wake of the explosive work huge piles of rubble to be carted off for recycling and dumping in landfills.

    Structures that took many years to plan and build and were cultural and commercial landmarks for societies and communities can disappear in just minutes with the determined work of a demolition crew.

    This past fall the last baseball game was played at the legendary Yankee Stadium. Often referred to as the ?house that Ruth built,? the playing field was designed to cater to the hitting patterns of one of baseball?s most notable players and personalities.

    Babe Ruth eventually retired yet the string of championships for the pin-striped players continued for decades after his departure. While Babe Ruth was certainly the center of media attention and one of the titans of the game, he was one of nine players for the Yankees that would take the field on spring and summer days. The franchise continued as one of the most successful in sports history long after the Babe hung up his cleats and time silenced his bat.

    To put his accomplishments in perspective, the year he established what became a long-standing record of 60 home runs in a season, he hit more home runs as an individual player than were hit by any other of the American league teams of that year.

    Similar to the way Yankee Stadium was constructed to complement his hitting pattern as a left-batting slugger with a shallow right field wall, Apple has been constructed since 1997 around the talent and peculiarities of its superstar CEO. Upon SJ?s return to Apple he essentially demolished what existed in terms of the company?s senior management and emergent culture. With the exception of then CFO Fred Anderson, Steve Jobs replaced the senior executive team with people who came with him following Apple?s acquisition of NeXT. He also replaced, with the exception one member, the entire Board of Directors. The board member departures included Mark Markkula, the original venture capitalist who started with Apple around the time the first Apple PC emerged from SJ?s parent?s garage.

    To SJ?s credit there is the development of the first Apple PC, the Mac and iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the release of OS X. No one has loomed larger in the past decade in technology and enterprise than Steve Jobs and his Apple management team. One could argue over the past decade or more Steve Jobs has been to personal technology what Babe Ruth was to the Yankees during his prime.

    But similar to the way the Yankees continued to win championships following the retirement of Babe Ruth by carefully selecting talent and developing a culture of success, Apple has many years of success ahead and a team of talent that has played alongside this technology superstar of our times.

    The ?house that Ruth built? has been a center of sports and culture for New Yorkers from the day it opened in 1923 to the day it closed its doors to the public in 2008, yielding its place as the center for sportsonly to the new Yankee Stadium built a stone?s throw from its aging gates.

    It?s not the demolition of the ?house that Ruth built? that will be remembered in time. It?s what Ruth built for the Yankees ? one of the most successful sports franchises in history and one of the most commercially successful sports enterprises of all time ? that is remembered in time.

    Why are so many are standing around prognosticating the demise of the ?house that Steve built? so early in its time and so soon after it has been built. Babe Ruth changed sports the same way Steve Jobs has changed personal technology. Both crafted a franchise and a tradition of success that transcend their time in the spotlight and their playing time of life.

    Like a sports superstar who sustains a season-ending injury, I look forward to SJ?s return to the game field. Should this injury end his active career at Apple, his legacy will loom large upon the franchise he built and Apple?s management teams that join the enterprise game following his retirement. The ?house that Ruth built? stood for many years after the Babe left the field. The ?house that Steve built? may have its best years in the decades to come.

    There?s no satisfaction in watching the grand old Yankee Stadium close its doors. It?s end marks a beginning for the new stadium named in its honor. Apple has its best years ahead and when the lights are dimmed for the last time at One Infinite Loop it will be because a new, grand palace of innovation will be constructed to meet the needs of a changing company and the legacy of Steve Jobs will fill its halls and working space. For those watching for the demolition of the ?house that Steve built,? it will be a very, very long wait.

    Disclaimer: I?m a life-long Red Sox fan.

    Edited to change topic type to normal - 01/19/09

    [ Edited: 19 January 2009 08:15 PM by DawnTreader ]      
  • Posted: 17 January 2009 05:35 PM #1

    Great post DT.  In the beginning of your stadium analogy I thought you were going a slightly different direction.  I was seeing images of a Coliseum with Microsoft banners flying in the stone turrets and Steve tying explosives (products) to each support column.  The mac, an ipod, quicktime, OSX, iTunes, iTunes store etc.  to each successive column as he slowly circled the once unassailable structure.  With the last piece secured he moved back into the distance and using his iPhone as the detonator,  slowly dragged his finger down the screen activating the plunger displayed beneath. 
    Yours is a much kinder view of the world to which I totally subscribe.  As for my interpretation, well…, let’s just say it’s the small me.  :-D

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    I don’t mind being wrong…,I just hate being wrong so FAST!

         
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    Posted: 17 January 2009 07:32 PM #2

    Excellent analogy Dawn Treader. Babe Ruth was as popular as any athlete who ever lived, and he single handedly turned the Yankees into the sporting world’s first dynasty. The team definitely continued it’s prosperity after he was gone and arguably became even more successful! Many things make the New York Yankees so iconic, the interlocking N and Y, the pinstripes, Yankee Stadium, the history, the championships. So will it be with Apple Inc. The Apple with the bite out of it logo, Mac, iPod, iPhone, the unparalleled brick and mortar retail stores, OSX, the history of Apple at the beginning of the computer age, etc…

    The foundation is set, Steve Jobs brought Apple into the computer business, the music business, the movie business, and the phone business. The complete “digital lifestyle”! Whoever runs Apple in the coming years just needs to continue bringing innovation to the platforms that are already in place.

    But I think Steve will be back : )

         
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    Posted: 17 January 2009 07:37 PM #3

    Really good reading,

    Same could be said about the Montral Canadiens and Maurice Richard. They had make the move to a new stadium and are still look as THE hockey legendary team.

    Really good reading DT you should send it to the Apple team (Tim Cook) so they can use it to boost the team spirit.

    MC

         
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    Posted: 18 January 2009 02:41 PM #4

    Really nice ideas!

    And after Ruth left, the Yankees became more and more team-oriented. They moved from just one superstar to continuity bolstered by having multiple hall-of-famers on board.

    I think this is now the culture at One Infinite Loop. It’s not just Jobs - it’s Ive, Cook, Schiller, et al., not to mention the countless brilliant people behind the scenes. I believe it is now time for Apple to squelch the cult of personality and highlight the cult of team.

    If Apple can have a few strong quarters and some compelling product introductions, I think momentum can be regained in due time. Upon recovery, I would love to see SJ move to more of an advisory role where his vision can be respected and acted upon in a lower key environment away from this tabloid-type media attention.

         
  • Posted: 18 January 2009 02:57 PM #5

    jpashin - 18 January 2009 06:41 PM

    RIf Apple can have a few strong quarters and some compelling product introductions, I think momentum can be regained in due time. Upon recovery, I would love to see SJ move to more of an advisory role where his vision can be respected and acted upon in a lower key environment away from this tabloid-type media attention.

    You may have just glimpsed the future!
    This, too, is my hope for Apple Inc going forward.
    They have all the wheels in motion and I think it’s happening.

    It will just take some time for the plan to appear obvious.
    I think the Company is stronger, more focused and capable of greatness.
    That’s why I’m holding the shares I bought in 2002.
    While I have worried over Steves’s health I have never worried over the health of Apple Inc.

         
  • Posted: 18 January 2009 05:12 PM #6

    jpashin - 18 January 2009 06:41 PM

    Really nice ideas!

    And after Ruth left, the Yankees became more and more team-oriented. They moved from just one superstar to continuity bolstered by having multiple hall-of-famers on board.

    What’s interesting to note is Babe Ruth’s contract was sold by the Yankees to the Boston Braves. The Babe was not able to replicate his success. It was later in his career but I think history demonstrates Babe Ruth’s success was due in large part to the stadium and the team that was built for him and around him.

    In short, even the greatest to play the game are dependent on the support of others who join them on the playing field.

    Interesting to note the year Babe Ruth set the long-standing single season home run record of 60 long shots, Lou Gehrig hit 47.

    Despite Lou Gehrig’s outstanding career and consistent play as the “Iron Horse” of the Yankees, he was overshadowed for much of his career by Babe Ruth.

    It will be interesting to see who emerges from the behind the shadow of Steve Jobs over the next six months. Similar to the way the Yankees had depth beyond Babe Ruth, I believe we will be pleasantly surprised how many “Lou Gehrig’s” are on Apple’s executive team.

    It’s much more than one player that wins championships in team sports and a winning franchise has depth beyond the greats of the game.

         
  • Posted: 19 January 2009 12:19 PM #7

    WOZ on Jobs.

    Steve Wozniak as guest of NBC talking about Steve Jobs health and the way things are planed and executed at Apple. About product pipeline and about the incredible amount of creative people working at Apple.

    I don’t know much about football, Babe Ruth and the Yankees - but as far as I understand this topic, Woz is just saying the same things. SJ kept everyone (family, coworkers, investors) as informed as they had to be and shared all the information he could/had. SJ takes some time off: Verry good! Let his creative mind flow and lets see what comes out. Whatch it on YouTube

    Found on MacDailyNews.com

         
  • Posted: 19 January 2009 12:53 PM #8

    Thanks, DT.  Very well done.

         
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    Posted: 19 January 2009 12:59 PM #9

    DawnTreader - 18 January 2009 09:12 PM

    What’s interesting to note is Babe Ruth’s contract was sold by the Yankees to the Boston Braves. The Babe was not able to replicate his success. It was later in his career but I think history demonstrates Babe Ruth’s success was due in large part to the stadium and the team that was built for him and around him.

    Another good analogy is Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had a difficult time crossing the threshold of an NBA championship until they built a team around Jordan’s special abilities. Jordan couldn’t do it alone - It was not until the combo of Pippen, Cartwright, and Rodman was alongside Jordan that things could fall into place.

    There is no doubt that Apple has the team in place, and that team has just delivered and delivered. I expect them to continue delivering with or without Steve Jobs - there is a great team in place that understands what differentiates Apple from the rest of the tech world. If only WS and the media could see that as well. But that story line wouldn’t be as sensational as the “fallen savior” line to the tabloid society, now would it?

         
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    Posted: 20 January 2009 09:51 PM #10

    A couple of points:

    jpashin, with your Michael Jordan analogy I think you might be missing DawnTreader’s point. The Bulls fell into disarray after Jordan’s departure, became one of the worst teams in the NBA, and STILL haven’t recovered. They didn’t even make the playoffs last year. We don’t want that to happen to Apple. And your comment concerning Babe Ruth: “They moved from just one superstar to continuity bolstered by having multiple hall-of-famers on board” is the complete opposite of the reality. Babe Ruth played with 13(!) Hall-of-Famers in his career with the Yankees. An almost obscene amount of HOF’s on a team!

    And I know your a Red Sox fan DawnTreader, but Yankee Stadium didn’t make Babe Ruth, Babe Ruth made Yankee Stadium. He was putting up monster numbers before Yankee Stadium was even conceived. He batted .378, had 59 home-runs and 171 RBI’s in 1921 which is probably the best season of his career. Two years before Yankee Stadium was built. His popularity generated the revenue to build that incredible stadium. And Babe Ruth couldn’t replicate his success with the Boston Braves because he was 40 years old!

    Fenway is awesome BTW.

         
  • Posted: 21 January 2009 01:57 AM #11

    Dr. Gripp - 21 January 2009 01:51 AM

    And I know your a Red Sox fan DawnTreader, but Yankee Stadium didn’t make Babe Ruth, Babe Ruth made Yankee Stadium. He was putting up monster numbers before Yankee Stadium was even conceived. He batted .378, had 59 home-runs and 171 RBI’s in 1921 which is probably the best season of his career. Two years before Yankee Stadium was built. His popularity generated the revenue to build that incredible stadium. And Babe Ruth couldn’t replicate his success with the Boston Braves because he was 40 years old!

    Which is why the stadium was dubbed “the house that Ruth built.” I certainly wouldn’t claim the stadium made Babe Ruth. He had much success for the Yankees while playing at the Polo Grounds. However, in looking at the dimensions of the park when it first opened, the right field wall arrangement was a custom build for Ruth.

    The trade to the Braves was engineered for a number of reasons including Ruth’s desire to eventually manage and the desire of the owners to revitalize a franchise that lived in the show of the Sox. While age was a factor, the situation in Boston unwound quickly and only partly due to Babe Ruth’s deteriorating performance. He was a living legend no matter his then current stats.

    The fact is Babe Ruth built the franchise and his presence loomed large over the team. No wonder the Yankees were able to attract and keep such an amazing stable of talent.

         
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    Posted: 21 January 2009 11:08 AM #12

    Point taken, Dr. Gripp.

    But consider that SJ is much more like Phil Jackson than Michael Jordan. Jon Ive, on the other hand, reminds me of Michael Jordan - his designs are consistent tongue-wagging slam dunks.

    The Apple team is still on the court and in full force. The key in my mind is getting SJ out of the tabloid limelight and into a place where he can apply his vision in relative peace. Otherwise he might take a year off and bolt for the Lakers.