I awoke to the news yesterday that George Steinbrenner, the fiery owner of the New York Yankees, had died overnight after suffering a massive heart attack a week past his 80th birthday.
My initial thought was about the legacy he leaves behind as a driven man who demanded winning at all costs. But then I wondered, “How the hell does a type-A person like George Steinbrenner live to be 80?”
It really doesn’t make sense until you figure in genetics. Henry Steinbrenner, George’s equally driven father (who was apparently as hard on his son as his son was on his managers), lived to be 79.
As I’ve written previously, Kimi and I had the great honor of meeting 115-year-old Mother Gertrude Baines last year. We attended her 115th birthday party in April where she was certified by Guinness as the oldest person on Earth. Sadly, we also attended her funeral in September.
I think a moment we will both treasure forever will be the phone call we received from her the morning after her party when she thanked Kimi for the sweater she bought her for her birthday.
I’m pretty sure that unless I become the guy Guinness sends around to certify the ages of super-centenarians (those who have lived past 110), I will never meet anyone older than Mother Baines. But there is a chance it could happen if I go to the former Soviet republic of Georgia where reports have surfaced recently about a woman who may have just turned 130!
Antisa Khvichava lives in a small mountainous village with her 40-year-old grandson. She is in remarkable health, both mentally and physically, for a bristlecone pine of a person. She is missing a birth certificate, which was lost during one of the political upheavals that she has survived, but dozens of friends and family members back up her claim that she was born in 1880! If Guinness believes her, she will become the oldest certified person ever.
While George Steinbrenner’s genes were good, it’s lucky for Yankee managers of the next several decades that his DNA code didn’t compare to either Ms. Khvichava or Mother Baines.