By now most of you have heard that George Steinbrenner passed away this morning at age 80. We’d ask that you to wait at least a few hours before you start dispensing with the Costanza or GS quotes in Larry David’s voice (“Big Stein wants an eggplant calzone!”) but we realize not every one was a fan of the Boss.

The silver lining in Big Stein’s death is that since the estate tax still remains in limbo among the hallowed walls of Congress, his $1.1 billion fortune (Forbes’ latest ranking) could possibly pass to his heirs tax free.

It’s an especially well-timed passing if you read yesterday’s morbid Wall St. Journal article. If you didn’t happen to read it, the article more or less made the case for every wealthy person to give serious consideration to paging Jack Kevorkian, taking a nice warm bath with a toaster or whatever their preferred method of self-imposed death would be.

Steinbrenner is the third billionaire to pass on to the big baseball diamond in the sky (btw, can someone up there keep him away from Billy Martin?) this year – Walter Shorenstein and Dan Duncan are the others – and if the family is as shrewd about their money as they are about their baseball team, they will likely fight any retroactive provisions in the new estate tax (assuming it ever passes).

As with mentioned in the Duncan post, we hope that the Steinbrenners are able to keep their fortune; not because we’re opposed to taxing the rich (just ask AG), it’s because we’re opposed to an incompetent and impotent Congress who allowed the estate tax to expire in the first place. Besides, GS went out with the Yankees as reigning champs, so it seems fitting that he gets a final win against the tax man as well.

RIP Big Stein.

George Steinbrenner, Yankees’ Owner, Dies at 80 [NYT]