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Yankees Owner Forced to Abandon Management Role

July 31, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ George Steinbrenner was stripped Monday of direct control of the New York Yankees, all but ending a turbulent 18-year reign during which he alienated players and fans alike.

Fans at Yankee Stadium for a game against the Detroit Tigers greeted the announcement with a 90-second standing ovation.

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent forced Steinbrenner to resign as principal partner of the team for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, the American League team’s onetime star outfielder.

Steinbrenner agreed to Vincent’s terms following a four-month investigation by the commissioner into Steinbrenner’s dealing with self-described gambler Howard Spira. Observers suggested that Steinbrenner was seeking leverage to force Winfield to accept a trade to another team, something his contract gave him a right to refuse.

″Mr. Steinbrenner will have no further involvement in the management of the New York Yankees or in the day-to-day operations of that club,″ Vincent said.

Steinbrenner, the team’s majority owner, must resign as general partner by Aug. 20, when someone will be appointed to take his place, subject to the approval of Vincent and the other major league teams. Vincent asked Steinbrenner to reduce his interest to below 50 percent within the next six months.

Steinbrenner will, however, be allowed to consult on major business decisions involving the Yankees, but he must ask Vincent’s permission to attend games.

″For all purposes, Mr. Steinbrenner agrees that he is to be treated as if he had been placed on the permanent ineligible list,″ Vincent said.

Steinbrenner also agreed he wouldn’t contest the decision in court.

″I will not comment on the decision,″ Steinbrenner said. ″I’m very happy it was resolved. I’m very satisfied with the resolution, and that’s all I’m going to say.″

This was the second straight summer baseball penalized one of its more famous characters. Last August, Pete Rose was banned for life for gambling.

As one baseball’s more fiery characters, Steinbrenner was famous for his hiring and firing of managers, particularly the late Billy Martin, and for feuding with his players, including Reggie Jackson and Winfield.

Winfield was one of Steinbrenner’s many high-priced free agents, but Steinbrenner turned on the star outfielder after he went 1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series loss to Los Angeles. Later, Steinbrenner derided Winfield as ″Mr. May,‴ saying he only came through when it didn’t count.

Winfield and Steinbrenner feuded throughout the 1980s and, after several years of trying, Winfield was finally traded to the California Angels last May.

Steinbrenner is the only owner to be severely penalized twice for major offenses. He was suspended in 1974 by then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon.

This time, Vincent disciplined Steinbrenner for violating Rule 21, otherwise knows as the ″best interests of baseball″ clause.

″I am able to evaluate a pattern of behavior that borders on the bizarre,″ Vincent said. ″It is apparent to me that Mr. Steinbrenner does not appreciate the gravity of his conduct.″

The investigation centered on Steinbrenner’s $40,000 payment to Spira, a 31-year-old New Yorker who describes himself as a former gambler and a former employee of the David M. Winfield Foundation.

Steinbrenner testified before Vincent on July 5 and July 6 and gave various reasons for the payment to Spira. Among them were that he was afraid Spira would attack his family, that he gave Spira the money ″out of the goodness of my heart″ and that he wanted to protect two former Yankees employees from embarassing revelations.

Many fans at Yankee Stadium thought Steinbrenner got what he deserved.

″That’s what should happen to any owner that constantly makes decisions to hurt the club,″ said Trevor Beckford of Westbury, N.Y. ″He traded away my favorite player, Dave Winfield, and changed managers it seemed like every month.″