Dave Winfield and Other George Steinbrenner Controversies, 1973-1990

Since George Steinbrenner, after having a large monument to his memory put up in the new Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, is now a candidate for the Hall of Fame, it’s a good time to look back on some of his transgressions, controversies, and tumults from 1973 through 1990. First, here’s the core of a timeline USA Today put together in August 1990, chronicling his time as Yankees owner:

Jan. 3, 1973: As managing general partner, buys the Yankees from CBS.

April 18, 1974: Receives 15-count federal indictment for violation of election laws.

April 19, 1974: Pleads not guilty to all 15 counts.

Aug. 23, 1974: Pleads guilty to one count of conspiracy to make illegal campaign contributions.

Aug. 30, 1974: Fined $15,000 by federal court in Cleveland.

Nov. 27, 1974: Suspended from baseball two years by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn because of guilty plea.

March 1, 1976: Suspension lifted after 15 months for good behavior.

Nov. 11, 1979: Fined $5,000 by Kuhn for tampering with Brian Downing of the California Angels.

June 26, 1980: Reprimanded by Kuhn for tampering with free-agent amateur player Billy Cannon Jr.

Dec. 15, 1980: Signs Dave Winfield to a 10-year contract that eventually is worth $18 million.

April 21, 1981: Orders 50,000 copies of the team yearbook taken off Yankee Stadium concession stands because he dislikes his picture.

Oct. 25, 1981: Breaks hand in Los Angeles elevator, saying he was attacked by fans after Yankees lost fifth game of the World Series to the Dodgers.

Oct. 28, 1981: Apologizes to fans for team’s play in six-game loss to Los Angeles in World Series.

Jan. 3, 1983: Fined $5,000 by Kuhn for remarks made about Chicago White Sox co-owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

April 19, 1983: Fined $50,000 by Kuhn for remarks made during a March 25 spring training game questioning the integrity of National League umpire Lee Weyer.

May 31, 1983: Suspended for one week (June 3-9) by American League President Lee MacPhail for statements made May 27, questioning integrity of American League umpires Darryl Cousins and John Shulock.

Oct. 4, 1983: Winfield Foundation files suit charging Steinbrenner with reneging on agreement to pay $3 million to the charity.

Dec. 23, 1983: Fined $250,000 by Kuhn for involvement in pine-tar game with Kansas City.

Aug. 17, 1984: Settles dispute with Winfield.

Sept. 1, 1986: Attacks Winfield’s integrity and Winfield book, A Player’s Life.

Jan. 10, 1989: Countersues Winfield charging him with misusing money from his foundation.

Feb. 1989: Elected a vice president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Sept. 6, 1989: Settles with Winfield out of court.

March 24, 1990: Commissioner Fay Vincent announces he is examining Steinbrenner’s relationship with admitted gambler Howard Spira and a $40,000 payment that Spira alleges Steinbrenner gave him for information to discredit Winfield. Denies charge.

May 11, 1990: Trades Winfield to the Angels.

May 14, 1990: Tells Winfield he never wanted to trade him but was urged by Bucky Dent.

July 5, 1990: Fined $225,000 for tampering with the Winfield trade.

July 5-6, 1990: Appears in hearings before Vincent.

July 30, 1990: Agrees to resign as general partner for his dealings with Spira.

Aug. 15, 1990: Names Robert Nederlander successor as general partner after son Hank declines and executive vice president Leonard Kleinman is blocked by Vincent.

At the same time, Joe Klein wrote a column speculating that Steinbrenner’s downfall was an emblem of the broader decay of New York City after the ’80s-that it combined with the downfall “of Donald Trump and Ed Koch – and a thousand other slivers of news, like the bankruptcy of his good buddy William Fugazy, the travel-and- limousine-king – to become part of this year’s unavoidable theme in New York, the end of an era: the frantic years between New York’s fiscal crisis and the 1987 stock-market Crash, the time of the yuppies, the loudmouths and insiders.”

I don’t know if Klein was accurate in this diagnosis, but in the column, Steinbrenner had an interesting response to the stories of the demise of New York City 20 years ago: “The city better hope it’s not over. David Dinkins is a fine man, with an awful task ahead of him. . . . But this is no time for quiet contemplation – we need action: hands-on, one-on-one leadership. You can’t sit back and just take these kind of economic problems. Boy, I don’t see that era being over. The Yankees will be back. The city will be back. Because if it’s over, we’re in deep, deep trouble.”

Also in August 1990, George Vecsey made, I think, a more interesting analogy between Steinbrenner and Richard Nixon:

George Steinbrenner has been kicked out of Yankee Stadium, but he does not seem to know it. The question is: Does everybody else?

The elevator doors were clattering Monday night, but Steinbrenner could not resist the paparazzi swarm. He extended his hands and held the elevator doors, answering more questions, loving the attention.

He had already told a packed news conference that he was not remorseful and that he was not in shock. Nobody had asked him if he was.

It was time to move on, he volunteered, omitting the minor detail that he had been ordered to move on by the commissioner of baseball, backed up by every major-league owner in North America.

This was quite a scene, a powerful man leaving a building he had dominated for 17 1/2 years. Certainly the sight was not as important or dramatic as a president of the United States trudging onto a service helicopter and being whisked off the White House lawn, but some of the same elements were there: abuse of power, lack of candor, eventual downfall.

Now we will find out if the U.S. Olympic Committee has paid attention to this affair. The USOC board, which meets today in Colorado Springs, is said to be mesmerized by the money Steinbrenner has donated and raised.

Steinbrenner has always been a blowhard and a bully, and that is not a crime, but he was found guilty of illegal political contributions in 1972, and 17 years later he gave money to a seedy little gambler in a vendetta against Dave Winfield. The board members should, of course, ask Steinbrenner to resign.

On Monday night, Steinbrenner made the Nixonian feint of confessing “”mistakes,” which turned out to be Checkers-type slip-ups like dismissing Dick Howser as manager after 1980 and not retaining Reggie Jackson after 1981.

Finally, here are some comments, again made in August 1990, by Dave Winfield on his return to New York for the first time as an ex-Yankee.

Of Commissioner Fay Vincent’s ruling against Steinbrenner, Winfield said: “Finally, they uncovered the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole lot of ice underneath the water. Good, I finally didn’t have to say anything myself. Someone else said it for me. Someone else was looking for the truth.

“They only took what (Steinbrenner) did within baseball that broke the rules. Really, they didn’t get into all the other things. They said, ‘We’re going to take Spira, and that’s enough. You’re gone.’

“All I remember is Howard Spira for a week going on TV and newspapers and creating, trying to create situations about me, saying everything demeaning and disparaging about me … They’ve looked into everything on everything. There’s nothing on Winfield. They answered that.

“Whether you understand it, they damaged me for a long time…. Here I am, and I have to listen to them making claims across the country. I never did appreciate it. I still did my job, and no one else did it better in the ’80s.

“But with all the stuff kicked up, only one person (Steinbrenner) was muddied. I’m not going to wallow in the mud.

“You think about some of the things that happened over the nine-plus years, and people ask me why I didn’t scream or fight. You fight it, but what are you going to do, spend every waking hour discussing the garbage?”

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 4:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, With Some Audio

I’ve come across some recordings of Mantle and Berra in the ’40s and ’50s, including Yogi’s first at-bat (a homer), Yogi and Jackie Robinson talking at the end of the 1955 World Series, and Mantle’s retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. You can click here to hear them.

Also, read on for some of a Mike Lupica column in the Daily News of October 17, 1996, on the start of that year’s World Series:

The only thing that could make the night perfect is if Yogi Berra could walk out to the middle of the diamond with DiMaggio. They are the two greatest living Yankees. Only one still comes around, though. And the one who does not come around Yogi knows more about nights like Saturday, about the World Series, than anyone alive. Reggie Jackson is called Mr. October. Yogi Berra was October in baseball.
“I’ll be like any Yankee watching the game,” Yogi said yesterday. “You see the Yankees in the Series and you feel like you’re watching your whole life.”

“You don’t want to come?”


George Steinbrenner fired him after just 16 games of the 1985 season after saying that Yogi would have his job as manager all season. Yogi Berra, No. 8, said he would not come back to the Stadium as long as Steinbrenner ran the team. He has not come back. He said yesterday he would not be at the first game of this Series, any of the games. The Series thus misses an honored guest.

“You’re not going to change your mind about this?” he was asked.


“But you’ll be pulling for the Yankees.”

“I’ll be rooting like hell,” Yogi Berra said. “I’ll never stop being a Yankee.”

He was asked if anybody had called this week to ask him to throw out a first ball at the Stadium.

“They’ve called asking me to come back,” Yogi said. “They haven’t called about the Series.”

Steinbrenner has tried to get Yogi Berra to come back, for Old Timer’s Day, for anything. He tells people all the time that he feels terrible about Berra’s self-imposed exile. But No. 8 has been the same in retirement as he was behind the plate in all his Octobers: You don’t move him. In this case, you don’t move him out of New Jersey on Saturday night.

“It’s easier on television,” he said. “There’s no crowds to fight in my living room, believe me.”

“There was one call I made sure to make yesterday,” Yogi said. “I called Joe in his office and told him how happy I was that he finally made it. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for Zim (Don Zimmer), I gotta be happy for Mel (Stottlemyre), he won me a game in ’64 when he was just a kid.”

‘I’m getting old,” Yogi said. “All these games we’re talking about, they seem like they happened yesterday.”

In December 1995, the Daily News had reported on Yogi honoring Mantle’s last wish:

A tearful Yogi Berra yesterday honored the last wish of his long-time friend and teammate, Mickey Mantle.

He signed a “Join Mickey’s Team” organ donor card at the Manhattan kickoff of a year-long organ donor awareness campaign in the metropolitan area.

“I lost a great friend,” he said, his voice choking and his eyes filled with tears. “I really can’t say anything else right now.”

The Mickey Mantle Donor Awareness Foundation was launched by the family of the Yankee slugger, who received a liver transplant before dying of cancer Aug. 13. His final request was for a continuing organ donor program.

Mantle’s restaurant partner, Bill Liederman, said 3 million Mantle donor cards have been distributed since Labor Day.

Yesterday, Mantle’s widow, Merlyn, and sons, Mickey Jr. and Danny, watched as Berra, sportscaster Bob Costas and ex-Knicks star Earl (The Pearl) Monroe signed donor cards at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant and Sports Bar on Central Park South.

Then, finally, in early 1999, Berra came back to the Yankees:

The emotional reunion that ended the 14-year cold war between George Steinbrenner and Yogi Berra was triggered by none other than the Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio.

During a 45-minute meeting in his Florida hospital room, the ailing baseball legend implored the Boss to bury the hatchet and end the feud, said Dr. Rock Positano, a long-time DiMaggio friend.

Sources told the Daily News that Steinbrenner had already been leaning toward making a gesture toward Berra but DiMaggio pushed him to go all the way.

“It shouldn’t be a personal thing,” DiMaggio told Steinbrenner, according to Positano.

“It should be first for the fans, then for the game, then for the Yankees. That should be more important than two men having a feud.”

Steinbrenner, 68, took DiMaggio’s words to heart and got the ball rolling to Tuesday’s mea culpa meeting with Berra, 73.

Yesterday, DiMaggio who was in a coma and near death on Dec. 11 was happy to hear the pair were talking, Positano said.

“Joe definitely had a hand in it,” said Positano. He added that DiMaggio’s brush with death “shook up a lot of people.”

DiMaggio, 84, has been in Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., waging a battle against post-operative complications that arose after a tumor was removed from his right lung Oct. 14.

Joltin’ Joe’s near-death experience upset Steinbrenner. During his Tuesday meeting with Berra at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, N.J., the principal owner of the Bronx Bombers referred poignantly to DiMaggio’s illness.

“We lost Mickey [Mantle], we almost lost Joe [DiMaggio], we didn’t want to lose you,” Steinbrenner told Berra.

The cold war melted Tuesday when Steinbrenner told Berra, “I know I made a mistake by not letting you go in person. It was the worst mistake I ever made in baseball.”

“I made a lot of mistakes, too,” Berra responded. They hugged, shook hands and even talked about Berra’s coming back to Yankee Stadium, perhaps for a Yogi Berra Day.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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1983: the Conclusion of the Pine-Tar Game

The conclusion of the Pine-Tar game involving George Brett, the Kansas City Royals, and the New York Yankees came on August 18, 1983. The Omaha World-Herald said:

The Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees completed their suspended pine-tar game Thursday evening before a sparse crowd at Yankee Stadium.

For the record, the Royals retained their 5-4 lead and won the game.

After Hal McRae struck out to complete the Kansas City ninth, Dan Quisenberry retired the Yankees in order in the bottom of the ninth for his 33rd save.

The threat of a storm seemed appropriate for the resumption of what had been one of baseball’s strangest sagas and a game that needed a court order to get it back on the field.

The resumption, called off by one judge earlier in the day, was declared on by an appeals judge hours later.

“”I guess I can state it best in two words: “Play Ball!’ ” said Justice Joseph Sullivan of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Sullivan’s ruling overturned a temporary injunction that had been issued earlier in the day by Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Orest V. Maresca.

“”I am very pleased. We think that justice was done,” said Robert Kheel, an AL lawyer.

The Royals boarded a plane in Kansas City and headed east after Maresca ruled. They didn’t know the game would be played until they had arrived at Yankee Stadium and learned of Sullivan’s ruling.

The dispute stems from a July 24 game when umpires nullified George Brett’s two-run homer for Kansas City with two out in the ninth inning because his bat had too much pine tar on it. Brett was the final out and the Yankees won the game 4-3.

The Royals protested the game, AL President Lee MacPhail overruled the umpires, reinstated the homer, declared the game a suspended one and ordered it resumed Thursday with the Royals leading 5-4.

However, two suits were filed – one in Manhattan and the other in the Bronx – by fans who attended the July 24 game and contended they should not be charged for admission to the rescheduled game. The suits were consolidated this week.

Brett was among the players who started the game but were not around for the completion. He was ejected – along with Royals Manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito and pitcher Gaylord Perry – for arguing with umpires after being called out. Yankee center fielder Jerry Mumphrey has since been traded to the Houston Astros and was replaced by Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry, who has played center field at least once before in the majors.

Bert Campaneris, at second base for New York on July 24 and now on the disabled list, was replaced by first baseman [and left-hander] Don Mattingly. Ken Griffey was at first.

The Yankees said they needed to charge $2.50 each for admission to cover security and other costs of the game, which they said would run between $20,000 and $30,000. Tickets normally run from $1.50 for the bleachers up to $9 for box seats.

However, late Thursday afternoon, Ken Nigro, director of media relations for the team, said fans who still had ticket stubs from the July 24 game would be admitted free to Yankee Stadium for the completion of the game.

Yankee owner George Steinbrenner said in a prepared statement: “”The Yankees will abide by the judge’s decision. We want to state emphatically that we were not a party to this lawsuit. We resent any implications by the American League office that the Yankees had any part in either of the two suits.”

The Boston Globe didn’t pass up a chance to dig at the Yankees over the sordid affair. It reported:

The best part came when Dave Phillips took the piece of paper from his pocket. That was the true end to all the stalls, all the wails, all the nonsense of the New York Yankees.

The final answer to their final, nagging question.

“I hate to do this,” Dave Phillips said as he reached into his breast pocket in the muggy rush-hour heat early last night at second base of Yankee Stadium. “But I have this piece of paper here . . .”

Lovely. The Yankees were pulling their final, last-ditch, 959th move to win the long-running, forever publicized Pine Tar baseball game and they didn’t have a chance. Dave Phillips had the paper and the game could be resumed for the final, mechanical four outs yesterday to give the Kansas CityRoyals the 5-4 win they mostly accomplished on July 24.

“We were prepared for a lot of things,” said Phillips, who was the chief umpire for this return to work the Yankees had fought so long. “I had lists and papers, a lot of possibilities to cover.”

The specific piece of paper that counted was a signed and notarized statement from the four umpires who had worked the first eight-plus innings of the game. The statement covered the play that had begun all the trouble, the home run with two outs in the top of the ninth by George Brett of the Royals that first was disallowed for the use of too much pine tar on his bat, then reinstated in Kansas City’s appeal to the league office.

“We wanted to be ready for anything,” Phillips said.

Sure enough. Five minutes after six last night and the first move Yankee manager Billy Martin made was to order his pitcher, George Frazier, to throw the ball to first baseman Ken Griffey. The second move was to have Frazier throw the ball to shortstop Roy Smalley at second. Sure enough. The throws were appeals.

“We believe George Brett did not touch first base on his home run,” Martin said after he trotted to meet Phillips at second. “We think we have proof.”

Good argument. Good point. Phillips and this umpiring crew was new. How could any of them know whether Brett or U.L. Washington, also running the bases on the two-run homer, had touched the proper bags?


The paper.

The four original umpires said in their statement that Washington and Brett had touched the bases. That was the statement. Signed and sealed and witnessed.

“I don’t know who it was who thought about that paper,” Kansas City reliever Dan Quisenberry said, “but whoever he was, he should be the next commissioner of baseball. The search is over.”

Lovely. The Yankees still could protest the game – and they did – but the action had to resume. The four outs could run their course in a dull, four-up, four-down 12 minutes. The great flapdoodle about nothing could end.

The Yankees had to play.

“Boorish is the word to describe how they have handled the entire situation,” Kansas City general manager John Schuerholz said. “It’s been frustrating and, to a large part, undignified for our industry the way they’ve acted. I don’t think we have to go to a courtroom to settle matters like this. I know there are supposed to be a million lawyers in this country by the end of the century, but I don’t think we’re the ones who have to keep them in business.”

The boorishness continued to the end. Would the game be played? Would the game not be played? What would happen? No one even knew until 4 o’clock that, yes, for certain, both teams would take the field.

“We were on the plane and we were coming here or going to Baltimore, where we play on Friday,” Schuerholz said. “We didn’t know which. I made a call someplace over Ashtabula, Ohio, and still nobody knew. So we just kept coming here.

“We didn’t know until we walked into the door of the stadium that we were playing,” Schuerholz said. “Some guy told us, It’s on.’ ”

The Yankees simply wouldn’t treat the event with dignity. They were schoolkids, doing something they didn’t want to do, fighting and grumping and harrumphing all the way. They weren’t civil. That was it. They weren’t civil at all.

“We suggested all kinds of things they could have done to make this a fun event,” American League official Bob Fishel said. “Give away little Pine Tar bats. Let a lot of kids come. Have some entertainment. Give the money to charity. Nothing. That’s what they did. Nothing.

“They didn’t even have a sign on the front saying there was a game today.”

The announced attendance was 1245, but the figure must have included the workers and security details. Ushers sat in the good box seats along the third base line. Hot dog salesmen stood in aisles. The few fans walked and moved around, sitting where they wanted.

“We’re worried about security,” Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in one of his many rants on the Pine Tar subject. “There is potential for trouble here. Another Diana Ross situation from Central Park.”

“Maybe some of these people are more vicious than they look,” Kansas City general manager Schuerholz said. “Look at that little kid over there. He might have a club or something hidden in his clothes. Vicious. Threatening.”

“You’ll have to leave the clubhouse,” an attendant told a last knot of reporters in the Yankee dressing room an hour after the game. “There aren’t going to be any comments.”

On August 18, the Globe had reported:

A judge today blocked tonight’s scheduled completion of the New York Yankees-Kansas City Royals game at which George Brett’s ninth- inning home run was nullified because his bat had too much pine tar on it.

Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Orest V. Maresca said he was blocking the game “to protect the rights” of fans who sued, contending that they shouldn’t have to pay to see the completion of the game they attended July 24 in New York.

In a seven-page decision, Maresca also cited the Yankees’ argument that there might be security problems stemming from confusion over admission to the game if it were played as scheduled.

The American League, which had ordered the game resumed at 6 p.m. today, immediately appealed to New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, which agreed to review the case later today.

Yesterday, the Yankees and one of their fans asked for an injunction against the game’s being resumed.

Yankee players were to have voted last night whether to play, but they put off the referendum until Maresca ruled on the injunction request.

Roy Cohn, an attorney for the Yankees, asked for the injunction to allow time for the court to hear suits brought by two fans who argue they should not be forced to pay another admission.

The Yankees are charging $2.50 for what could be four outs.

Some baseball officials have expressed concern over some of George Steinbrenner’s remarks about MacPhail, the American League president, who upheld Kansas City’s protest and reinstated George Brett’s home run. ”If the Yankees lose the division by one game,” Steinbrenner said, ”I wouldn’t want to be Lee MacPhail living in New York. Maybe he should go house-hunting in Kansas City.”

Published in: on February 17, 2009 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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