Telling the New York Daily News recently about an incident he had with George Steinbrenner, Selig said, “I think I was more hurt than mad. I had worked so hard to get George back after what” – then Commissioner Fay Vincent – “had done to him, depriving him his rights. But it didn’t scar our relationship.”
Two elements of Selig’s statement are highly questionable, sounding more like revisionist history than just plain old history. Vincent did not deprive the New York Yankees’ owner of any rights Selig might have thought he had, and nothing Selig did prompted Vincent to reinstate Steinbrenner in 1993.
“George Steinbrenner had very few rights in private industry,” Vincent said, reluctantly commenting on issues more than two decades in the past. “They are very restricted.”
In addition, Vincent said Wednesday by telephone from Florida, “As an owner, he had signed the ownership agreement, which includes all baseball rules. Ownership yielded all powers to the commissioner.”
According to John Dowd, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who investigated Steinbrenner’s use of Howard Spira, a small-time gambler, to get derogatory information about Dave Winfield, Steinbrenner’s lawyers triggered the idea that Vincent was trampling on Steinbrenner’s rights.
“His lawyers knew he was dead in the water,” Dowd said in a telephone interview. “That’s when they started this nonsense. They tried to create a circus.”
Steinbrenner, Vincent said, “never claimed I violated his rights.”
Nor, Vincent said, “was Steinbrenner going to argue the merits of what he did to Winfield.”
Lawyers for Yankees’ officials also went after Vincent in 1992 when the commissioner was in the process of dealing with a lifetime suspension for relief pitcher Steve Howe for his seventh drug suspension.
In both instances the Daily News swallowed what I can only describe as the lawyers’ desperate claims, and the newspaper’s chief baseball writer, Bill Madden, featured them in his 2010 book about Steinbrenner.
Selig, who should have known and probably did know better, also …