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HISTORY STUDENT NEEDS HISTORY LESSON

By Murray Chass

December 18, 2014

Bud Selig, the outgoing baseball commissioner, has always touted himself as a student of history, but students of his history have to be wary when he relates it. Case in point:

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 …

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WINTER MEETINGS THAT PRODUCE HEAT

By Murray Chass

December 14, 2014

With good reason, MLB.com was all enthused about the recently concluded winter meetings.

“GMs dealing right to the end,” read one headline on the website.

Declared another: “Think these meetings were crazy? Try ‘92.”

In what could have been a good historical piece, though, MLB.com omitted some important elements of the 1992 winter meetings:

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IT’S HALL OF FAME TIME

By Murray Chass

December 11, 2014

The Hall of Fame season got off to a good start earlier this week when the Hall’s 16-man Golden Era committee elected none of the 10 candidates on the ballot. Only a day later, though, the Baseball Writers Association of America spoiled that strong start by voting to recommend to the Hall’s board of directors that it raise from 10 to 12 the limit on the number of players a voter can mark on the ballot.

In case it’s not clear, I oppose the election of players by any of the Hall’s various veterans’ committees, and I see no reason to allow writers to vote for more than 10 candidates. If anything, I would favor lowering the limit.

Nine players appeared on the Golden Era ballot: Dick Allen (is anyone still around who knew him as Richie?), Tony Oliva (who even longer ago was known as Pedro). Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges (still the darling of surviving Brooklyn fans), Maury Wills, Minnie (five-decade) Minoso, Ken Boyer, Luis Tiant and Billy Pierce.

Allen and Oliva each fell one vote short of the 12 votes needed for election. Kaat missed by two votes.

Nothing against any of them or any of the six other players on the ballot, but …

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