Steinbrenner far from being silenced

November 18, 1990|By Neil Milbert | Neil Milbert,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Forcing George Steinbrenner to resign as managing general partner of the New York Yankees is one thing. Making him into a silent partner is a horse of a different color.

Blessed with many pulpits and obsessed with speaking his mind, Steinbrenner was in Chicago over the weekend.

Saturday afternoon he saw Purdue defeat Northwestern in a football game involving two schools where he once was an assistant coach.

Saturday night he was at Maywood Park, checking out the harness track his children bought into last month to expand their Chicago racing holdings that already included co-ownership of Balmoral Park.

Early Sunday, the newly retired president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' Association left for Louisville to watch Tarpon Image, a 2-year-old colt he bred and co-owns, make his career debut at Churchill Downs.

But before departing, the former boss of the Bronx Bombers touched all the bases:

* Steinbrenner blasted baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, with whom he cut the deal that got him banned from the day-to-day operations of the Yankees because Steinbrenner admitted he paid gambler Howard Spira $40,000 for conducting a secret investigation of outfielder Dave Winfield.

Steinbrenner insisted "beyond a doubt Bart Giamatti [whose death preceded Vincent's election] would have gone down as a great commissioner -- he was head and shoulders above all the others I dealt with."

"Peter Ueberroth did a lot of good but this whole free-agent thing is his legacy.

"And then you've got to lay it on Vincent for not going in and making a settlement. Instead of making that good-will tour and glad-handing fans, he should have been negotiating that thing, and trying to get it settled before we got killed. Would you believe a $280-million settlement that costs each team $10 million?"

* Steinbrenner said if he were still calling the shots with the Yankees he would have "tried to get" free-agent slugger Darryl Strawberry, who played out his option with the New York Mets and signed a five-year $20.25 million contract with Los Angeles last week.

* Steinbrenner lamented selling the 8 percent share he once held in the Chicago Bulls. He lauded White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn and Blackhawks President Bill Wirtz. It was Wirtz who made Steinbrenner one of his partners in acquiring the Bulls for $3.5 million in 1972 and Reinsdorf who bought out the Wirtz group for $9.2 million in 1985.

* Steinbrenner criticized Arlington International Racecourse owner Dick Duchossois for making the successful pitch to the Illinois Racing Board for summer racing exclusivity, thereby denying Balmoral a 1991 thoroughbred meeting.

"I'm not anti-Duchossois," he insisted. "Dick has done a simply magnificent job of rebuilding Arlington into the finest track in the country. Racing needs Dick.

"The only thing he has to do to make Arlington the greatest is get New York and California-type horses. But you don't do that by penalizing the little guys running at Balmoral."

"Instead of solving a problem, Dick and your Racing Board are creating a problem because these horsemen have nowhere to go. Not only that, they're hurting the breeders."

* Steinbrenner claimed he doesn't mind "not being involved in everyday baseball operations" and is "more interested than anything" in his work as vice-president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"We literally reorganized an archaic system. At this time last year we didn't have anything in the bank. Now, we've got fiscal responsibility."

According to Steinbrenner, Einhorn should be credited with an assist for putting together the TV package for the USOC.

"They were giving it away," said Steinbrenner, "and telling me 'This is all we can get.'

"I said 'I've got the guy who can get more!' I brought Einhorn in, and all by himself he put together a package that has already has quadrupled what we got last year. By the time he's done we'll have 10 times more.

"I started out on bad terms with Reinsdorf and Einhorn. But those guys know what they're doing. If I had to pick three of the smartest guys in baseball I know Reinsdorf would be one of them."

"I definitely should have stayed in when Jerry took control of the Bulls. He made it worth five, six times what it was."

For Steinbrenner, who also once owned the champion Cleveland Pipers of the short-lived American Basketball League, the Bulls proved to be "one of the worst business deals I ever made because of the lawsuit."

Steinbrenner's reference was to the approximately $13.3-million judgment awarded Milwaukee Realtor Marvin Fishman in federal court in 1984 after his 1972 attempt to buy the Bulls was turned down by the National Basketball Association. Basically, Fishman contended that the Wirtz family's ownership of the Stadium and overlapping hockey-basketball connections were the reason he wasn't allowed to buy the team subsequently acquired by the Wirtz group.

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