By 1982 Steinbrenner was at war with Winfield. He stopped sending the agreed-upon $300,000-a-year donation to the David M. Winfield Foundation—an organization that Winfield had set up in San Diego to help underprivileged kids—despite three court orders to do so. He would call Winfield into long, stress-filled meetings with Roy Cohn, Steinbrenner's rabid lawyer, on the day of ball games. He struck such fear into the hearts of Yankee managers that they were reluctant to say anything complimentary about the best all-around player on the team. One year the Yankees didn't submit Winfield's name for the All-Star ballot.
"There is no way to fathom what was being done to me," Winfield says. "It was immoral, improper and reprehensible. It was a battle for everything, your performance, your credibility. Do you know what it's like to have people fooling with your career?"
Meanwhile Frohman was "helping" Winfield in other ways, like signing him up for personal business with lawyers who never got around to mentioning their fees. When Winfield finally asked, they presented him with a tab for more than $3 million. That's when Winfield lined a lawyer to protect him from his lawyers. Jeffrey Klein whittled the bill down to $35,000. Winfield finally fired Frohman—albeit gently—and made Klein his agent. "Dave had blinders on when it came to Al," says Klein, "the way one does toward a parent." Says Mario Casciano, program coordinator for the foundation, "Al and Dave had a father-son thing going, but when the father does the kind of things Al did to Dave, I call it incest."
Since its beginnings in 1977 the Winfield Foundation had focused its efforts on needy children. In one of its early programs the foundation united thousands of kids with San Diego area doctors for free physical exams. In a sport in which most stars consider it a supreme sacrifice to stay past the soup at a benefit dinner, Winfield was busy operating a large-scale antidrug foundation. "Anybody who says that foundation was a fraud or some kind of tax-purpose thing is full of it." says Bowen. "I can't tell you how many times I saw Dave reach into his back pocket to keep it going."
Frohman continued to hang around Winfield and the foundation even after his "agent" role had been terminated. It was through Frohman that Winfield met the Babe Ruth of greaseball hangers-on, Howard Spira. Frohman let Spira volunteer for foundation programs; he even made Spira vice-president of Top Hat, Inc., and Spira had the business cards to prove it.
Spira, now serving a 30-month sentence for extortion, was a gambler in deep debt. In 1986 he went to Winfield and asked for money in exchange for information that would ruin Steinbrenner. No go. Then he went to Steinbrenner to ask for money in exchange for information that would ruin Winfield. Steinbrenner gave him $40,000, and Spira produced a 1981 canceled check from Winfield for $15,000, which he said Winfield gave to him to cover Spira's gambling debts. Winfield says he can't remember why he gave it to him and says that at the time he had no knowledge that Spira was a gambler. Casciano says Winfield wrote the check against what Winfield owed Frohman. "If Spira didn't pay it back, it came off Frohman's ledger," says Casciano, who says Spira told him that himself.
However, SI reported in 1990 that four sources provided allegations of Winfield's and Frohman's gambling, allegations that Klein says are false. Friends of Winfield's defend him by saying he's far too frugal to be a betting man. "David? Bet?" says Bow-en. "Not David. I cleaned out his couch the week he moved to New York. Do you know I never found a nickel or a dime in it? This man knows the value of a buck." Winfield says he has never bet, and baseball, which in 1989 conducted interviews regarding Winfield's off-field activities, has never punished him for gambling.
Winfield remained a friend to Frohman until the end. When Frohman died in 1987 of a stroke, Winfield gave the eulogy at his funeral. In gratitude, Frohman's widow, Barbara, sued Winfield, saying he had not paid the final installments on Frohman's contract. She lost. The court said that Winfield had already paid Frohman too much.
When Frohman died, Winfield crawled within himself and became guarded in his personal life. He continued to see Tonya, but she stayed in Los Angeles. He had a relationship with Mike Tyson's mother-in-law, Roper. He continued to support a Houston flight attendant named Sandra Renfro, who had had his child, Shanel, in 1982. (Renfro filed a common-law marriage suit against Winfield in 1985. A jury awarded Renfro a $1.6 million settlement in '89, but the judgment was thrown out on a technicality. Renfro's lawyer, Earle Lilly, says a new trial will probably begin this fall.)
Winfield's path had veered, the grand plan had gone awry. Still graceful on the field, he was graceless off it. Sleazy stories and 50-point headlines had become his constant companions. In 1985 Roper sued him for giving her a venereal disease. Winfield won't talk about Roper, and he has denied giving her the disease. The suit was settled out of court.