CASTING A SHADOW
Baseball may well have to take action against either New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner or Dave Winfield, his star rightfielder—or both—as a result of the latest charges being leveled by the two longtime combatants against each other. Both have filed lawsuits claiming that the other hasn't made contractually-agreed-upon donations to the David M. Winfield Foundation, a charitable organization that confers college scholarships and promotes antidrug education. But what's far more significant is that Steinbrenner has accused Winfield of loan-sharking and involvement with a gambler—charges that have cast a shadow, perhaps unfairly, on the integrity of Winfield and baseball.
Winfield opened the latest skirmish on Jan. 6 by suing Steinbrenner for the third time in seven years over unpaid contributions to the foundation. His suit charges that Steinbrenner, who under his contract with Winfield is required to contribute $300,000 a year to the foundation, owes it $450,000. Steinbrenner, who says he has been putting his contributions into an escrow account because of questions he has about the foundation's finances, countersued last week, charging that Winfield, who under the contract is supposed to donate $100,000 a year, owes the foundation at least $480,000.
Steinbrenner's lawsuit also accuses Winfield of making large loans at usurious interest rates to a gambler. Howard Spira, an associate of Winfield's late agent, Al Frohman, has identified himself as the borrower in question and claims Winfield charged him exorbitant interest on loans made in 1981 to help him cover gambling debts. Spira says Winfield threatened his life when he said he couldn't pay up in time. Winfield's lawyer, Jeffrey Klein, admits that his client lent Spira some money but vehemently denies the other charges.
Associations between players and gamblers presumably breach baseball rules prohibiting conduct detrimental to the game. However, the commissioner's office has reportedly known about Spira's allegations since 1987 and said last week that thus far no evidence has been presented "that would warrant commissioner action."
If Winfield was deeply involved with a gambler, he should be disciplined. If, on the other hand, the commissioner's office was correct in deeming the Spira charges insubstantial, and Steinbrenner knew that, the Yankee owner should be held accountable for airing the charges publicly and implying they are serious.
WHOSE BONE IS IT, ANYWAY?
Can a person own the rights to a football formation? Two Texans. San Antonio veterinary dermatologist James R. Smith and Austin writer Joey Lozano, say yes: With Lozano's encouragement Smith paid $10 to the U.S. Copyright Office in 1984 to register the I-Bone formation, which the two men claim Smith invented. And now they're considering suing the University of Colorado because, they say, the Buffaloes used the I-Bone this season without Smith's permission.
Smith and Lozano published an article about the I-Bone, a cross between the power I and the wishbone, in Texas Coach magazine in November 1984 after trying unsuccessfully to persuade several college coaches to try the formation. Smith and Lozano even put together an I-Bone playbook, but no college coach wanted to see it.
On Oct. 22 Smith and Lozano saw Colorado using what appeared to be the I-Bone in a televised 17-14 loss to Oklahoma. The Buffaloes were calling it the Power-bone. "We were floored," says Lozano. He and Smith wrote to Colorado coach Bill McCartney, volunteering to show him how to use the I-Bone more effectively, but that and a subsequent letter to Buffaloes offensive coordinator Gerry DiNardo went unanswered. Last week the two sent Colorado a letter threatening legal action if it doesn't acknowledge Smith as the inventor of the I-Bone.