BEHIND THE SCENES WITH GEORGE AND FAY
A week after baseball commissioner Fay Vincent's action against New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner (SCORECARD, Aug. 6), many questions, some of them troubling, remain:
What did Steinbrenner do that was so bad?
He sought to dig up—and perhaps create—dirt on then Yankee Dave Winfield. He privately investigated Winfield without telling either Winfield or baseball and in January paid former gambler Howard Spira $40,000, apparently for damaging information on Winfield. Steinbrenner didn't inform Vincent of his involvement with Spira, even though Spira had told Steinbrenner's investigators he had ties to organized crime.
So Steinbrenner should be punished?
Absolutely. Baseball rule 21(f) forbids activities "not in the best interests of [the game]." By consorting with a gambler and trying to besmirch one of his players, Steinbrenner broke that rule.
What is Spira's supposed mob link?
Spira told Steinbrenner's investigators in 1986 and '87 that Joseph Caridi, a reputed associate of the Colombo crime family, had lent him $57,000 to bet on the 1981 World Series. When asked about Spira by SI's Martin F. Dardis, Caridi, now serving five to 15 years in an upstate New York prison for robbery, assault, coercion and criminal usury, said that Spira was "a degenerate gambler" who "hung around" the Long Island restaurant Caridi used to own. A source told SI that Spira claims to currently owe mob bookies $2 million.
Didn't Winfield know Spira, too?
Yes—but Vincent seems to have blinders on with regard to Winfield. The commissioner, saying his probe was confined to Steinbrenner, chose not to interview witnesses who Steinbrenner claimed could provide information about improprieties involving Winfield.