Yankees: Revisiting the time George Steinbrenner was banned from baseball

Manager Billy Martin #1 of the New York Yankees talks with owner George Steinbrenner (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Manager Billy Martin #1 of the New York Yankees talks with owner George Steinbrenner (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was banned from MLB 30 years ago.

Before George Steinbrenner passed away 10 years ago, he was the longest-tenured owner in New York Yankees history and oversaw arguably the best run of success in modern day baseball.

But “The Boss” was not without his flaws. He was a controversial figure in more ways than one, and his actions put him in hot water at times. But none were more over-the-top than what resulted in (at the time) his lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.

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Commissioner Fay Vincent handed down the harsh punishment to Steinbrenner back on July 30, 1990 when it was discovered the Yankees owner paid a gambler to quite literally spy on Dave Winfield and “dig up dirt” on the high-priced slugger.

Steinbrenner was banned from partaking in day-to-day operations, but was able to remain an owner. The lifetime ban ended up being reduced and he was reinstated three years later in 1993.

Nonetheless, this somehow flies under the radar in terms of notoriety. Steinbrenner, who gave Winfield the league’s biggest contract in 1980 after signing him to a 10-year, $23 million deal, was seemingly irate after the 12-time All-Star sued the Yankees for not contributing money to his foundation, which was written into his contract.

As a result, Steinbrenner took it upon himself to — instead of donating the $300,000 — pay a gambler by the name of Howard Spira $40,000 to attempt to blackmail Winfield. Let’s just say this entire ordeal cost The Boss way more than $300K in the short term, but his time away from the team arguably played a role in shaping the 90s dynasty.


With Steinbrenner away from the team, it allowed general manager Gene Michael to operate without constraint. We know The Boss had been overbearing during his reign — which resulted in both good and bad outcomes — but the fact that Michael had the liberty to rebuild the farm system and let players develop allowed the Yanks to achieve success.

Michael, during Steinbrenner’s ban, drafted Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. On top of that, Bernie Williams, whom Steinbrenner wanted to trade, remained a Yankee and continued to develop, and the team traded for Paul O’Neill. Truth be told, we’re not 100% sure all of that happens with Steinbrenner’s involvement.

So while we’re thankful for everything The Boss has done for the most storied franchise in sports, we can’t help but look at his temporary ban as highly beneficial in building the greatest modern day baseball dynasty.

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