On This Date in Sports July 30, 1990: The Exile of George Steinbrenner

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

George Steinbrenner is banned from baseball after an investigation determined he was in contact with a known gambler named Howard Spira. Steinbrenner hired Spira to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, whom the Yankees traded early in the season-ending a tumultuous ten-year tenure. The news of Steinbrenner’s ban is met with cheers at Yankee Stadium, as the Yankees are in the midst of their worst season in nearly 80 years. 

George Steinbrenner arrived in New York in 1973. He purchased the Yankees from CBS for $10 million. At the time, the Yankees were a dynasty in hibernation as they had not been a factor in the pennant since 1964. Steinbrenner would guide the Yankees through a renovation of Yankee Stadium, as they returned to the World Series in 1976 and won two straight World Series in 1977 and 1978. However, with success came turmoil as the demanding Steinbrenner feuded with manager Billy Martin creating a circus-like atmosphere. 

The success of the 70s turned into the frustration of the 80s as the Yankees won more games than any other team in MLB during the decade but lost their only World Series appearance in 1981. Billy Martin was hired and fired five times as George Steinbrenner often proved impetuous and impatient. Dave Winfield signed a ten-year contract with the Yankees before the 1981 season. He was perennial All-Star, but Steinbrenner was not satisfied often criticizing the star, as he struggled in the 1981 World Series earning the nickname Mr. May. 

As the 90s began the Yankees were a dynasty in ruin, George Steinbrenner had seemingly changed managers more than his underwear as the team was toiling in last place. Dave Winfield was traded at the start of the season as word of the Howard Spira investigation began to circulate. Angry about paying bonuses to Winfield, George Steinbrenner wanted to find defamatory information on the star right fielder. To do so, Steinbrenner hired Spira, who was instructed to look into Dave Winfield’s charitable organization. Spira was a gambler and a convicted felon, working as a private investigator for the Yankees boss. 

The investigation created storm clouds over an already dreary season that saw Don Mattingly on the shelf with a back injury. One game that symbolized the Yankees’ troubled season was on July 1st when Andy Hawkins threw an eight-inning no-hitter and lost 4-0 to the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. As July came to an end, the Yankees were in last place with a record of 38-61 under Stump Merrill, who took over the managerial reins in June. The Yankees were playing the Detroit Tigers in a half-empty Yankee Stadium. As the Yankees beat the Tigers 6-2, a roar came up from the crowd when it was announced that George Steinbrenner was banned from the game. 

George Steinbrenner had agreed to the ban from commissioner Fay Vincent, knowing he could apply for reinstatement after two years. Steinbrenner was reluctant for a suspension as it would affect his standing with the US Olympic Committee, which he had been heavily involved with. With George Steinbrenner unable to control the team, the Yankees became under the guidance of Robert Nederlander, a theater owner who was named Managing General Partner. In 1992, that duty switched over to Joe Molloy.

George Steinbrenner was reinstated before the 1993 season, by then, everything had been forgiven, and Yankee fans welcomed him back. As the Yankees struggled over the first three years of the decade, the farm system was beginning to develop good prospects. The type of players that were often traded away in search of a quick fix when George Steinbrenner was still in charge were about to become the foundation of a new Yankee dynasty. Steinbrenner mellowed some after the banishment as the Yankees quietly were building the core of a new dynasty that would emerge as the 90s ended as they won four World Series in five years.