NEW YORK, JULY 6 -- Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent today adjourned his hearing on George Steinbrenner's relationships with self-described gambler Howard Spira and former New York Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield, but left open the possibility for further submissions from the Yankees' owner.
After about 10 hours of testimony from Steinbrenner that began Thursday, Vincent said he had reached a tentative agreement with Steinbrenner's attorneys that would result in no further "formal sessions." Subject to final approval from Steinbrenner's attorneys, Vincent said Steinbrenner would be able to submit in writing "any further statements, affidavits or information that he may wish me to consider before I make a decision."
Steinbrenner's attorneys will have until the close of business Wednesday to suggest any changes in the agreement and until July 16 to give submit additional material.
Attorney Stephen E. Kaufman did not comment about Team Steinbrenner's intentions regarding the tentative agreement. "It's perfectly appropriate to read into that whatever you wish," he said.
Vincent said if the procedure is followed as outlined, "I will try, depending on the state of the record in front of me on the 16th, to make a decision reasonably quickly."
He declined to speculate about his options in dealing with Steinbrenner, who had a long-running feud with Winfield and made a $40,000 payment to Spira in January.
"I'll consider all options," said Vincent, who could dismiss the case, fine or suspend Steinbrenner, or perhaps even force him to sell his interest in the Yankees.
Spira, who worked for radio stations as a New York sports stringer and as an aide to Winfield's former agent, Al Frohman, says he received the money from Steinbrenner in exchange for damaging information about Winfield and the David M. Winfield Foundation, a charity.
Steinbrenner initially said he gave the money to Spira "out of the goodness of my heart." He later said it was to keep Spira from revealing embarrassing information about ex-Yankees employees.
Spira pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of attempting to extort money from Steinbrenner and threatening Steinbrenner and Winfield.
Also on Thursday, Vincent ruled Steinbrenner had tampered with Winfield after New York traded him to California. Vincent ordered the Yankees to pay the Angels $200,000 and fined them $25,000.
The players and acts in this affair are so entwined that Vincent had trouble precisely defining what he is investigating without making a disclosure that would compromise confidentiality.
"It's very hard for me to be specific about these circumstances," he said. "Separating the payment to Mr. Spira from the Winfield Foundation and from all the matters that related to Dave Winfield is a very difficult thing to do. That entire complex, that entire set of circumstances is part of this investigation."
The lines defining this case seem more blurry than those that defined late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti's investigation of Pete Rose. Vincent is attempting to determine whether Steinbrenner has acted not in the best interests of baseball. What that means is open to interpretation, and the punishment for committing such an act is a matter of discretion.
The hearings were conducted at the offices of Harold R. Tyler Jr., a former federal judge Vincent hired as counsel. Vincent called Steinbrenner's testimony "helpful," his cooperation "complete."
Vincent said he did not turn over to Steinbrenner the investigative report submitted to him by Washington attorney John Dowd.
"The Dowd report is really now subsumed by all the testimony which has come after it," Vincent said. "Obviously, the testimony by Mr. Steinbrenner over the last two days is much more relevant to me than information in Mr. Dowd's report."
Steinbrenner was the only witness and could stay that way. "The procedure that I established would not involve the calling of other witnesses," Vincent said. "The central witness, the person who knows the facts in this case the best, is Mr. Steinbrenner. He has testified for a day and a half, and his testimony is the essential testimony."