NEW YORK, JULY 19 -- George Steinbrenner says he did nothing wrong and believes Fay Vincent will agree, if the commissioner looks at his case with an unbiased eye.
"If we had a fair hearing, if the facts are considered here, I believe we will have a favorable conclusion," the New York Yankees owner said today. "I don't believe I did anything wrong."
But that is for Vincent to decide. He is expected, possibly next week, to announce what action, if any, he will take because of Steinbrenner's dealings with admitted gambler Howard Spira.
Steinbrenner presented his side today after the National Sports Daily printed transcripts of his July 5-6 hearing with Vincent. Dressed in a sport shirt and slacks and eating a sandwich, Steinbrenner spoke at a hotel suite on Park Avenue, about 10 blocks from Vincent's office.
The transcripts show an unsympathetic Vincent grilling Steinbrenner on several subjects, including the owner's different versions of why he paid Spira $40,000. There were several sharp exchanges, and in the aftermath Steinbrenner linked former Yankees and current Reds manager Lou Piniella and gambling, an issue Vincent quickly put to rest.
"I want to defuse this," Steinbrenner said. "It's gotten out of proportion, it really has. Nobody likes going through anything like this.
"At first, the commissioner requested that all of us not comment. I got clobbered by trying to abide by what I thought he wanted. I can certainly talk about what's public. I haven't said anything about the commissioner."
Steinbrenner said he did not leak the 372-page transcript and has "no idea" who did. "The commissioner says our people did. No way did we release it.
"I was surprised at some of the things," Steinbrenner said of the hearing's tone. "But I'm not pointing a finger at anyone. The commissioner is free to hold any type of hearing he wants."
Steinbrenner said his lawyers still want to present at least 20 more witnesses, although the hearing phase might be done already. He said he does not expect to talk with Vincent before a ruling is issued.
Vincent is at his summer home in Harwich Port, Mass., reviewing the matter with deputy commissioner Stephen Greenberg, counsel Harold Tyler and investigator John Dowd.
"I don't think he wants to speak with me," Steinbrenner said.
There has been speculation that Steinbrenner, who was suspended by commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1974 for making illegal political campaign contributions, would contest any suspension in court. "I'll leave that to the lawyers," he said.
Steinbrenner, however, did say he believes the "best interests of baseball" power given to the commissioner is too broad.
"How do you define it? If a beer vendor sells beer after the seventh inning in your stadium, is that against the best interests?" he said. "There's more danger in that clause than there is good."
Steinbrenner expressed regret that Piniella's name had become linked to the case, and said he soon would call him.
"George Steinbrenner never implicated Lou Piniella as a gambler, other than a guy betting on horses at the track, like I do and like a lot of other fine people do," he said.