NEW YORK, AUG. 1 -- It's an intimidating prospect for the New York Yankees: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss? They have reason to wonder.

Relief pitcher Dave Righetti, in his 10th year with the team, remembers vividly his brief dealings with Hank Steinbrenner, who was nominated Tuesday by his father, George, to be the team's new managing general partner.

One day earlier, Commissioner Fay Vincent ruled George Steinbrenner must relinquish his controlling interest in the club by Aug. 20 because of his dealings with gambler Howard Spira.

Righetti's memory comes from spring training 1986, when he was coming off a 12-win, 29-save year in his second season as the Yankees' closer. He had blown 14 save chances, though, and many team officials believed his arm wasn't sound.

Hank Steinbrenner, then in his second short stint of learning the baseball business while overseeing the club's daily operations, wanted to replace Righetti as stopper with junkballing left-hander Alfonso Pulido.

A poor spring outing by Righetti led to a Steinbrenner tirade -- not one of George's legendary, career-altering fits, but a stinging one by Hank. Righetti dismissed the incident because, as he said, "Hank wasn't signing my paychecks." But he didn't forget.

Righetti went on to post a major league-record 46 saves in '86, and by the end of the year George Steinbrenner had recalled Hank to the family's horse farm in Ocala, Fla. Pulido was released the next year.

"I won't hold it against Hank," Righetti said. "I guess he'll be signing the paychecks from now on, so he can say what he wants. I just didn't appreciate it at the time."

With approval of his appointment still pending, Hank Steinbrenner, 33, remains something of a mystery even to Yankees executives. He never has been a baseball man, having played football and run track in high school. He has expressed an affinity for soccer, even coaching a high school team in Ocala last year, and has spent the past several years involved with the family's horse-racing ventures in Florida.

He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., like his father, then Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo. He is married and has a year-old son. He has not commented publicly since his father's banishment Monday night.

Previous plans were for him to come to New York in two weeks and assume an active role in running the team. It wasn't immediately clear today whether he'd arrive any earlier.

Vincent already has approved his selection, leaving the team's minority stockholders and the league's other owners to pass judgment on the choice. A new general partner would require approval of 10 of the 13 other American League owners and seven of the 12 National League owners.

Hank Steinbrenner is considered a softer touch than his father, and he did receive some high marks from former associates for his work during the period his father was grooming him as his potential successor.

The elder Steinbrenner insisted in a press release upon nominating his son that he had planned to turn the team over to Hank even before the Spira investigation.

During 1986, when he tried to get a feel for all aspects of the team's operation, and even earlier, in 1982 when he performed similar duties, Hank Steinbrenner sat in on his father's meetings with his appointed baseball decision-makers, injecting his opinions and even voting on matters on which there was disagreement. He primarily was an observer, but he made certain to be heard as well as seen.

"Hank's a sharp kid," Seattle Mariners General Mangager Woody Woodward, then the Yankees' general manager, said by telephone today. "He wanted to learn, and he picked things up quickly. He has a mind of his own. . . . I am a Hank Steinbrenner fan."

The Yankees' current braintrust publicly supports the succession of Hank Steinbrenner. "I think it will work just fine," said Vice President and General Manager Pete Peterson. "I have no problems whatsoever with that arrangement. I think it's the most natural and logical thing to do."

But other team officials privately expressed reservations. They fear the junior Steinbrenner's lack of baseball experience. They fear a continuation of his father's hands-on approach from an increasingly detached vantage point: George Steinbrenner moved much of the club's operation to Tampa, where Vice President George Bradley often makes personnel decisions based upon what he sees on television.

"Hank learned how to run a team from his dad," one Yankees official said. "What does that tell you? We're going to have another George." The results of Hank Steinbrenner's previous Yankees stints don't bode well for the club's future at a time when dynamic, knowledgeable leadership is required, the official contended.

Indeed, the Yankees are near ground zero, mired in a rebuilding project that is the result of necessity rather than choice and perhaps en route to their first 100-loss season since 1912.

They haven't won a division championship in nine years, and the prospects for quick turnaround under Hank Steinbrenner aren't particularly bright. His prior involvement with the club brought more friction and ill-fated personnel recommendations than prosperity, his detractors insist, and even his supporters concede there is no assurance of success.

"He's never really done this before," Peterson said. "He's never really been in charge. He's an unproven commodity. . . . There are no sure things. He's not a sure thing, but no one else is either. I think he'll do fine."

There is hope among the George Steinbrenner bashers who flood the radio call-in shows here that Hank Steinbrenner will leave personnel decisions to those in the front office with experience in making them.

Hank Steinbrenner inherits a pitiable baseball team and carries a rather burdensome name, but he also brings change at a time when many around here believe it's sorely needed.

Said Righetti: "I don't know whether the state of this ball club is George Steinbrenner's fault or not. . . . {but} it's pretty clear that on the field, there's nowhere to go but up."