NEW YORK, SEPT. 4 -- Baseball was dragged into the federal courts again today when an executive of the New York Yankees sued Commissioner Fay Vincent and accused him of trying to run him and George Steinbrenner out of the game.
Leonard Kleinman, executive vice president and chief operating executive of the Yankees, made the allegation in a $22 million lawsuit against Vincent and John M. Dowd, the commissioner's special counsel who directed an investigation of Steinbrenner's dealings with gambler Howard Spira.
Kleinman accused Vincent of framing him and Steinbrenner on charges they acted against the best interests of baseball and of covering up former Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield's involvement with Spira.
The lawsuit in Manhattan's federal court seeks to stop Vincent from holding a hearing Thursday to determine possible disciplinary action against Kleinman. U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand will hear arguments Wednesday on Kleinman's request for a temporary restraining order to block Vincent's hearing.
"Vincent's course of conduct from the very beginning of his involvement in this matter demonstrates that he has harbored a prejudice against Kleinman and Steinbrenner and a desire to find a way to exclude them from being involved with the Yankees," the suit said.
Vincent denied the allegations, saying that the investigation is within the purview of his office. "The Sept. 6 hearing is part of a legitimate inquiry into the actions of Leonard Kleinman while he was employed by a major league club," he said.
Spira claimed Kleinman arranged a money-market account for him at the time he was paid last January. That is one of the matters Vincent wants to discuss at the hearing.
The lawsuit said Vincent has no jurisdiction over Kleinman, who never signed the Major League Agreement giving the commissioner the power to decide what is in the best interests of baseball.
Steinbrenner picked Kleinman to be general partner after Steinbrenner's son, Hank, declined to take the job. But Vincent said Kleinman could not take the position because of the pending charges. Steinbrenner then chose Robert Nederlander, a Yankees limited partner.