Two minority owners of the New York Yankees, trying to keep George Steinbrenner in power, sued Commissioner Fay Vincent and investigator John Dowd Thursday and likened their investigation of the club owner to an "inquisition."
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by limited partners Daniel R. McCarthy and Harold M. Bowman, seeks to nullify Steinbrenner's July 30 agreement with Vincent by which Steinbrenner agreed to quit as managing general partner of the Yankees by Monday.
The suit alleged "flagrant violation of Steinbrenner's fundamental rights" and "oppressive conduct by Dowd." It said "the procedures employed by Dowd in (his) interviews were unfair, unjust and resulted in a skewing of information." It also said "these depositions were conducted like an inquisition."
The 62-page complaint is filled with many of the allegations made by Steinbrenner's lawyers in recent months. But Steinbrenner, in an attached Aug. 6 letter to McCarthy, wrote: "I must tell you, Dan, that I am opposed to what you are proposing here . . . "
When he agreed to Vincent's penalty, Steinbrenner said he would not challenge Vincent in court.
"George has nothing to do with this," Steinbrenner spokesman Joe Carella said. "This is the partners."
McCarthy is Steinbrenner's tax and business lawyer. Bowman is president of National Utility Products of Cleveland.
Vincent, in a statement released in New York, said, "The allegations against Mr. Dowd and me are without merit and we are confident the matter will be disposed of by the court in Cleveland."
Dowd's only comment was, "The matter is before a court."
Steinbrenner, suspended from baseball for 15 months during 1974-76 for making illegal campaign contributions to President Nixon, had agreed to step down by Monday and give up control of the team he has run since Jan. 3, 1973. He also said he would reduce his interest in the team from about 55% to less than 50% by August of 1991.
Vincent acted against Steinbrenner because of his association with gambler Howard Spira, and a $40,000 payment Steinbrenner made to Spira for information about Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield.
The suit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to prevent Vincent and Dowd from punishing Steinbrenner. A hearing on the restraining order request was scheduled for this morning in Cleveland.
The lawsuit took baseball into the federal courts for the fourth time in 15 years. Charles O. Finley, then-owner of the Oakland Athletics, unsuccessfully sued Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1976 and Ted Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves, lost a suit against Kuhn in 1977.
Pete Rose, then-manager of the Cincinnati Reds, sued Commissioner Bart Giamatti last year, but dropped the suit and agreed to a lifetime ban.
The Steinbrenner case first was assigned to Judge George W. White, who declined it because he knows McCarthy. It was then given to Judge Alice M. Batchelder.