Lawyers making a last-gasp effort to keep George Steinbrenner in control of the New York Yankees had an economics professor and a marketing expert testify in U.S. District Court today.
U.S. District Judge Alice M. Batchelder refused to let Steinbrenner’s lawyer testify about the agreement that was scheduled to force out the Boss as the team’s general partner by midnight.
There was no indication by midafternoon whether the judge would issue a temporary restraining order that would continue his 17 1/2-year reign. Under the terms of his July 30 deal with Commissioner Fay Vincent, Steinbrenner had until 5 p.m. EDT to deliver his resignation as managing general partner to the commissioner’s office in New York.
Batchelder originally wanted to hear Steinbrenner’s testimony.
“Having been advised by counsel for plaintiffs as well as counsel for the defendants . . . they are in accord that the testimony of Mr. Steinbrenner himself is not necessary,” she said.
Robert E. Banker, Steinbrenner’s lawyer, was sworn in as a witness for the limited partners. But Batchelder, after an objection by Vincent’s lawyer, refused to let Banker testify, citing his testimony as irrelevant.
Baseball lawyers referred to the precedent of former Oakland owner Charles O. Finley’s failed lawsuit against former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and called on the judge to once again uphold the authority of the commissioner.
“This is a big boy,” baseball lawyer Patrick McCartan said of Steinbrenner. “He signed a contract with the commissioner.”
Yankees part owners Daniel R. McCarthy and Harold M. Bowman, both of Cleveland, filed the suit last Thursday. They claimed their rights as limited partners were damaged by the agreement Steinbrenner and Vincent signed.
Vincent was prepared to suspend Steinbrenner for two years as a result of his relationship with gambler Howard Spira. Steinbrenner, instead, opted to give up control of the team
Steinbrenner was “trying to put the best face on a horrible situation when he signed the agreement,” said Mark B. Cohn, the lawyer for McCarthy and Bowman.
McCartan argued that the limited partners should not be allowed to interfere.
“They have no right to challenge. They have no standing,” McCartan said. “A third party has no right to assert the rights of another person.”
John Burke, an economics professor at Cleveland State, testified for the partners about Yankees’ attendance. John Minco, a marketing expert, testified about Steinbrenner’s value as a high-profile owner.
“I think he’s one of the few owners able to get on city-side of pages, even the gossip columns,” Minco said. “I don’t know another owner who can get Nelson Mandela wearing a Yankees jacket and saying, ‘Tonight I am a Yankee.”’