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Yankee Boss Can Return on March 1 : Baseball: Vincent says all restrictions on Steinbrenner will cease on that date.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent made it official Friday, announcing that George Steinbrenner could resume active control of the New York Yankees on March 1, 1993.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Greenberg said that all restrictions put on Steinbrenner will cease then.

In an agreement with Vincent on July 30, 1990, Steinbrenner accepted a lifetime ban for having paid known gambler Howard Spira $40,000 to collect information on then-Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield.

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“After March 1, our intention is for Mr. Steinbrenner to be able to operate the Yankees . . . consistent with the way every other owner operates. . . ,” Greenberg said.

“Neither the commissioner nor the American League wants to have a hand in the operation of a club. There are no restrictions.”

Steinbrenner was in Barcelona as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee when he received the news from his New York attorney, Arnold Burns.

He had opted for the agreement that was tantamount to a lifetime ban--rather than the two-year suspension that Vincent had wanted to give him--because of a belief that the suspension could cost him his Olympic position.

He officially resigned as general partner of the Yankees on Aug. 20, 1990, but has been petitioning Vincent for reinstatement for more than a year.

Vincent said he would consider it only if Steinbrenner dropped or arranged to have dropped three lawsuits brought by him and former club executive Leonard Kleinman against Vincent or companies hired by the commissioner.

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The lawsuits violated specific terms of his banishment, as did a letter Steinbrenner wrote to the other owners, requesting support for his reinstatement and threatening Vincent’s position.

Greenberg said Friday that the lawsuits, which cost Steinbrenner and the Yankees about $2 million in legal fees, might have influenced Vincent to delay Steinbrenner’s reinstatement until March.

“George would have preferred to come back right now, but the year and a half of litigation probably had an effect on Fay’s thinking,” Greenberg said.

“Had it not been for the litigation, I think he might have been reinstated in August.”

It is also believed that Vincent was pressured by some owners to delay Steinbrenner’s return until after the free-agent signing period of next winter so that he could not inflate the market with his wild bidding of previous years.

The announcement of his return would have been made several weeks ago if the commissioner had not decided to investigate a New York Times story quoting unidentified Yankee personnel as saying Steinbrenner had been taking an active role in the operation of the club, in violation of his agreement with Vincent. The investigation failed to turn up corroborating evidence.

Steinbrenner’s return, however, probably won’t inspire cheers in an organization headed by his son-in-law, Joseph Molloy.

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It has been reported that General Manager Gene Michael might be in jeopardy when Steinbrenner returns. And although Manager Buck Showalter has brought stability and organization to the clubhouse and is popular with his players, no manager is safe under an owner who has changed managers 18 times, general managers 14 times and pitching coaches 31 times.

One American League owner said Friday that he did not expect a change in Steinbrenner’s tumultuous pattern.

“How many times have you seen a leopard change spots?” he said. “I give Fay credit for courage. You know that Steinbrenner will join the group (of owners) who want him out.”

Vincent’s status might be resolved before March 1. Until then, however, the restrictions on Steinbrenner will remain in place, although Greenberg said Steinbrenner would he permitted to join other owners in the decision on whether to reopen collective bargaining talks with the players’ union in December.

This is the second reinstatement for Steinbrenner. He was suspended on Nov. 27, 1974, by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn after a felony conviction for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. He was reinstated May 1, 1976.

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