NEW YORK — Baseball was dragged into the federal courts again Tuesday when a New York Yankees executive sued Fay Vincent and accused the commissioner of trying to run him and George Steinbrenner out of the game.
Leonard L. 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 ex-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 lawsuit said.
Rich Levin, Vincent's spokesman, did not have an immediate reaction.
Steinbrenner agreed to resign as the Yankees general partner after Vincent ruled acted against the best interests of baseball by associating with Spira and paying him $40,000. Two Yankees limited partners sued in Cleveland to keep Steinbrenner in control, but a judge turned down their request for a temporary restraining order.
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 his hearing.
"The initiation of the charges against Kleinman," the lawsuit said, "was done in bad faith with the intent to undermine his contract with the Yankees and to prevent him from succeeding Steinbrenner as the managing general partner of the Yankees."
The lawsuit alleged that Vincent and Dowd conducted an unfair and biased investigation and that Dowd tampered with transcripts of witnesses.
Kleinman said he will not be allowed to call witnesses at the disciplinary hearing to support his position. He also said that Vincent has refused to hold the hearing in public.
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 and Steinbrenner then chose Robert E. Nederlander, a Yankees limited partner.
Kleinman accused Vincent of using the Spira incident as an excuse for bring charges against him and Steinbrenner.
"The contacts between Spira and the Yankees were known for years," the lawsuit said. "Despite this knowledge, Vincent charged Steinbrenner and Kleinman with misconduct in having these contacts."
Spira is awaiting trial on an eight-count indictment that charges him with trying to extort $150,000 from Steinbrenner and with threatening to harm Steinbrenner and ex-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield.
Spira, who said he worked in public relations for the David M. Winfield Foundation for underprivileged youths, claims he gave Steinbrenner damaging information about both Winfield and the foundation.