Even though Dave Winfield's book isn't in the stores yet, it's already drawn fire from one noted critic.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner issued his review of Winfield's forthcoming book Sunday and labeled it "disruptive," adding:"It certainly can't help the team, the book and all this coming out. I wish he hadn't written the book. If it isn't honest and truthful, then it's no good. And you can't just say that one part of the book is a lie. You can't say that."
Steinbrenner was especially upset by a section of "Winfield, A Player's Life" concerning black players in the Yankees organization. Winfield paraphrased second baseman Willie Randolph as saying a black man can be a "good" Yankee and a well-respected one but would never be regarded as a "true" Yankee.
Randolph, a black, has denied making the remark and said Sunday: "I said what I had to say. I'm not going to sell any books around here."
"Willie is the team captain. He said that Winfield lied in the book. That really says it all," Steinbrenner said in
a meeting with seven New York newsmen. He excluded representatives of the New York Times and New York Post because he felt they failed to give Randolph's denial enough prominence.
"As far as who I'd rather believe, Willie Randolph or Dave Winfield, it doesn't take too long to answer that question."
Steinbrenner has often questioned Winfield's clutch-hitting and once dubbed the 11-time All-Star "Mr. May," charging that Winfield didn't produce for the Yankees the way Reggie Jackson, "Mr. October," had.
Winfield also took Steinbrenner to court when the owner balked at a $300,000 payment he owed the right fielder's charitable foundation.
Steinbrenner had his day "in court" Sunday and attacked Winfield's integrity.
"First it was a common-law wife and a child out of wedlock," he said, referring to a February 1985 suit, which came to light in December, in which a Houston woman charged that Winfield was her common-law husband for two years. Winfield has acknowledged fathering the woman's 5-year-old daughter but denies they were ever married. He married Tonya Turner last month.
"Now, the team captain is saying Winfield lied in the book. It might be just the beginning. I hope not," Steinbrenner added.
"What's happening here, I think, is we're beginning to see the unraveling of what's been a carefully plotted PR campaign over the years concerning Dave and the Winfield Foundation.
"Usually a guy writes a book when he's coming to the end of his career and he realizes his physical attributes aren't what they once were, his performance levels aren't what they once were."
Steinbrenner answered Winfield's comments about Yankee blacks by saying: "It's strange anybody would bring something like that up, would suggest racial overtones.
"Take a look at the Mets. How many blacks are on the Mets? Take a look at the world champion Minnesota Twins. Do a count sometime. It will amaze you. I think there are only four or five on each team.
"This is anything but that here. The fact that Willie Randolph is captain of the team speaks for itself. When he stands up and says it's a lie, that's good enough."
Winfield denied the book could prove divisive and said: "If the people in New York want to see a championship, we need cohesion. Willie and I are teammates and very good friends. If he (Steinbrenner) is attempting to put a wedge between the players on this team, it won't work. We're a close team. We're going to stay that way."
Winfield batted .275 last season with 27 homers and 97 RBIs. He failed to reach 100 RBIs in a full season for the first time since 1980.
Winfield, who is beginning the eighth season of a 10-year contract he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in 1980, was the subject of recent trade rumors that had him going to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for George Bell. Steinbrenner can buy out the final two years of Winfield's contract for $1.9 million after this season.