George Steinbrenner’s Dirtiest Deed
Recent FBI documents dug up by the Associated Press reveal that George Steinbrenner blamed his lawyer for his troubles relating to the illegal campaign contributions he made to the Committee to Reelect the President, who at the time was Richard Nixon.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 1981 while researching my book George: The Poor Little Rich Boy who Built the Yankee Empire, I interviewed that lawyer, Jack Melcher, at length. Melcher and George were Williams College classmates. Melcher considered George a friend. He shouldn’t have.
Here’s what Steinbrenner did. In addition to personally giving $75,000 to CREEP, he gave a number of his employees $5,000 each from the American Shipbuilding Company account and instructed those employees to write checks for no more than $3,100 to the Nixon campaign. Unfortunately for him, two of those employees wrote checks over the $3,100 limit, and they were discovered by Washington Post investigative reporter Jim Polk.Â Polk contacted the justice department, and George found himself the object of an investigation. To throw the justice department off track, George ordered those employees to lie about what he did, telling them to say the gifts were personal, not corporate. In other words, not to reveal George’s role in all of this.
Polk went to visit the two employees who wrote bigger checks than allowed by law, and he saw they lived in modest homes. No way they could afford to be contributing to a political campaign.
Eventually Jack Melcher learned what George had done, and he was horrified, but then after George pleaded guilty to two felony counts and was fined $15,000 and wasn’t given jail time, George, who could be vicious when attacked, then did all he could to invent a scapegoat. He worked to convince everyone that the fault lay with his lawyer, Jack Melcher, not him. He ended up getting Melcher disbarred, and Melcher died a disillusioned man.
Of all the dastardly things Steinbrenner did, and that includes trying to ruin the reputation of his best player, Dave Winfield, what he did to Melcher was the low point of his deviousness. Poor Melcher never knew what hit him.