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STEINBRENNER FEARED GAMBLER

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New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner told commissioner Fay Vincent that he paid $40,000 to gambler Howard Spira because he feared Spira would harm him or his family, The National reported in today's editions.

The paper, quoting from the transcript of Steinbrenner's two-day hearing with Vincent on July 5-6, said Steinbrenner also feared that Spira would reveal information about two employees who stole from the team and on the gambling habits of former player, manager and general manager Lou Piniella.Vincent repeatedly questioned why Steinbrenner - who professes to have strong anti-gambling beliefs - would pay $40,000 to a gambler who, from all evidence, would use the money to pay off debts to bookies.