He started out as a minor league batboy in 1920, he was still going strong as president of the Cleveland Indians in the 1980's, and in between, Mr. Paul bought, sold and traded more than 500 players.
David LeFevre, a lawyer who once tried to buy the Indians, remarked, ''I want to stand next to Gabe Paul when they drop the atomic bomb.''
What he meant, said the Cleveland sportscaster Pete Franklin, was that ''Gabe was the ultimate baseball survivor.''
''He was very intelligent, a great self-promoter, and a guy who knew how to get next to people with money,'' Mr. Franklin once observed.
Mr. Paul survived for only five years with the Yankees, but he engineered a host of shrewd deals and spent Mr. Steinbrenner's money freely at the dawn of free agency
After Mr. Paul left the Yankees in January 1978 for a second stint with the Indians, Mr. Steinbrenner remarked: ''He was in baseball for 40 years, and did he ever win a pennant before? You think he made all those brilliant moves with this team himself? You think all of a sudden he got brilliant?''
Mr. Paul had, in fact, put together the Cincinnati Reds' pennant winners of 1961. And even if Mr. Steinbrenner was willing to take a bit of credit for the Yankees' pennant winners of 1976 and World Series champions of 1977 and 1978, Mr. Paul made the trades that brought Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Bucky Dent, Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa (along with Graig Nettles, whom Mr. Paul dealt to New York shortly before he arrived there from the Indians). Mr. Paul, meanwhile, signed some of the first free-agent stars, getting Jim (Catfish) Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Don Gullett. When he was not dealing, Mr. Paul served as a buffer between Mr. Steinbrenner and Manager Billy Martin.
Gabriel Howard Paul was born in Rochester, the son of a tailor. At age 10, he was the batboy for his hometown Red Wings of the International League and was conspiring with their manager, George Stallings, who had run the Miracle Braves of 1914, to give the home team an edge. When the Red Wings led in the late innings, Stallings dispatched young Paul to a grocery store behind left field where baseballs were stored in an ice box. The balls, deadened by the cold, would be slipped into the umpire's supply for the visitors' final at-bats.
Mr. Paul got his big break in 1928, when he was earning $1.50 a week as a part-time sportswriter. Warren Giles, the newly named president of the Red Wings, hired him at $60 a month to accompany the team to its Louisiana spring training site and file stories for Rochester's papers.
''I took the job for six weeks and was with him for 23 years,'' Mr. Paul would note.
Mr. Giles soon gave Mr. Paul various full-time front-office jobs, and in November 1936, when Mr. Giles became general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he took Mr. Paul along as publicity director. Mr. Paul became the Reds' general manager in September 1951 after Mr. Giles was named National League president.
In 1957, Mr. Paul engineered a stunt far more spectacular than the frozen-baseballs scheme. Back then, the fans voted for members of the All-Star team by checking names on ballots printed in newspapers. Mr. Paul arranged for the two Cincinnati papers to print the Reds' starting lineup every day in a sample ballot and indicate where fans could mark their ''X.'' He had similar ballots distributed at the Reds' Crosley Field. The Reds would finish fourth that year, but when the ballots were tallied for the midsummer game, seven players from the Cincinnati lineup -- infielders Johnny Temple, Roy McMillan and Don Hoak, outfielders Frank Robinson, Gus Bell and Wally Post, and catcher Ed Bailey -- had been voted as the starting National League All-Stars.
Commissioner Ford Frick removed Bell and Post, replacing them with a couple of runners-up named Mays and Aaron. The next season, baseball took the vote away from the fans -- giving it to the players -- and did not change back until 1970.
Mr. Paul stayed with the Reds through 1960, building the team that won the N.L. pennant the next year, then worked briefly for the expansion Houston franchise before joining the Indians as general manager.
Mr. Paul became friends with Mr. Steinbrenner, who was based in Cleveland as chairman of the American Shipbuilding Company. When the Columbia Broadcasting System decided to sell the Yankees, Mr. Paul put Mr. Steinbrenner in touch with Michael Burke, who was running the team, and in January 1973, Mr. Steinbrenner and a group of limited partners bought the club for $10 million. Mr. Paul was then brought to New York by Mr. Steinbrenner as a limited partner, and he eventually became the club president.
Mr. Paul stayed with the Yankees until the beginning of 1978, returning to Cleveland to run the Indians for Steve O'Neill, his longtime friend, who had also been a limited partner with the Yankees. Mr. Paul remained in Cleveland until he retired after the 1984 season.
The Yankees observed a moment of silence for Mr. Paul before last night's game with Toronto at Yankee Stadium. Mr. Steinbrenner issued a statement calling Mr. Paul ''a dear friend and the most knowledgeable baseball man I ever met.''
Mr. Paul is survived by his wife, Mary; four sons, Gabriel Jr., of Reston, Va.; Warren, of Plano, Tex; Michael, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Henry, of Tampa; a daughter, Jennie Gardner, of Gambrills, Md; a brother, Sam, of Woodmere, N.Y.; three sisters, Bess Benewick, of Rochester; Mildred Levine, of Oneonta, N.Y., and Sylvia Lasky, of Olean, N.Y.; and nine grandchildren.
Of all his deals, Mr. Paul was particularly pleased with the time he got the best of that master trader Branch Rickey, obtaining the slugging outfielder Gus Bell for the Reds from Mr. Rickey's Pittsburgh Pirates before the 1953 season.
As Mr. Paul told it: ''Rickey didn't like Gus's wife. He thought she was extravagant. He once told me, 'She throws diapers away.' After we finally put the deal together, Gus and his wife came to Cincinnati for the announcement, and his wife had a baby in her arms. I remember she had to change the baby's diaper, and she put him on a blanket on a table in my office. 'These are something new,' she said. 'Disposable diapers.' If only Rickey had known.''
That baby was Buddy Bell, who in 1978 played third base for the Indians. When the season ended, Gabe Paul traded him.