Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Rudy and the Red Sox: The fallout continues

October 25, 2007 |  5:11 pm

The brouhaha over the surprise embrace of the Boston Red Sox by devout (or so we thought) New York Yankees fan Rudy Giuliani raged on today, at least in certain baseball-obsessed pockets of the country.

It continued to provide fodder for the New York Daily News. The venerable New York Times felt compelled to weigh in. A political writer for New Hampshire's major newspaper offered his thoughts (which won't be welcomed by the Giuliani camp). And Mitt Romney, while campaigning in the Granite State, couldn't resist a poke at his rival for the Republican presidential nomination over the flap.

We'll come back to all this in a bit. Overlooked in the furor, however, has been this key question -- how did Giuliani, whose formative years were spent in Brooklyn at a time when the Dodgers were based and beloved in that borough, become a Yankees follower anyway?

The candidate himself provided the answer earlier this month when he was honored at a gala sponsored by the National Italian-American Foundation. We previously related several of his anecdotes (go here). But not this one, which now is oh-so-pertinent.

His father, he said, was a Yankees fan from Manhattan who, upon marrying, relocated to his wife's Brooklyn neighborhood. The couple, in fact, shared an apartment with her mother. But Dodger-mania wore on his father. So, as his "revenge," he made sure ...


that his only child shared his passion for the Bronx Bombers, Giuliani said.

Giuliani did not go on to recall what one of his biographers, Wayne Barrett, described as "the most fabled story of Rudy's Brooklyn boyhood." But it was recounted in one of his ads for his successful 1993 New York mayoral campaign.

Giuliani's dad dressed the young boy in a mini-Yankees uniform and sent him outside to mingle with Dodgers loyalists. "The first thing they did was throw me in the mud," Giuliani said in the ad. And matters only got worse from there, apparently.

It is tales such as these -- as well as his repeated, high-profile allegiance to the Yankees over the years -- that has kept alive the uproar sparked by his recent assertion that, since his team didn't win the American League, he'd root in the World Series for the one that did: the aforementioned Bosox.

After both major New York tabloids took Giuliani to task on their covers Wednesday, David Saltonstall of the New York Daily News refused to let him off the hook Thursday. Noting that Giuliani was saying nice things about the the Yankees' arch-rivals in politically important New Hampshire (where Red Sox backers abound), Saltonstall wrote that the comments "were viewed by some as a traitorous play for votes..."

That was certainly the preponderant view among Yankees fans interviewed by the New York Times in this piece. And if Giuliani thought the reaction would be any better in New Hampshire, the Union Leader's John DiStaso seeks to disabuse him of that notion in a scathing column. DiStaso's last line says it all: "It's simple. Yankees or Red Sox. Live Free or Die. No gray area. No exceptions."

Romney, whose path to the GOP nomination relies heavily on beating Giuliani in New Hampshire, was campaigning in Manchester on Thursday morning when he just happened to ask a room full of healthcare workers how many were Red Sox fans. Hands up all around. Yankees? None could be seen.

Echoing DiStaso, Romney cracked: "You're one or the other; you're not both."

Asked later about the jab by reporters, who included The Times' Michael Finnegan, Romney said it was "just a little fun" that he was having.

Still, asked if he would ever root for the Yankees, Romney drew a clear line between himself and Giuliani (just like he keeps trying to do in all those candidate debates).

Said the former Massachusetts governor: "I cannot conceive of the circumstance that would allow me to root for the Yankees. I must admit it's nice to see the Red Sox doing so well. But it was even nicer seeing the Yankees lose. And that's just part of becoming -- and I'm exaggerating a bit -- but that's a bit of the caricature of a true Red Sox fan, which is: it's not enough that we win, the Yankees must also lose."

The day was not without its bright side for Giuliani. Just as the NYC tabs bash, they also promote. And both the Daily News and the Post gave major play to revelations about a mob debate on "whacking" him in the mid-1980s, when he was making his name as a hard-nosed federal prosecutor (their stories are here and here).

-- Don Frederick