By Anna Merlan
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With tickets for Giuliani's box and Legends seats selling for $50 to $200 for regular-season games, and with Giuliani and an average of eight guests attending a minimum of 20 games a year, the eight-year price tag for the mayor, including the far more expensive postseason games he never missed, would have been an estimated $120,000. That's quite a load on an average salary of $150,000. Obviously, any substantial tickets and assorted gifts to the mayor or his city employee guests would also have run afoul of the $50 COIB limit.
The Yankees say that Mayor Bloomberg has purchased four season tickets in Section 53, behind the Steinbrenner box that Giuliani still uses, and pays even when he attends in his official capacity. Bloomberg does not allow anyone on the city payroll to use his seats because he regards it as granting an improper benefit to a subordinate. (The Yankee spokeswoman declined to characterize the difference between how the two mayors dealt with seating at the stadium.) Giuliani's periodic payments for some of these tickets may also have had a tax motive. Had he paid nothing for the seats, he would have had to treat the entire Yankee goodie bag as income.
Giuliani's sense of entitlement about the Yankees was so deep that he frequently used a police boat to haul himself and his guests to games, using either the slip near Gracie Mansion or the Wall Street/South Street one near City Hall. In his own book, Leadership, he revealed that the first Yankee game he ever took Judi Nathan to was David Cone's perfect game in July 1999, almost a full year before he announced at a press conference that she was his "very good friend." Judi and her girlfriends became part of his stadium entourage, just as his previous very good friend, Cristyne Lategano, had been in the earlier years. When Giuliani's wife Donna Hanover barred Lategano from the box if her son Andrew was at the game, the young press aide sequestered herself in Steinbrenner's suite, extending Giuliani's reach to the home-plate section of the stadium as well. Judi, too, eventually became a presence in the Steinbrenner suite.
At one point, according to the close aide, George Pataki's office asked if the seats could be "split in half, either horizontally or vertically" so the governor could get access. "Absolutely not," was Rudy's answer. What about just two of the seats? Another no. Asked if he'd ever sat in the prized seats, Gene Budig, who was American League president for most of the Giuliani years, tells the Voice: "I got to sit in seats a couple of times when he wasn't there, but never with him. The seats were practically in the dugout." The prominence of the seats and the success of the team quickly catapulted Giuliani into prime-time sports hero status. He even managed to get himself interviewed on camera in the locker-room champagne celebrations of the great victories, running right in through the dugout after the game. That was in addition to his regular fifth-inning appearance on the Yankee radio broadcast. He merged himself with the Yankees in the national consciousness, and is still featured, with his old comb-over look, on the scoreboard screen during every game, leading cheers for a Yankee rally. On opening day in April, the presidential candidate also appeared in the Yankee radio and TV booth for full inning commentary, a sneer at the equal-time provisions of federal law.
In 2003, the Yankees paid a $75,000 fine to the state lobbying commission for not disclosing as a lobbying expense dozens of tickets given to public officials in 2002 and 2003. Even though Giuliani wasn't a public official anymore, his name appeared on a list entitled "Political Friends" that the Yankees turned over to the commission. He was one of the few with a special note by his name: "GMS list," referring to George Steinbrenner. He still had all 12 seats in the same section for playoff games, though he was listed as sharing them with Mayor Bloomberg on opening day. While a variety of credit cards or the word invoice are listed under the category of "method of payment" for many of the special seats, the space beside Giuliani's name is left blank. No explanation for those left blank was offered. Since the ring payments occurred as recently as 2004, the commission, too, may still have the jurisdiction to investigate whether the tickets were improper gifts granted to Giuliani while he was a lobbied public official.
While mayors in other cities may have tried to tie themselves to successful sports franchises like Giuliani, none, no matter how big a fan, has gotten a ring for his efforts. Team representatives, or mayoral representatives, in every city that's won a championship since 1995 tell the Voice that their mayor didn't get a ring. Not the Florida Marlins (winners in 1997 and 2003), Arizona Diamondbacks (2001), Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels (2002), Boston Red Sox (2004), Chicago White Sox (2005) or St. Louis Cardinals (2006). Team representatives also tell the Voice that rings are not for saleto a mayor or anyone else. "The mayor didn't get a ring," says White Sox spokesman Lou Hernandez. "We did a World Series ring raffle and all the proceeds went to charity. So he could have won a ring. He's a ticket holder. But no public officials got gifts even if they helped." The Cardinals' DeWitt says: "We haven't allowed anyone to buy a ring, even some limited partners who wanted an extra. You can only have it given to you. We have a great mayor. He's been helpful for us. But we just felt like for us it was best to stick to employees and Hall of Famers." Asked if rings are ever given to public officials, DeWitt says: "I've never heard that politicians get them." Angels spokesman Tim Meade says rings are "absolutely not sold under any circumstances." In fact, the Angels fired an executive who put his ring up for sale, an action Steinbrenner is also said to have taken. "There were a couple of people from the city of Anaheim who got rings," acknowledges Meade. "They were people from the city manager's office who worked closely with the Angels."