The Yankees' Clean-Up Man

Rudy went to bat for the Yanks, and look what he scored.

Of course, before Giuliani brokered his Bronx deal, he waged a three-year war to give the Yankees, not the Mets, a stadium on the West Side. He and Steinbrenner began that strong-arm campaign in 1996, just as the mayor was collecting his first ring. That's also when he amended the Yankee lease for the first of five times, quietly granting the Yankees permission to exclude much of cable and luxury-suite revenue from the calculus that determined the rent due the city. In fact, all the team paid the city to rent Yankee Stadium in a World Series year, when all deductions were made, was a measly $100,000. Giuliani was so committed to the West Side site he created a phony charter commission to put manufactured amendments on the ballot in 1998, a legal maneuver that submarined a referendum opposing the stadium. When a steel beam at Yankee Stadium collapsed that year, he turned it into a campaign to virtually condemn the stadium, rejecting the findings of his own building commissioner that the stadium was sound. No fact could get in the way of what Steinbrenner wanted.

The goodies list seems endless. Giuliani spent $71 million on a stadium for the Staten Island Yankees, a low-level minor league team half-owned by Steinbrenner's son. So few people go to games there that the team has yet to hit the minimal attendance threshold that triggers some rental payments to the city. Though the lease required the team to submit turnstile attendance numbers to the city, the stadium operated for years without turnstiles, and the comptroller has repeatedly found that it shortchanges the city. The city also helped the Yankees reconfigure Yankee Stadium in lucrative ways, including adding the very Legends seats in foul territory near the dugouts and home plate that Giuliani wound up occupying. On December 19, 2001, also just days before the end of Giuliani's term, Bob Harding signed a letter approving a million-dollar replacement of the playing field.

Those who know Giuliani well say that when he thinks he's in love, he waives all the rules of acceptable conduct. But the story of him and his team is not just a saga of disturbing infatuation and self-absorption. It is an object lesson in what kind of a president he would be, a window into his willingness to lend himself to a special interest, to blur all lines that ordinarily separate personal and public lives. It is not so much that he identified with the Yankees. It was himself that he was serving.

Illustration by David O'Keefe

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Research assistance: Matt Friedman, Dan House, Clare Trapasso, and Hannah Vahl

Tune in: Wayne Barrett on how he got the Rudy story


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