Baseball And The 2009 Elections

Lindsay and Giuliani

Lindsay jumped on the Mets' 1969 bandwagon and won a 2nd term. Giuliani's Yankee sentiments didn't waver even during the 2000 Subway Series. hide caption

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There was a bit of eye rolling on my part last night, as well as a sense of where-have-I-seen-this-before deja vu, watching New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in the New York Yankees' victorious locker room, following their capture of the American League pennant — their 40th — after they beat the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in six games.

Bloomberg, the odds-on favorite to win a third term against City Comptroller William Thompson next week, grew up in Boston as a Red Sox fan. But he has come around in his eight years as mayor, rooting for the Yankees in their successful 2003 series against the Sox — think Aaron Boone — as well as their not-so-successful series in 2004 — think up 3-0 only to lose four straight. He mastered the switch far better than, say, Hillary Clinton, who unconvincingly declared herself to be a lifelong Yankees fan in 2000 (when she moved to New York to run for the Senate) when in fact she was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.).

But there he was last night, front and center in the locker room, with his Yankees jacket and all, getting in every camera shot as Fox TV was up on the podium with its post-game interviews.

Full disclosure: I happen to be a lifelong Yankees fan.

Yes, I know I seem to get in trouble every time I say outloud what things remind me of. But I had a flashback last night, back to 1969, when another NYC mayor running for re-election, John Lindsay, was omnipresent in the Mets' improbable march to the World Series that year. Lindsay, running against Republican (John Marchi) and Democratic (Mario Procaccino) Party nominees, nonetheless was victorious — and one of the factors in his favor was his linking his candidacy to the perennial underdog Mets. (The vision of a deliriously happy Lindsay being doused with champagne remains.)

The differences between the 1969 Lindsay and the 2009 Bloomberg campaigns are huge, of course. No one doubts that Bloomberg will cruise to a third term next week, while there were genuine questions about Lindsday 40 years ago. (Yikes. Forty years ago??)

But what they have in common is/was the ability to ride the coattails of a successful baseball team. And in baseball-loving New York City, that is no small thing.

No mayor in Big Apple history is probably more closely associated with a baseball team than Rudy Giuliani and his beloved Yankees. Even during the 2000 Subway Series, in which the Yankees took on the Mets, Giuliani never hid his Yankee regalia or sentiments. Ironically, the year Giuliani was running for re-election — 1997 — was the only year of the mayor's final six years in which the Yanks didn't make it to the World Series.

The fact that this year's Series is between the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies could prove to be delicate for the candidates running for governor of New Jersey. South Jersey is Phillies country, but north Jersey is Yankees territory; hence the dilemma.

So who are Gov. Jon Corzine (D), GOP challenger Chris Christie and independent Chris Daggett rooting for? We do know that Corzine, seeking a second term, is a Chicago White Sox fan, and that Christie roots for the Mets.

David Madden, of Philadelphia's KYW radio, points out that with all the other problems facing the Garden State, baseball loyalties are not high on any of the candidates' list of key issues:

But should the issue come up, Rowan University political science professor Larry Butler suggests they just be honest.

"People understand that if you're a fan, you're a fan for life and you need to stick to it. If you start trying to play games and say "Well, I kind of like both teams", it just makes you sound like a wishy washy politician."

Wally Edge, writing on the PolitickerNJ.com blog, has a wonderful history of the World Series and NJ governors. He has uncovered some real fun stuff, starting with the fact that the Yankees and Phillies met only once in the World Series, in 1950 (a four-game Yankee sweep), and the governor at the time was Alfred Driscoll (R), a "serious Phillies fan." But he wasn't running in 1950. There's more:

New Jersey has elected Governors eleven times in a year when the Yankees won the World Series. Democrats have won in seven of those years, and the Republicans in four. In those years, when the Democrats win the governorship, the Yankees win the World Series 57% of the time; when the GOP elects a Governor, the Yankees are world champions 75% of the time.

The only living Governor of New Jersey to have won in a Yankees world championship year is Brendan Byrne, a Democrat who was re-elected in 1977. The Yankees lost the World Series when Thomas Kean (1981) and James E. McGreevey (2001) ran.

The Yankees have been in the World Series only three times when a Governor of New Jersey is seeking re-election; they won under two incumbents, Driscoll (1949) and Byrne (1977), and lost to the Milwaukee Braves when Robert Meyner sought a second term in 1957.

Note: Game 5 of the World Series is scheduled on the night before the election.

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