Candidates and baseball owners cover political bases

By A. James Memmott

October 10, 2007 at 12:35pm

Two seasons have collided - the endless season of the presidential campaign and the shorter season of the baseball playoffs.

This means that presidential candidates have been showing up at the playoffs, most especially Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who was there front and center to see his beloved New York Yankees exit the playoffs in the first round.

These sporting appearances make sense. The politicos get a little TV airtime away from the coffee shops of New Hampshire and Iowa. And they associate themselves with a game that’s American as apple pie and steroids. (OK. They don’t stress the steroids.)

But there can be risks to rooting for a team, as it inevitably means rooting against another team. Giuliani have picked up some votes in New York, but the inhabitants of Red Sox Nation might not be able to forgive his connection to, in their opinions, an evil empire.

And while cheering for one team has its ups and downs, cheering for two may only double your trouble.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the purported leader in the Democratic race, grew up in Illinois and lives in New York. Her teams: The Chicago Cubs AND the Yankees.

There is proof that this is not an allegiance of convenience, that she carried this dual passion in her heart long before she decided to become a senator from New York.

But some columnists have accused her of flip-flopping, an unforgivable crime in today’s politics.

Bill Richardson, the Democratic presidential hopeful from New Mexico also drew heat for multiple loyalties when he told Tim Russert, a Red Sox fan, that he, too, was a “Red Sox fan.” Richardson then stepped into some hot water by adding, “I’m also a Yankees fan.”

Pundits quickly argued that no one on this earth could root for both those teams, and Richardson had to scramble to explain himself. (Short version: Growing up, he worshipped the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, not the Yankees; but he used to live in Boston and was bitten by the Red Sox bug.)

But even though it carries some risks, association with baseball would seem to be good politically - President George W. Bush, after all, once owned the Texas Rangers - and it’s a sure thing that candidates will continue to go to games.

And, if they’re lucky, in addition to a good seat they just might pick up a campaign contribution from the people who own the teams that play in those stadiums.

The owners of the teams in the baseball playoffs have all made political contributions, though not all this year. More often than not, they have backed Republicans.

John W. Henry, the owner of the American League’s Red Sox, did give $5,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2002. However, he sent another $1,000 to a Republican candidate for Congress that same year.

Larry Dolan, the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox’s opponent in the American League Championship, gave $1,000 in 2001 to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa , but there is no indication that he has recently backed other candidates for federal office.

Charlie Monfort, the owner of the Colorado Rockies, who will play the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League Championship, has backed Republican candidates for Congress and the U.S. Senate.

Jeff Moorad, the CEO of the Diamondbacks, has given extensively to Republican senatorial and congressional candidates. He has also contributed $2,300 each (the maximum allowable) to the Republican presidential campaigns of Arizona Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

Sam Zell, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, the team eliminated from the playoffs by the Diamondbacks has contributed $2,300 each to the campaigns of Giuliani and McCain.

William Giles, chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies, the team defeated by the Rockies, has not made any presidential campaign contributions this year, according to records.

Arte Moreno, the owner of the L.A. Angels, the team eliminated by the Red Sox, has contributed $2,300 to the Giuliani campaign.

George Steinbrenner, the Yankees principal owner, has helped the former New York City mayor by contributed $2,300 to the Giuliani campaign.

While Steinbrenner generally supports Republicans, he contributed this year to U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a Yankees fan and influential Democrat from New York.

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