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Rudy Rants for the Home Team

Wayne Barrett reported recently in the Village Voice that presidential candidate and memorabilia collector Rudolph Giuliani possesses four bejeweled gold World Series rings for his favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees. Giuliani’s rings commemorate Yankees world championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000—all years that coincide with Giuliani’s two terms as New York City mayor. World Series rings are not sold to the general public, although occasionally a team may raffle a few to raise money for charity.

The city of New York has owned Yankee Stadium and leased it to the team since 1972. Gifts to New York officials from anyone doing business with the city are barred under conflict-of-interest regulations. But Rudy said the conflict rules didn’t apply because he didn’t get the rings until years after he left office at the end of 2001. Besides, said Giuliani, they weren’t gifts: “I paid precisely what anybody else would pay.” Giuliani and the Yankees both said that was around $16,000. But the rings’ market value, according to Barrett, was more like $200,000. When the story wouldn’t go away, Giuliani got personal. “He’s got such an obsession that he just about never gets his facts right,” Giuliani said of Barrett, who has written two books critical of Giuliani. “This reporter sticks pins in a doll of me every night.”

It wasn’t the first time Giuliani got testy with a reporter who dared inquire about his Yankees souvenirs. In 1982, when Giuliani was associate attorney general, Tony Capaccio, a staff reporter for syndicated muckraker Jack Anderson, asked Giuliani how he’d come by a vintage wooden chair from Yankee Stadium that occupied a treasured spot in his Washington, D.C., office. (The original chairs, dating to the 1920s, were removed and replaced with plastic ones in 1973.) Giuliani responded by phoning Anderson and sending a four-page follow-up letter (recently released by the National Archives; see below and on the following three pages) that accused Capaccio, who hadn’t yet written a word about Rudy’s souvenir, of showing “a reckless disregard for the truth.” Giuliani said he’d received the chair as a gift from an intern in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office who’d paid “approximately $26” for it. (The chairs sell today for approximately $1,800.) Giuliani then related, in a meandering narrative reminiscent of the films The Yellow Rolls-Royce and The Red Violin, the chair’s stately progress over a nine-year period via co-workers, subsidiaries, and baggage handlers, until he finally reclaimed it from the headquarters of the U.S. Marshals Service in Tyson’s Corner, Va.

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