Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baseball Trumps Politics

Impending World Series
Diverts Public Interest
From Mayoral Campaign

Henry J. Stern
October 26, 2009

As almost all New Yorkers know by now, the Yankees won the pennant last night, in their first year in their new stadium, which the city helped build. This is their 40th American League championship (the first was in 1921), and they have won the World Series 26 times (starting in 1923). Babe Ruth (714 home runs, 0 steroids) was sold to the Yankees by the Red Sox for $125,000. Howard Koeppel owns the original contract of sale, dated December 26, 1919.The Yankees last pennant came in 2003 under Joe Torre, who also managed their last world championship came in 2000, when they defeated the Mets in a subway series.

We heard the upcoming contests referred to as the Amtrak series. It might also be called the I-95 series.

The opening game of the 105th World Series will be held Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Game Four will be played in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 1. Game Five, if necessary, comes on Monday, November 2 and Game Six on Wednesday, November 4. They skip Election Day so the players can vote. Actually, it is an off day because the pennant winners could come from distant cities (e.g. Los Angeles, Houston) and the day is set aside for travel.

Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The date ranges from November 2 to 8, so November 3 is relatively early in the range. It was fixed by Congress in 1845 for Federal elections. The consequence of the Yankees winning the pennant is that the home team in New York will be playing in the World Series until two days before the election, assuming a four game sweep. If the series takes six games or more, it will bridge the election.

There will be enormous public attention focused on the 2009 World Series. The press and other mainstream media have given the American League playoffs extensive coverage, in part because of the presence of a New York team in the Series for the first time in six years. The mayoral election is not considered a cliffhanger, but one never knows what the people will decide. The baseball games will continue until Sunday at the earliest, so there will not be much time, if any, for an undivided focus on the campaign. That should help the candidate who has done the most television advertising, because there will be less attention paid by the free media.

This unusual juxtaposition of baseball and politics suggests that less attention than usual will be paid to the election. The turnout was relatively low in the Democratic primary and even lower in the runoff two weeks later. Those indicators suggest that the vote on November 3 will not be that high. Neither candidate arouses much emotional feelings on the part of most New Yorkers. Apathy usually favors the front-runner. It can occasionally conceal an ambush, but we have not yet seen signs of a popular rising. One observation we make is that if Derek Jeter were to become a candidate, he would have a very good chance of being elected.

The Yankee victory resonates with the Bloomberg campaign. They have the most capable team for the election, in part because they bought the players. A-Rod, CC Sabathia and their teammates are not Yankees because they enjoy the climate of New York City. They are here because they were offered the most money, and perhaps the best chance to play in the World Series, which provides additional income for the players. I read when I was a teenager, at the peak of my interest in baseball, that the players only share in the proceeds of the first four games, because the owners wanted to prevent conflicts of interest. As a result the better team would drop a game or two to prolong the series.

Somehow, victories in sporting events have historically benefited incumbents by creating a general atmosphere of goodwill in town. On January 12, 1969, The Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, with Broadway Joe Namath at quarterback. Johnny Unitas was the Colts’ QB. On October 16, at Shea Stadium, the Mets won the World Series in five games by beating the Baltimore Orioles. That was just three weeks before the election which Mayor John Lindsay won on the Liberal line, after losing the Republican mayoral primary in June to State Senator John Marchi of Staten Island. Marchi came in second. The Democratic mayoral candidate in 1969 was Comptroller Mario A. Procaccino.

DIGRESSIONS: Senator Marchi died in April 2009 while visiting Italy. He was 87 years old, and had served a record 50 years (1956-2006) in the New York State Senate. Although well to the right of Lindsay, Marchi was considered a moderate Republican and was very popular and widely respected on Staten Island. Mario Procaccino had won a five-man Democratic primary with 32.85 percent of the vote. He was the only conservative in a race against four liberals. His primary victory, and the subsequent defeat of the Democratic Party in the general election led to the State Legislature’s adoption of the Runoff Law at the request of Democrats. Under this law, the leading candidate receives fewer than 40 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates. The law applies only to the three city-wide elected offices: Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate. This year, two of the top three races were settled in runoffs. Mayor Koch defeated Mario Cuomo in the 1977 mayoral runoff, and in the general election that year, going on to three terms as mayor. The third time Koch and Cuomo opposed each other, in the Democratic primary for governor in 1982, Cuomo won, and went on to three terms as governor. They both lost bids for a fourth term.

The longevity record in the United States Senate is held by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who served from 1954, when he was elected as a write-in candidate, until 2003, when he retired at the age of 100. He died five months later. Senator Thurmond was the last independent candidate to receive a substantial number of electoral votes. In 1948, running against Harry Truman and Tom Dewey, he carried four southern states, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, with 39 electoral votes. The purpose of his candidacy was to prevent Truman or Dewey from receiving a majority of the Electoral College (268 at the time), which would throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would enable the South to extract commitments from the winner to preserve its way of life (based on segregation, legalized racism, and violence to those who would alter the status quo). Fortunately, Truman received 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189, so that situation did not materialize.

There is a very good blog on baseball and politics, called The Nub. It is edited by Richard Starkey of Perfect Pitch Communications. You can link to it at perfectpitcher.

The mayoral election is eight days from today, and it has not stirred the attention that previous races drew. Perhaps the most significant contest since World War II was the 1961 Democratic mayoral primary, in which Mayor Robert F. Wagner was opposed by State Comptroller Arthur Levitt (Sr.), the choice of all five Democratic county organizations. That race, however, is a story on its own.

P.S. In both politics sports, there is a lot of historical and statistical data, which some people find stimulating. We have included such data in this article, in part because it may be read by relatively young people who were not around when these events took place. If you are old and wise, and know this stuff already, perhaps you can share the article with a callow youth for whom it may be new – possibly a young relative or descendant, so s/he will know you think about him/er without the necessity of having to write a lengthy letter.

P.P.S. We are legally permitted to express our hope that the Yankees win the World Series. This is not intended as any reflection on the Phillies, who were the World Champions in 2008. It is based in part on local pride, and in par on the additional revenue New York City will receive in taxes because of a higher level of business activity. We suspect the Economic Development Administration will conclude that we have already recouped whatever the stadium cost. If not this year, then in 2010.

StarQuest #611 10.26.2009 1417wds

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