MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Without getting into the alleged corruption and clear sloppiness, or the politics and lust for power that is the base of it all, how can it be a surprise to anybody that Rudy Giuliani, the so-called America’s Mayor, is being described and portrayed – under Federal oath – the way he is being described and portrayed?

Giuliani is a slapdash, sleazy mess. And, though melting hair dye also helps perpetrate this perception, he has been this way for quite some time, as many of us saw to be true as early as Oct. 9, 1996, and many more of us saw as well, but chose to ignore on the way to their favorite baseball team’s first world championship in 18 years.

Priorities.

Boys will be boys, eh? Everybody leads the parade for being with a winner, even when the winner wins unjustly.

Oct 9, 1996, as any fan of the Baltimore Orioles knows, was the day of Game One of the American League Championship Series between the Orioles and the New York Yankees …

Orioles leading 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth, right? With nobody on base, rookie Derek Jeter hits a fly ball to deep right field in Yankee Stadium. Right fielder Tony Tarasco is at the wall and taps his glove, which his former Braves teammate John Smoltz says, “… means Tony T. is going to catch it.” Yet out of nowhere, 12-year old Jeffrey Maier enters the picture, reaches into the field of play and swipes the ball into the stands with his glove, and the cowardly umpire Rich Garcia, who is standing less than 10 feet from Tarasco, rules a home run.

Game tied. Extra innings. Yankees win, go on to take the series in five games.

The ensuing media hoopla makes it all an even bigger aberration for anyone who isn’t a Yankees fan. The miserable little kid Maier, who is truant from school, by the way, becomes an overnight national pseudo-celebrity.

He goes on talk shows, interviews and receives the New York key to the city from Mayor Rudy Giuliani, all because he did something that, in any other ballpark, earns him a swift kick out of the stadium.

No one has enough feeling for the game to know what’s right, let alone the courage to act on instinct, including the former federal prosecutor who is New York City mayor, but suck-up Yankees fan first and foremost.

After the kid and his parents are put up for a night at the Plaza Hotel they appear on “Good Morning America.”

A 12-year-old kid might have decided who went to the World Series and nothing is done — except he’s made a star. Then he skips school for the second day in a row to attend Game Two and sit in the private first-base box of the mayor of New York City from where they both mug for the cameras and acknowledge the hero’s welcome back to Yankee Stadium.

Meanwhile, the coward Rich Garcia, who admittedly blew the call, signs autographs along the left-field line between innings for grateful Yankees fans.

The grown-ups who should have kicked little Jeffrey Maier out of the stadium instead raised him on their shoulders. Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki praised him. Sen. Al D’Amato called the boy’s interference “almost a miracle.”

Sad, really. A truant trespasser who committed an act punishable by ejection from any ballpark in America and he’s made a hero of New York City and Yankees lore and is celebrated by Mayor Rudy Giuliani the loudest while sharing every photo opp.

What if it had been a fly ball hit by one of the Orioles? For beginners, you can bet your life Garcia would not have dared call it a home run, not in Yankee Stadium. And, as Orioles slugger Bobby Bonilla, who is a Bronx native and knows the habits of his hometown, said, “If one of the Orioles had hit it, the kid would have been strung up on the Throgs Neck Bridge.”

Instead he was hailed a hero and given the key to the city and a private box to the ALCS by the honorable Rudy Giuliani.

That was 26 years ago. How can anybody be surprised by what they see or hear about Rudy Giuliani?

Just say you won, and you’ll be a winner. Right?

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT