The photo is astonishing to look at today.
It was July 14, 2008. From left to right, it shows Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Joe Torre and Billy Crystal.
One of those men was a former President of the United States. Another is the next one. Back then, you might have gotten better odds on the future leader of the free world being Giuliani or Bloomberg (or even Torre or Crystal) than Trump.
The photo was taken during Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation golf outing at Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliffe Manor, N.Y.
Trump is smiling and wearing a red baseball cap. It does not say “Make America Great Again.” It is emblazoned with the logo of his golf course.
The Safe At Home Foundation is Torre’s long-running charity aimed at preventing domestic violence. The foundation’s annual dinner was held on Thursday in lower Manhattan.
As former Yankees and other celebrities filed into Cipriani’s restaurant, shock over the election results from two days earlier still hung in the air. It was also a time to remember that Trump, the real estate titan, reality television star and now president-elect, was also a presence in the New York sports world before turning to politics.
Trump once owned the USFL’s New Jersey Generals before that league went belly-up (in large part because he tried and failed to have it compete against the NFL).
A much younger Trump was also a finalist to buy the Mets in 1980 before they were sold to Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday.
But much of Trump’s influence in the New York sports scene comes from the five golf courses he owns in the area and the buildings he owns in which sports celebrities, including Derek Jeter, lived. Both allowed him to hobnob with sports stars over the years, especially the Yankees of the Torre era.
Trump wasn’t as big a Yankees rooter as Giuliani, who was dubbed their “first fan” and always could be spotted in a Yankees cap and jacket during the glory years. Trump was around, though, especially during the nine consecutive years his golf course hosted the Torre foundation outing.
“I know him,” Torre said. “I played golf with him.”
The former Yankees manager didn’t want to say much more than that. Talking about the president-elect can lead to uncomfortable questions such as whether Torre ever heard Trump make lewd remarks on the golf course.
One of Trump’s retorts to the firestorm surrounding his vulgar comments about women in the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape was that it was “locker-room banter” and “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course.”
If anyone made lewd comments during a Torre foundation outing, Torre said he didn’t hear it.
“We just talked golf,” Torre said.
Jeter, who was also at Thursday’s dinner, lived in a Trump property during his single days. Few athletes have ever been as apolitical as the former Yankees shortstop and that didn’t change this time.
“There’s been so much talk about the election, I think people are tired of hearing about the election,” Jeter said. “You move on and you hope that everyone can unite. Do I know him? Yeah. I’ve known him. He’s been to the Stadium . . . He’s always treated me good, best way to put it.”
Jeter also said, “I think him and the Boss used to be close,” referring to the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
After Steinbrenner’s death in 2010, Trump penned a statement that began, “George Steinbrenner was not only an icon, he was a friend and a very great man. He also knew what winning is and what winning meant.”
Yankees president Randy Levine, who was a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, openly supported Trump during the election season, as did his former boss, who is now a candidate for a cabinet position.
As for Levine, when there was talk Trump would be denied the nomination even though he had the most delegates at the Republican convention, Levine said: “That’s not the way it should be. It should be won in sports on the field and it should be won at the ballot box.”
Jets owner Woody Johnson, after initially raising funds for Jeb Bush — and getting criticized for it (and for the Jets’ lack of success) by Trump on Twitter — switched after Trump won the nomination and raised funds for him.
Through the years, Trump has been mentioned as a potential buyer of the Yankees and Mets, speculation he never minded and in some cases encouraged. When the Wilpons seemed to be losing control of the Mets in 2011 after the Bernie Madoff scandal, Trump spoke about making a bid.
“Fred is a friend of mine,” Trump told Newsday. “I hope it works out for him. If it doesn’t, I certainly would be interested.”
Trump was also asked if he regretted not winning the bidding for the Mets back in 1980.
“I never regret anything,” the future president said.