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Gag Order

A Reflection

It was my college buddy, Scott “Pooks” Pakula, who first mentioned that our former classmate, Randy Levine, (and his teammate on the George Washington Colonials junior varsity basketball team) had been named president of the New York Yankees.

Knowing a potential freelance gig idea when I hear one, the next day I pitched an alumni profile to the editor of GW Magazine. She gave the green light, and it didn’t take long to set up a meeting with Levine. He clearly liked the idea of recognition in his alumni magazine. Since he was also a partner at a big New York City law firm, we agreed to meet in his office on 57th Street.

After schmoozing about the Tin Tabernacle; the success of our former classmate, Gov. (now senator) Mark Warner of Virginia; and the enormous growth of our alma mater, I set my mini cassette recorder on his desk, and he began tracing his journey from young federal prosecutor to New York City deputy mayor to Yankees president.

We were sailing along until the phone rang. Over an intercom, his secretary reported there was a call from his boss, “The Boss;”  Yankees majority owner George Steinbrenner. Levine asked me to leave the room for a few minutes. “Sure; no problem,” I answered. From his tone, I could tell there was serious business to discuss.

When I returned ten minutes later, we both realized that my tape recorder was still sitting right there on the edge of his desk. “Has it been on?” he asked. I picked it up, saw the red recording light, and admitted it had. He asked if I would mind giving him the tape. “Since I’ve hardly taken any notes, I need to transcribe the tape to write my story, ” I said. So yes, I did  very much mind handing over the tape. I assured him that anything in his private conversation was completely off-the-record and wouldn’t be shared.

It was clear that “I prefer not” wasn’t an option. The fact that we shared the same alma mater didn't matter one iota. I was going to hand over the tape—or else he would be on the phone to the GW Mag editor faster than Billy Martin had been fired after a bar fight.

The next day I picked up the paper and realized the reason The Boss had called. They had most likely discussed the contract of newly acquired veteran right fielder Raul Mondesi. He had $18.5 million remaining on his Blue Jays contract and the Yankees would pay most of it over the next two seasons. Since Levine negotiated contracts, I assumed terms were discussed. Perhaps Levine had called Mondesi’s agent a douche bag or a Democrat and thought I’d make a beeline to the Daily News with the dirt.

I’ll never know. By the time the interview was complete, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Levine had completely changed his tone from “nice to be catching up with a former classmate”  and “thank you for showcasing me” tone to a pompous  “do-as-I-say-or-else ” bully.

Perhaps sensing my disgust, the last thing he said was, “Hey, if you want to bring your family to a game sometime, call my secretary and she’ll set you up in my box.”  Thanks anyway, Randy.