Kerry, Dean In Sox Squabble

They've traded barbs over the war, foreign trade, Israel and Medicare. But now Democratic rivals Sen. John Kerry and Howard Dean are clashing over something that really matters: allegiance to the Boston Red Sox.

With Boston preparing to face archrival New York in the American League Championship Series, Kerry, D-Mass. said Tuesday that if New York beats Boston in the best-of-seven series that begins Wednesday, he'll send New England clam chowder to Dean's campaign. He wants Manhattan chowder from Dean if Boston wins.

Kerry last month accused Dean, the former Vermont governor and current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, of being a Yankees fan.

Dean, a New York native, called the accusation insulting, and insisted he backs Boston.

"Howard Dean has a relationship with the Yankees that goes way back so we hope he is willing to put some chowder behind his childhood team," Kerry spokeswoman Kelley Benander said.

Dean, however, told reporters in Iowa that he's rooting for the Red Sox. He's also pulling for the Chicago Cubs to beat the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series.

"I always root for the underdog," Dean said. "Those are the two biggest underdogs."

Kerry, better known for sailboarding and ice hockey than for baseball banter, also plans to launch a "Cowboy Up for Kerry" effort, using the slogan Red Sox players adopted for the stretch run.

Republicans might chortle that liberal Democrats have a lot in common with the boys from Boston, who've managed regularly to break fans hearts since their last World Series championship in 1918 — losing the Series in seven games in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.

For every flub by a left-leaning Democrat (Remember tank commander Michael Dukakis?) there's been a Sox snafu of epic proportions, like Bill Buckner's famous between-the-legs fielding error in Game 6 of the 1986 classic, which allowed the New York Mets the chance to steal the Series.

Hypersensitive Red Sox fans take New York-Boston stuff particularly seriously. A year after their last Series win 85 years ago, the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. As the Yankees have gone on to win 26 World Series titles, some Red Sox fans have come to believe their team has been undermined by the "Curse of the Bambino."

As Dean and Kerry try to out-Sox each other, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to play down his Red Sox roots. The Medford, Mass. native has bet his Boston counterpart, Mayor Tom Menino, on the outcome of the pennant contest.

Menino says if the Red Sox lose, he'll send Bloomberg a clambake for four. If the Red Sox topple the Yankees, Bloomberg will send Menino a quart of Manhattan clam chowder, New York pizza, dumplings and bagels.

Meanwhile at the White House, President Bush says he's staying out of the fray. Asked Tuesday at a press conference "Red Sox or Yankees?" Mr. Bush said the matchup is "good for baseball."

"My team, of course, was eliminated in June," he said, referring to the lowly Texas Rangers, a team he used to own.

Should Kerry or other Massachusetts officials wish to see one of the games at Fenway in person, they could get a good deal on tickets.

The Red Sox, in keeping with a long-standing policy, are offering top state and city politicians playoff tickets at Fenway Park for face value, something not available for most fans.

For the average attendee, playoff tickets are topping $3,000 at ticket agencies.

"There were a limited number of tickets available for sponsors, partners, neighborhood groups, business and political leaders," said Kevin Shea, a Red Sox spokesman. He did not know how many of those tickets — some going for about $100 — would be claimed.

Although the state ethics law prohibits elected officials from using their "official position to obtain unwarranted privileges or any type of special treatment," the state Ethics Commission has not found such ticket arrangements to be in violation, as long as the politicians pay for the tickets.

The Red Sox frequently have business for state and city government, on matters ranging from stadium renovation to beer sales to a new stadium.

Shea said Major League Baseball sets aside many tickets for itself, and that Fenway is the smallest park in baseball, leaving a relatively small number for dignitaries.

"There are no complimentary tickets," Shea told The Boston Globe on Tuesday.

Gov. Mitt Romney often goes to games with his son's season tickets, and is deciding whether to attend any of the games against the Yankees, the first of which is Saturday, Oct. 11, said Shawn Feddeman, Romney's press secretary.

Spokesmen for House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini said they weren't sure whether their bosses would be attending the games, or whether they contacted the Red Sox for tickets.

Menino has season tickets on the third-base side of the park, but is scheduled to fly to Rome Sunday to speak to the Lahey Clinic conference, which means he would miss games 4 and 5 (if necessary). Menino said he is thinking about rescheduling the trip.

A top aide to City Council President Michael F. Flaherty said Flaherty was not getting tickets through the Red Sox.

The American League Championship Series begins Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Game 2 is Thursday night in the Bronx. Play moves to Fenway for Games 4 and 5 Saturday and Sunday. If necessary, Game 5 is in Boston on Monday, and Games 6 and 7 return to New York.