It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a baseball player in possession of an eight-digit contract with the New York Yankees, must be in want of an expensive condo on the eastern edge of the Upper East Side.
Indeed, now that the ink is dry on former Red Sox player Johnny Damon’s $52 million contract and the razor applied to the scraggly center fielder’s feral beard and mane, it’s time for him and his wife, Michelle Mangan, to find a place to settle down.
On Dec. 22, as Mr. Damon took his physical with the team, Ms. Mangan was reportedly out spying apartments. And with millions of dollars to burn, Manhattan offers comparatively more luxury options than Boston.
And yet, judging from their lives in Boston, the couple seems likely to do what most Yankees do: Move into a big new condo building on the East Side near the F.D.R. with all your buddies an elevator ride away, just for a couple of years. Still single (Derek Jeter)? Move to a loft downtown. Hitched? Move to a McMansion in New Jersey.
That’s pretty much what Mr. Damon and Ms. Mangan did in Boston.
Until last year, the couple lived together in the Ritz-Carlton, overlooking Boston Common. The modern condominium, one of the sleekest in the New England city of mostly low-lying residences, became home to many Red Sox players, including Manny Ramirez, Edgar Renteria, David Ortiz and Keith Foulke. Just a little over a year since breaking the curse, the glory days of a condominium clubhouse in the sky are fading away. Since being traded to the Atlanta Braves, Mr. Renteria is expected to put his 1,504-square-foot penthouse on the market; Mr. Ramirez, who has been loudly seeking a trade this off-season, already put his 4,421-square-foot, 37th-floor spread on the market for $6.9 million.
In the past, life at the Ritz must have been a lot of fun. Mr. Damon and Ms. Mangan famously hurled water balloons down from their 34th-floor pad. However, in December 2004, the couple spent $4.75 million on a 12-room, 6,800-square-foot house in Brookline, not far from Fenway Park. Last October, although Ms. Mangan was busy telling The Boston Globe that she “can’t see him in a Yankees uniform,” the couple was still not making any improvements on the newly constructed house, in case they had to relocate in the near future.
So what are their plans for New York? When Babe Ruth changed teams, he moved into the Ansonia Hotel on the Upper West Side (but that was over eight decades ago, and the market’s changed). A call placed to über-agent Scott Boras yielded no results; a company rep told The Observer they are not sure where the couple may move. Others have a better idea.
“They want the flexibility of a condominium and the amenities of a hotel,” said Richard Steinberg, senior managing director of Warburg Realty. In the past few years, Mr. Steinberg sold apartments to Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada, and believes that players desire a living situation that is compatible with their busy schedules, and 80-plus games on the road. “Time-wise, they are never in their apartments. They want valet, cleaning services, and not having to worry. They are in and out of their suitcases.”
So how about a Trump building?
“The Yankees like me, and I like them,” said developer-cum-television-personality Donald Trump. “They do love my buildings. That starts because George Steinbrenner is a friend of mine, and I think he probably originally, years ago, recommended Trump buildings. They’ve been there ever since, at various buildings even as I build them now.”
“Trump World Tower is located right off the East River Drive entrance, so they can just drive immediately up to Yankee Stadium directly, so they don’t have to go through the traffic of New York.”
Trump World Tower, at 845 United Nations Plaza, has been a hotspot for Yankees players, attracting buyers Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui. After signing his monster $252 million contract, Alex Rodriguez became a renter in the building, paying about $20,000 a month. Former Yankee residents have also included pitchers Jeff Weaver and Steve Karsay.
Completed in 2001, the Costas Kondylis–designed tower overlooks the East River, and offers the opportunity to live on a very high floor (which could be ideal for tossing water balloons). Mr. Jeter lives high up in a $13 million apartment in the 72-story building, the tallest residential building in North America. Last July, Mr. Matsui paid $3.16 million to live on the 50th floor.
Like an upscale hotel, the building offers numerous amenities, including a health club, private spa and 60-foot swimming pool, a gourmet restaurant, private wine cellar, landscaped garden, 24-hour concierge, valet parking and strict security. The ceiling heights range from 10 to 16 feet, with many palatial residences on the higher floors.
Perhaps the Trump name goes a long way with wealthy ball players, because Mr. Rodriguez decided to leave the tower for another of the developer’s buildings. It might not have hurt that Mr. Trump flew the slugger’s broker down to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, as the New York Post reported, in hopes of influencing his client. In June, Mr. Rodriguez reportedly paid $7.5 million for a four-bedroom apartment in Trump Park Avenue.
(For the record, Mr. Trump says he remembers no such meeting: “No, I didn’t wine and dine his broker,” he told The Observer. “He bought at Trump Park Avenue. I don’t even know who his broker is. He might have flown down, but he obviously didn’t make much of an impression on me.”)
On the site of the former Delmonico Hotel, the luxurious condo at 59th Street and Park offers all the amenities that one could hope for. Similar to his World Tower, Mr. Trump hired Mr. Kondylis to gut the building’s interior after the developer purchased it in 2001. There are 120 luxury condos, and Mr. Rodriguez’s personal palace includes a 40-foot-wide living room and his-and-hers whirlpool baths in the master bedroom.
Then there’s the Empire, where Mr. Steinberg sold to Mr. Giambi.
In March 2002, Mr. Giambi dropped $4.375 million on a 3,000-square-foot spread. Mr. Giambi’s apartment includes three bedrooms, four baths, 11-foot ceilings and spectacular views from two terraces.
When Mr. Giambi moved into the Empire condominium on East 78th Street, there were no other players living there. However, Leo Hindery, former head of the Yankees’ YES Network, resided in the building. Mr. Steinberg related that the Yankee first baseman asked him, “Is my apartment on a higher floor than Mr. Hindery’s?” And, for the sake of Mr. Giambi’s ego, it was.
“Buying an apartment for these professional athletes is an ego thing as much as anything else,” said Mr. Steinberg.
Although the Empire ran into structural problems (and two lawsuits), the 32-story building does offer many amenities, including a fitness center, marble lobby, media room, private dining room and 25-car garage. Developed by Aby Rosen, Trevor Davis and Michael Fuchs, the modern tower includes 77 apartments.
Settling near his teammate, Mr. Posada headed for the Seville, a nearby luxury condo on East 77th Street that was completed by the same developers of the Empire. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the 31-story building includes about 90 apartments and similar amenities.
Not all Yankees immediately plunge into the sales market. Although Mr. Damon and his wife know a bit about real estate, they may choose to rent first before deciding where to buy. Other Yankees have gone that route.
Randy Johnson is currently renting an apartment at the Park Imperial on West 56th Street for a reported $25,000 a month. Completed in 2002, the mixed-use tower is home to Random House headquarters, and also includes 111 residential units on the top 23 floors. The developer, the Related Companies, is also responsible for the celebrity-friendly Time Warner Center—another possible home for the affluent athlete.
Mr. Johnson’s big unit is located on the building’s 58th floor, and features five bedrooms and five and a half baths. The apartment also includes a formal dining room, eat-in kitchen, 10-foot ceilings and views of both Central Park and the Hudson River.
Just last week, another hurler found a rental, according to the New York Post. Pitcher Tanyon Sturtze is renting an apartment in the Milan building on East 55th Street for $9,500 a month. Mr. Sturtze also has an option to the buy the three-bedroom, three-bath residence.
The 32-story tower offers concierge services, a fitness center and a clubroom (the condo is located on the former site of El Morocco, a legendary New York nightclub).
And if Mr. Sturtze is looking to carpool out to the Bronx, pitcher Carl Pavano—who purchased an apartment in March for $2.8 million—is just three floors down.
On the other hand, not all Yankees who start out in bullpen buildings like the Empire stay there for long. After all, if proximity to the F.D.R. and concierge services are important to Johnny, Michelle may have other ideas.
Gary Sheffield settled down in Alpine, N.J. About seven miles from the George Washington Bridge, the very affluent suburb offers mansions and plenty of acres to set up a personal diamond.
Many celebrities, including Chris Rock and Stevie Wonder, have settled for the tranquil enclave, and currently there is a home available for $40 million.
If the Damon clan wants an idea what they’ll find out there before they go looking, they may want to pop in an episode of The Sopranos. Palladium windows, lots of light, room for a nice pool, great for barbecues.
Nah, not quite yet. Right?