WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The stately East Room of the White House sounded like the Bronx. The pristine room, which features a 210-year-old portrait of George Washington, now had one Yankees fan shouting out, "Hip, Hip" before a chorus exclaimed, "Jorge," as they sat in suits, ties and business attire.
As the Yankees stood on a platform, waiting for the president to be introduced, the historic room suddenly sounded as if it were being invaded by a Bleacher Creature, as a fan chanted, "De-rek, Jet-er."
When President Barack Obama was finally introduced he showed a Bronx flair with a creative one-liner that brought laughter from a partisan, Yankees-blue and pinstriped Washington crowd.
During the conclusion of the ceremony to honor the Yankees' 2009 world championship, the president instructed Joe Girardi to walk over to take a picture with him as they held the World Series trophy.
As Obama went to pick up the trophy, assistant GM Jean Afterman, sitting in the front row of the dais, shouted, "You might not get another chance [to hold the trophy.]"
The president, who once again professed his love for the Chicago White Sox during his speech, smiled and retorted, "You wonder why other teams don't root for you."
Derek Jeter, as is his way, calmly got in the last word on the repartee. Later, speaking to the media outside the West Wing, Jeter playfully warned the president.
"He better be careful with that," Jeter said. "There are a lot of a Yankee fans who vote."
The Yankees went to the White House to celebrate their 2009 world championship one final time. The president made sure to credit them not only for winning, but also for how they won and what they have done off the field.
"Being a Yankee is as much about character as it is about performance," Obama said.
During his 10-minute speech, Obama praised the Yankees for their morning trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Malone House to visit wounded warriors. He congratulated the Steinbrenner family and GM Brian Cashman for the team's success. He then went out of his way to single out Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira and Girardi.
The message of the omission was clear: If you have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs, you weren't going to be mentioned. Thus, the names of Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte did not leave the president's lips.
Obama started off by acknowledging that the Yankees' arrival at the White House drew quite a crowd.
"As you can see, we have a few Yankees fans here in the White House," Obama said to cheers and whistles.
He pointed out there were members of the New York congressional delegation, who were joined by members of the congressional delegations from Connecticut and even from North Dakota.
"All of whom take credit for the Yankees' success," Obama said.
He said the nine championship-less years were an "eternity" for the Yankees, but a team like the Cubs would take it pretty quickly.
"That attitude, that success, has always made the Yankees easy to love and, let's face it, easy to hate, as well," Obama said. "For a White Sox fan like me, it is painful to watch Mariano's cutter."
Rivera, who has been praised by nearly everyone, beamed as the president cited his greatness.
The president told of Teixeira starting a $75,000 scholarship in honor of a high school friend, who was killed in a car accident. Obama recalled meeting Jorge Posada before at a charity event and credited the catcher for the work he has done for craniosynostosis, the ailment Posada's son has overcome.
The president then turned to Posada's best friend and said, "Of course, then there is Jeter. Where's Jeter?" He nodded toward the Yankee captain.
Obama praised Jeter not only for passing Lou Gehrig as the Yankees' all-time hits king, but for the story that Jeter has often told about how Don Mattingly instructed him to always hustle. As Obama recounted, Mattingly told Jeter, "You never know who's watching."
"Derek took that lesson to heart and 15 years later, he still runs everywhere, like he is trying out for the track team," Obama said. "Always setting an example, always hustling. That is why everyone says he epitomizes the best of the Yankees tradition."
The president finished his speech, noting that Girardi is from his home state of Illinois and praised him for HOPE Week, the event that Yankees began last year that shone light on underpublicized charity efforts.
It was a partisan day at the White House as a Washington crowd brought the Bronx to the capital.