- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) His long hair trimmed and his goatee shaved, Jason Giambi stepped into Yankee Stadium wearing a three-piece suit and looking like a new man.

Just like the kind of guy who puts on pinstripes for a living.

After weeks of anticipation, the prime free agent and the New York Yankees made it official yesterday as the slugging first baseman signed a seven-year, $120 million contract.

"This is my best fit," said Giambi, who briefly choked up at the podium. "This was the team I was hoping would come after me."

About a dozen fans met him outside the ballpark when he arrived on a cold, damp afternoon. Giambi signed autographs and showed his wild side, engaging a spirited bit of give and take.

"You know you'll hear me screaming," one man shouted playfully.

"I better," Giambi shot back.

The 2000 AL MVP, Giambi was runner-up for the award this season after hitting .342 with 38 homers and 120 RBI for Oakland.

Giambi, 30, also led the league in on-base percentage (.477) and slugging (.660) last season.

From City Hall to the Bronx, people were buzzing about the new big bopper. "Jason Giambi has a star quality that fits in New York," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

"He'll add a dimension to the Yankees that's terrific as a slugger, the way Reggie Jackson did and Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth all left-handed power hitters [Mantle actually was a switch hitter]."

Giuliani, Berra and manager Joe Torre were among several luminaries who called Giambi, trying to lure the first baseman to New York. Don Mattingly wrote him a letter.

Berra was at the park to greet Giambi. While the entire Yankee Stadium field was torn up to work on the drainage system, the legacy of greatness was intact.

Not that Giambi needed to hear about all the history. He already knew it after growing up in California as a Yankees fan and idolizing Mantle.

Unable to wear the No. 16 he sported in Oakland the Yankees have retired it to honor Hall of Famer Whitey Ford Giambi put on his new uniform with the No. 25. Giambi picked the number because the digits added up to the Mick's No. 7.

Giambi's left-handed power stroke is ideal for Yankee Stadium, with its short right field. He is a career .245 hitter at the park, with just one home run in 102 regular-season at-bats, but that was against New York's stellar staff.

The Yankees chased the A's from the playoffs in the last two seasons, both times in a decisive Game 5. In October, Giambi went 4-for-4 while Oakland lost 5-3 in the final game. Giambi takes over for Tino Martinez.

"I know I'm replacing a great Yankee," Giambi said. "He's a winner. He's got World Series rings to prove it."

Torre said he was not sure where Giambi would hit in the lineup.

New York will pay Giambi $38 million over the next three years, with much of the deal backloaded.

Giambi gets a $17 million signing bonus, with $3 million payable next year, $4 million in 2003, $4 million in 2004, $4.5 million in 2005, $1 million in 2006 and $500,000 in 2007.

His yearly salaries are $8 million in 2002, $9 million in 2003, $10 million in 2004, $11 million in 2005, $18 million in 2006, $21 million in 2007 and $21 million in 2008. New York has a $22 million option for 2009 with a $5 million buyout.

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