It is hard to believe that Interleague play has been around for 14 years already. It feels like yesterday that Dave Mlicki shut out the Yankees in the very first Mets – Yankees regular season game. Back then, it was so new, innovative, and exciting. Bragging rights were at stake between Mets and Yankees fans. Obviously since then, one team has had a tremendous amount of success. The other team is the New York Mets.
However, after 14 years of seeing the Mets and Yankees play each other every year, including once in the World Series (damn you Timo Perez and Armando Benitez), I have to say that I still enjoy the Subway Series as much as I did in 1997. I was at the second game of the Mets-Yankees series this past weekend at Citi Field. Besides the fact the Mets won, I can objectively say that the stadium’s energy was electric and the game was tense as if it was October baseball being played.
I have been to several Subway Series games over the years. The first one was in 1998 at Yankee Stadium where my friend and I arrived to see someone sitting in our seats. After some confusion, it turns out the geniuses sitting there had tickets for the next day’s game that they couldn’t attend, so they decided they would use them the day before. Yeah, not so much. That game was most remembered by a Yankee hitting a ball back up the middle and shattering Armando Reynoso’s shin bone. Later in 1998, I went to a Sunday night game at Shea Stadium where Brian McRae hit a game winning sacrifice fly. Yes, Brian McRae actually did something productive on the Mets.
In 1999, I was at the infamous Sunday night game at Yankee Stadium where Mike Piazza hit a grand slam off of Roger Clemens to ignite the Mets’ 40-15 stretch that led them to the NL Wild Card that year. I was also at games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and now 2010. The one thing that all of these games have in common, regardless of whose home stadium it was played in, is that the energy is electric. The chants of “Let’s Go Yankees!” and “Let’s Go Mets!” back and forth is awesome. The “Yankees suck!” and “Mets suck!” chants are hilarious. The trash-talking, the ribbing, everything about it is awesome.
What makes it even better is the level of knowledge, involvement and passion that both Mets and Yankees fans possess. I will talk crap about the Yankees to anyone, but I must respect most Yankees’ fans knowledge of the game and their team. Most Yankees fans are classy people who know their team is good, but they will still just talk baseball and analyze the game. Of course there are exceptions, just like Mets fans, but overall the dynamic between Mets and Yankees fans is pretty serene and friendly competitive. The other great thing I love is the dynamic between friends and families who have different rooting interest. My wife is a Yankees’ fan and I am a Mets’ fan. A lot of my friends are Yankees’ fans as well. So seeing people sitting together with different teams’ jerseys, one person standing up and cheering and the other sitting down and sulking, is always amusing (except when I am sulking and my wife is cheering).
Over the last 14 years, the Yankees have experienced success just about every year (oooohhh no, in 2008 they missed the playoffs for the first time since the War of 1812). They have pretty much dominated the Subway Series over the years because the Mets haven’t been very good with the exception of a couple seasons. But that’s ok. The tension, drama, passion and excitement is still in the air when these two teams play. The Clemens-Piazza rivalry added spice. Now there really isn’t too much drama between the teams. You always see Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter chatty with each other. David Wright and A-Rod are chummy with each other discussing who has left more runners in scoring position. But you know deep down these players want to win the Subway Series. It isn’t just another set of games, no matter what milquetoast answer the managers or players give. And for the fans, it is great because we get to do some trash-talking.
While Interleague play is a bit excessive overall and not the novelty it once was, the natural rivalry games (Toronto vs. Arizona anyone?) should still be revered because they provide mid-season playoff style baseball. The best part at the game the other night was a guy wearing a Ryan Howard jersey in our section. Amidst random chants of “Phillies suck!”, a Yankee fan went up to that guy and said that “the Phillies suck, and that is something everyone here can agree on.” And that is the beauty of the Subway Series.