October 25, 2000

A Look From the Other Side of the Subway

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NEW YORK — While I feel that yesterday’s synopsis of Saturday’s World Series Game 1 was well written and accurate, I believe that it was above all incomplete.

I too attended Game 1 on that faithful evening, but had a very different experience, which can be traced to one obvious and superficial difference. Instead of donning the pinstripes with “no-name” on the back, I covered myself in the glorious blue and orange of the National League Champion New York “Amazin’ Mets (also, with no name on the back of my shirt).

As I walked down the steps in the Columbus Circle station to the D train platform at 6:30 (almost two hours before game time), I could already hear the clamoring of countless Met and Yankee fans gearing up for history. The arguments between complete strangers had already begun about the appropriately dubbed “Subway Series”, as my friend and fellow Mets fan Michael “Bear” Hertzberg and I forced our way in to the packed subway car, having already fought with five Yankee fans about the upcoming game.

Once at the famous 161st Street station, we were greeted by three men, each at least 50 years old, with a Mets doll lying down on the street in front of them. They called to us to get our attention, and promptly began to stomp on it violently, yelling at the top of their lungs “You’re gonna die tonight.” This is when I truly realized that I could be in grave danger.

We walked down the overcrowded street, seeing many fellow Mets fans who greeted us with the enthusiastic high-five or a casual smile and wink, but mostly were yelled at by the overwhelming amount of Yankee faithful who gave us an equally friendly greeting as the nice men that we had encountered five minutes earlier.

A good friend of mine, who works for the City of New York, gave me these tickets the night before which were located 20 rows behind the Yankee dugout. I have been to probably more than 50 Yankee games in nearly 19 years residing in the Big Apple, and have seen the stadium lit up for a night game half of those times, but tonight was different. Tonight the stadium was electric, it appeared brighter, as if it had a life of its own, it was then that I truly realized that I was going to see something special, that I was going to see history.

We then took our seats and just as Yogi Berra and Don Larson took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, the nice gentleman sitting directly behind me, decked out in pinstripes from head to toe (even his headphones had pinstripes), smiled and said “Nice shirt, I hope we kill Piazza this time.” “Great” I thought, I knew that this was not the last time I was going to talk to this guy and his four friends, and promptly responded “Maybe this time Piazza will hit two grand slams, instead of his usual one.”

I roughly estimated that there was about one Met fan for every 100 Yankee fans in the seats of the house that Ruth built, but although we were severely out-numbered, we all made ourselves noticed.

In the sixth inning, my friend and I both indulged in a mid-game ball park dog. We yelled for the hot dog guy, who we noticed was dressed in a pinstripe official vendor outfit. After serving us our hot dogs, he pulled down his shirt collar, exposing to us another black turtle neck, with the good old Met emblem of intersecting orange “N” and “Y” letters on it, then he whispered, “I’m with you guys.”

This Subway series is not the first all-New York World Series, but is the first one since the New York Yankees beat the old Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games in 1956. Baseball was a different game back then, one that was not plagued with constant media bombardment and multi-million dollar players.

But those who say that the spirit of baseball has slowly died since then need only walk the streets surrounding Yankee Stadium after Game 1 at 1:00 in the morning. The cheering and shouting as strangers embraced in the middle of the street in celebration filled the placid night sky. This was just one of the celebrations going all across the vast metropolis and was indicative of how important each game of this series is to your average John Q. Baseball Fan.

Though most of the fans in attendance where a who’s who of New York’s elite, there were the die hard fans who would have spent their last dollar just to get a glimpse of the teams they love so much. The four guys behind me, faces painted and all, said they paid $3,000 a ticket for Game 1, and proved it when they threw peanuts at the stadium employees who were blocking their view.

Now maybe the fans of the Minnesota Twins or the Milwaukee Brewers won’t agree on the importance of these games, and will say that this is proof that the small-market teams are being left behind, as the price tag for talent will most likely exceeded $200 million dollars this winter. I, biased maybe, believe that this is the best thing to happen to baseball since Big Mac and Sammy went at it two years ago.

Every year the World Series features the two best teams on the planet, but this year both of them are from the most famous, most raucous, most affluent city in the world, rousing a rivalry that has only been kindled in the publicity stunt that is interleague play. This is where all the questions about who is the best team in New York City will finally be answered.

My heart was broken in Game 1, and then was ripped out of my chest in Game 2, as the Mets were crushed by the Bombers from the Bronx. My fellow Mets fans and I will now hold our breath for a resurgence in Game 3. Though unlikely, we hope that the ghosts of the 1969 Miracle Mets will carry the 2000 club back in to the series with a win in Game 3. Now, as I go to watch the Amazin’s battle the Yanks in the friendly confines of Shea Stadium, I leave you with the words of former Mets relief pitcher Tug McGraw, which have stood as the Mets rallying cry for the last 27 years.

So say a prayer, and “You Gotta Believe!”

Archived article by Josh Vlasto