- Last Updated: 7:28 AM, June 8, 2012
- Posted: 1:16 AM, June 8, 2012
Every year around this time we banter about the usefulness of the three games to come this weekend and the three to follow by the end of the month, these Mets-Yankees games we still so quaintly refer to as the “Subway Series” even if only a fraction of the people who come (and can afford to come) actually will set foot on a subway.
Is there buzz left to it? Well, there won’t be any empty seats at Yankee Stadium this weekend (and sorry to say, that’s been a rarity in The Bronx this year) and there won’t be any empty seats at Citi Field in a few weeks (for the second, third, fourth and possibly last times this year, unless the local nines can keep their Happy Train on the tracks through the summer).
So, yes: That qualifies as buzz to me. And every year we pose the question, and every year both sides of the abyss shrug off how important the games are, and by the end of every one of these games it isn’t only Joe Girardi and Terry Collins with their iced caramel lattes on the line who delight (or despair) in the outcomes.
I think the Subway Series is still terrific. If anything, I think it came along too late. If anything, I would give anything to retroactively retrofit the schedules from 1962 through 1996 because there are a lot of Yankees-Mets games I really would have liked to see, and somewhere beyond the dear departed Mayor’s Trophy Game, which vanished forever in 1983.
As every year since ’97 has shown, every year provides a reason to care, whether expected (Shawn Estes’ target practice on Roger Clemens) or unexpected (Estes taking Clemens deep). But just think of what things might’ve been like in these years:
l 1985 — I would argue the teams have never been more evenly matched than in this year, when both teams were eliminated within hours of each other on the final Saturday of the season, when they combined to win 195 games, when we would have had Davey Johnson in one dugout and the final fully-engaged version of Billy Martin in the other. And if things had broken right, we would’ve gotten the Cy Young-vintage Doc Gooden (24-4, 1.53 ERA, 268 Ks) facing off against the MVP-issue Don Mattingly (.324, 35 HR, 145 RBIs). You think the city might’ve enjoyed those games?
l 1969 — Interestingly, since the Mayor’s Trophy game was rained out that July, they played the make-up on Sept. 27 at Shea, five days after the Mets clinched the NL East, five days before they played in the first-ever NLCS game … and the Mets played their regulars. Unlike Casey Stengel, who used to play those exhibitions like steel-cage matches, Gil Hodges just wanted to keep the Mets sharp, Art Shamsky drove in five with a triple and a homer and the Mets won the game, 7-6. But think about the buzz at old Yankee Stadium in, say, June of ’69, if the upstart Mets wanted to prove to the Yankees and the city that the torch had truly been passed.
l 1977 — Tom Seaver’s last start in his first go-round as a Met was 35 years ago this coming Tuesday — June 12, 1977. The Mets and the Yankees almost always play series that land between the 10th and 15th of June; can you even imagine what it would have been like at the ballpark — either ballpark — if Seaver was taking the mound against the Yankees with a backdrop that it might be his swan song for the Mets? Would M. Donald Grant really have been able to go through with the trade in that kind of vortex? As it was, the Mayor’s Trophy Game was held at Shea eight days after The Trade; not surprisingly, it drew the lowest crowd in the series’ history to that point.
l 1962 — If only for the absurdity of a 120-loss Mets team playing a 96-win Yankees team, and also for the fact that Stengel always managed Mets-Yankees games as if real money were at stake. In the first MT Game, in ’63, he used his best pitcher, Carl Willey, for four innings of relief in a 6-2 Mets win in front of a decidedly pro-Met gathering of 50,742 at Yankee Stadium.
l 1967/68 — Tom Seaver faced Mickey Mantle one time in his career: bottom of the eighth, 1968 All-Star Game at the Astrodome. He struck him out. Mantle was a shell of himself by then, and Seaver was just a kid. But a couple of Subway Series at-bats would’ve been something to see, something to carry into forever.