Big Apple Baseball

By Anthony George

New York City baseball is about history and tradition. The city was once home to the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants) and Brooklyn Dodgers (now the Los Angeles Dodgers), who both moved to California in 1957. There have been 14 World Series championships between these original New York City teams, which possibly sparked a hometown competitive attitude that still plays out today. It’s well known that most of New York is split between Mets and Yankees fans. Since the inception of interleague play (major league baseball is divided into two leagues, American and National), there have been over 90 heated rivalry games played between the New York Mets of the National League and the New York Yankees of the American League. Those games are referred to as the famed “Subway Series”, where the two teams and their fans take great delight in beating up on each other for bragging rights to the city. As we gear up for the upcoming baseball season, let’s take a look at New York’s two notable teams.

The New York Yankees
  In January of 1903, Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchased the Baltimore Orioles of the American League for $18,000 and moved the team to New York City. The team was renamed The Highlanders because the site of their new stadium was on one of the highest spots in Manhattan. Their uniforms received the now-iconic blue stripes in 1912; and in 1913, The Highlanders were renamed The Yankees. The transformation of the failed Baltimore Orioles franchise was completed in 1923 when they moved into their new home in the Bronx, Yankee Stadium, and opened with a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox.

This set the stage for the team that is now known as the model franchise in all of sports. Nicknamed the Bronx Bombers because they were the first team to use the home run as an offensive weapon, the Yankees are one of the most successful and most copied sports teams in the world. The Yankees have won 18 divisional titles, 40 Pennants and 27 World Series; all of which are major league baseball records.  It’s easy to be a fan of a franchise with a roster full of current and former players and managers that reads like an all-star Hollywood cast: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Roger Maris, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Joe Torre, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. The list goes on and on. Can you name another sports franchise with so many Hall of Famers?

Despite winning 20 World Series titles the team started to decline in the middle 1960’s and in 1973 was bought by businessman George Steinbrenner, known as “The Boss” because he was a hands-on baseball executive who meddled in daily on-field decisions and the hiring and firing of managers. But one can argue that all his interfering was due to his drive to help the team recapture its former glory. He stopped at nothing to recruit talent and used money to achieve that effect. That large payroll paid off not only in team winning, but also in making the team lucrative. According to Forbes, the Yankees estimated value was at approximately $2.3 billion in 2013.

In 2002, the Yankees launched the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network (the Yes Network) with 21st Century Fox. Primarily serving New York City and the boroughs, it produces a variety of sports events, a magazine, and documentary and discussion programs; but its focus is on games and team related programs involving the New York Yankees.

These days, the Yankees play in the new Yankee Stadium across the street from the original. The team is now owned and operated by Steinbrenner’s son Hal. Although they haven’t won a World Series since 2009 the Yankees are now worth $3.2 billion dollars, tied with Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League for the most valuable sports team in the United States. Only the Spanish Soccer club, Real Madrid, is worth more in the world.

2016 promises to be a transitional season for the team. They’re not expected to challenge for another championship. They’re an aging team looking to get younger and compete with elite teams. But that won’t stop their fans from coming out to support the team. The Yankees with their deep pockets are always a trade away from dominating. Yankee fans have learned to expect that.

The New York Mets
Last season, the Mets won their division and represented the National League in the 2015 World Series. Even though they lost, their arrow still point up. They’re expected to repeat as divisional champs and are favored to go back to the World Series this coming season. They have four of the best young starting pitchers in all of baseball (Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard); resigned Cuban slugger Yoenis Céspedes; and have a wealth of talent still brewing in the minor leagues. In 2015, they set attendance and ticket sales records, filling seats up with fans including celebrities like Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jim Breuer, Jimmy Kimmel, Nicki Minaj, Julia Stiles, Glenn Close, Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin James, Frank Ariza and Jon Stewart. Heck, Bill Maher is a minority owner in the team. But diehard fans are well aware that runs of stunning success and celebrity fame are not the norm for the “Metropolitans”.

Born in 1962 because of the Giants and Dodgers move to California, the Mets played their first two seasons (1962 and 1963) in the historic Polo Grounds in Harlem before moving in 1964 to Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. The Mets began with a rough start. They lost 140 out of 162 games during their first year, and were initially composed of washed up, past-their-time players and managers. Despite their losing, the Mets were beloved. The following year their losing streak continued; and even the new stadium they moved into (the future Shea Stadium) didn’t help matters.

Still, love by Mets fans didn’t waiver. New York had its National League team again and the Mets appealed to those former Giants and Dodgers fans. Fans warmed to the team’s colorful journeyman players like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry and Shea Stadium, in time, became a star venue hosting many famous events, including Pope John Paul II’s 1979 New York visit and concerts by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder. The Mets future continued to get brighter. They won the World Series in 1969; drafted future hall of famer Tom Seaver in 1971; and in 1973 they won 21 of their last 29 games. The Mets came all the way back from last place to almost win their division. The 80’s were good in that Nelson Doubleday Jr. invested in the team after selling his family’s publishing company, and 1986 brought them a World Series championship. In 2000, they played their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, in the World Series. They’ve won 6 national league titles and qualified for the National League wild card in 1999 and 2000. The Mets have appeared in more World Series (five in total) than any other expansion team in major league history. And in 2009, Citi Field, a brand new baseball and events arena, replaced Shea Stadium as the Met’s home turf.

So, there have been high points. But to be a Mets fan can be summed up best by one die-hard fan’s reaction to the game the Mets played against the Chicago Cubs on May 26, 1964. That day, the Mets supposedly played like never before, winning 19-1. According to legend, the fan called a New York newspaper to get the game’s score. After being told that the team scored 19 runs, the fan paused and then asked “Did they win?”