Have you ever tried to have a logical discussion about baseball with a Yankees fan? It’s virtually impossible. After perhaps five minutes, ten if you’re lucky, they resort to the old stand-by: Twenty Six Championships! Twenty Six Championships!! Twenty Six Championships!!! They sound like a parrot. And I think I know the reason why Yankees fans get frustrated. They know, deep down inside, that New York always has been–and always will be–a National League town.
In the early 60s, the Yankees were the perennial powerhouse in Baseball. Still riding high from their unparalleled success of the 1950’s, the Bronx Bombers remained the class of baseball. From 1961 through 1964, the Yankees won 4 straight pennants and 2 World Series. They won a total of 408 games in just 4 years. However, there was a new act in town: The Mets. The new NL team was playing in the dilapidated eighty year old Polo Grounds. I don’t want to say the Polo Grounds were old, but the Mets were playing in a baseball stadium that was opened less than 2 years after the Earp’s and the Clanton’s did battle at the O.K. Corral. In the Mets first 3 years of existence, we won a total of just 144 games and finished a combined 144 games out of first! The Yankees had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Ralph Terry, just to name a few. We countered with the likes of ‘Hot’ Rod Kanehl, ‘Marvelous’ Marv Throneberry, Elio Chacon and ‘Little’ Al Jackson. Mets manager Casey Stengel even commented about his Amazins’ when he remarked, “I’ve been in this game a hundred years and am seeing ways to lose I never thought existed.”
However, a funny thing happened on the way to our constant last place finishes. The Mets won the heart of the city. In 1963, the Mets, with a record of 51-111 and finishing 48 games back, drew almost as many fans as the AL Champion Yankees. In 1964, the first year of Shea, we lost 109 games while the Yankees won yet another pennant (ho hum) but yet, the upstart Mets outdrew the Yankees by close to half a million fans.
In spite of their unprecedented string of success, the ‘other team’ has also had their share of dry spells. From 1961 to 1976 and again from 1981 to 1996, the Yankees failed to make the post-season. It seems like, once again, the tide is starting to turn. As the pendulum of success is beginning to swing back towards Flushing, the Yankees are a team struggling to stay competitive. Their own glory days are fading…quickly.
History shows that a player’s most successful years come between the ages of 28 and 33. In 3 years, the left side of our infield, Wright and Reyes, will be 28–and first coming into their prime. In 3 years, the left side of the Yankees infield, Jeter and A-Rod, will be 37 and 36 respectively.
Even now, after 10+ years of success, the Yankees continue to display arrogance while the Mets somehow always take on the role of underdog. Think about this: The Mets have always paid homage to the past, to the history of National League baseball in NY. Our official team colors are blue and orange–blue for the Brooklyn Dodgers and orange for the New York Giants. The ‘NY’ logo on our caps duplicates the ‘NY’ worn by the NY Giants. Even our new stadium, Citi Field, pays tribute to the Brooklyn Dodgers and their home park, Ebbets Field. Safe to say, many Mets fans never saw Jackie Robinson play. For most of us, he is a name, an image in grainy black and white films. But still, we will enter our new home passing through ‘The Jackie Robinson Rotunda.’ The same season that Citi Field opens, the Yankees will open the new Yankee Stadium. And what does that pay tribute to? Themselves! It’s a copy of the old Yankee Stadium! While the Mets immortalize the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Giants and Jackie Robinson, the Yankees react by immortalizing…well, the Yankees. Typical pinstripe arrogance.
So, the next time you’re trying to have a logical discussion with a Yankees fan and they mention “26 Championships” point out that they’ve also lost 13 Championships. They’ve lost more World Series than anyone else, more than twice as many as the team who has lost the 2nd most. And after you point this out, stand back. Their head may explode.