(Long Island, N.Y.) When Major League Baseball first floated the idea of interleague play during the regular season, dream matchups danced in the fans’ heads and bitter back page rivalries would finally become realities.
When that inaugural contest at Yankee Stadium between the Mets and Yankees took place in 1997, it had a postseason feel to it and it is still spoken about. (The Dave Mlicki game.) But over the years, the Subway Series has lost its luster.
When it was a three-game set at alternating ballparks, the series seemed more important. That became a moot point, in certain ways, when MLB made particular matchups a six-game, two ballpark series. So you can catch a weekend at Shea Stadium (later Citi Field) and then at Yankee Stadium a month or so later when interleague games found their way on the schedule again.
But when the Houston Astros switched leagues this past offseason and evened out the numbers in each, that meant that every day on the baseball calendar would have at least one interleague game scheduled – even on Opening Day. So the entire concept of it and the uniqueness that had already been tarnished with time were entirely gone.
The ‘natural rivals’ will still face off, but outside of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, that has less meaning. Fans just do not get as excited when the Phillies make a trip up to Fenway Park. So what may sell out in one city is a ‘so-what’ game in another. It would almost seem as if less is better.
At least the Subway Series has been cut down from six to four games, with the first two taking place in Queens before moving up immediately to the Bronx. The game on Memorial Day had it all – great pitching, stellar defense and clutch hits. The Queens crowd (at least the Mets contingent) jumped to its feet twice for David Wright, as the Mets third baseman hit the game tying home run in the seventh and later started an inning-ending double play with a quick glove on a sharply hit ball.
“Big players make big plays,” Mets manager Terry Collins said after the rare win. “That’s why he’s the captain. When you’re down and need something, he’s the guy that everybody turns to. It’s amazing how many times those (type of) guys come through for you.”
Will Daniel Murphy be recalled in sports bar banter years from now for driving in the winning run in the eighth inning Monday night? Only time will tell, but it seems as if it will just be one of those, ‘oh, yeah’ type of things when you see a stat next season when these two teams go at it again.
Outside of a no-hitter or perfect game, these Mets-Yankees games have seemed to all blend in with one another and just become part of the summer landscape. But that wasn’t the case 16 years ago.
And most folks can even still spell ‘Mlicki’ correctly because of his complete game shutout victory back on June 16, 1997.