Mixed Reactions for Subway Series

Gotham is going gonzo over a Subway Series, but not everyone is celebrating an all-New York Fall Classic.

The New York Yankees came from behind Tuesday night to beat the Seattle Mariners 9-7 and clinch the American League Championship Series 4-2. The victory celebration in the Bronx came one day after the New York Mets were basking in the glow of their win of the National League pennant over the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium in Queens.

The series pits the boys in pinstripes — winners of three of the last four World Series — against the scrappy, upstart Mets, who are appearing in their first world championship since 1986.

“The city’s going to be just rockin’,” Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams said of the first Subway Series in 44 years. “It’s just going to be like no other World Series that we have played before.”

Fans waiting more than four decades for a one-city showdown are delirious with delight. But some say, no matter how you slice it, a Big Apple series is probably going to be rotten.

“We’re going to be subjected to the New York media sort of wallowing in New York self-importance,” said King Kaufman, a Salon.com sportswriter who recently wrote about how tough it will be to swallow the media mania of an all-New York World Series.

Subway Series Moments

An intracity World Series has been played 15 times before, including 13 times in New York when the Yankees staged cross-town battles with the Giants six times and the Brooklyn Dodgers seven times.

There are fond memories of the all-New York championships of yesteryear: the Yankees’ Mike McNally stealing home in Game 1 of the 1921 World Series against the New York Giants. Yankee pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 Fall Classic against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Left fielder Sandy Amoros’ amazing catch of a Yogi Berra fly ball, which helped the Dodgers clinch their first and only championship in Brooklyn in 1955.

After the last all-New York World Series in 1956, the Dodgers moved to southern California and it wasn’t until 1962 that the Mets set up shop in Queens. But the two New York clubs never seemed to hit stride in the same year. The so-called Bronx Bombers and Amazin’s flirted with a Subway Series last year, but the Atlanta Braves wiped out the Mets’ hopes with a win in the NLCS.

Until this year.

Dream or Nightmare

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the series would raise baseball passions in New York to a fever pitch.

“It’s going to be a city divided against itself,” he said Tuesday after the Mets clinched the pennant and the Yankees were one game away from winning their 37th. “Like a civil war. Father against son. Brother against brother. Brother against sister.”

The series could also mean big bucks for the city. City Comptroller Alan Hevesi said last week the pennant race and a seven-game Subway Series could add as much as $246 million to the city’s economy and generate $15 million in tax revenues for local government. The city has already gained about $31 million from the Mets’ and Yankees’ participation in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

While that’s great for New York, what about around the country? Some say the series could be greeted with a yawn or resentment at the success of two ball clubs with very deep pockets.

“Not only is it [a Subway Series] going to be a little tight for getting national excitement, there’s going to be some jealousy,” said Brandon Steiner, President of New York-based Steiner Sports Marketing. “There’s going to be a lot of stabs at the fact that you have to spend a hundred million in payroll to get a World Series team.”

The Yankees’ $112 million payroll tops the majors, and the Mets shelled out $81.8 million in player salaries this year. The San Francisco Giants, which had the best record in baseball (97-65) and lost to the Mets in the playoffs, had an annual payroll this year of $53.8 million.

“There’s going to be some animosity developed … outside the New York area, people feeling like maybe these teams bought their way in,” Steiner said.

But former Yankee Jerry Coleman, who played in a Subway Series in 1949, 1951, 1955 and the last one in 1956, said a Yankees-Mets season finale is of nationwide interest.

“Oh, yes. I think the rest of the country will care a lot about it,” he said. “The publicity behind it will be incredible.”

For some, it’s precisely that publicity that makes them shy away.

Watching rivals is exciting, sportswriter Kaufman said, but he fears the concentration of media in New York will transform a national event for the larger public into a Big Apple showcase.

“If they’re pointing the cameras at the shortstop rather than Vinnie the hot dog guy, it’s OK. But that’s not going to happen,” he predicted.

Kaufman believes the media’s focus on the hometown crowd and host city rather than on the game is always a problem. “But it’s going to be twice as much of a problem in New York,” he said.

For now, the fans in New York are celebrating this historic one-city series.

“I’ve been waiting for this for the last 44 years, and this is absolutely the dream of my lifetime,” said one fan after the Yankees beat the Mariners to assure a Subway Series. “My great-grandparents, my grandparents have lived this dream, and this is what I’ve been waiting for.”

ABC Radio contributed to this report.