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A Brief History of the Subway Series

There are many in New York City and elsewhere just drooling at the thought of a World Series matchup: the New York Yankees versus the New York Mets. It would be the ultimate battle for Big Apple bragging rights.

And it could happen.

For no one would dispute the fact that both teams are two of the best in all of baseball right now. And if it happens the old rivalry of borough versus borough - the "Subway Series" would be revived.

Only this time around it would not be Brooklyn versus the Bronx - it would be Queens versus the Bronx - travel distance eight miles.

The only question is will players and fans travel by subway as they once did which was how the term "Subway Series" came to be.

Back in 1889 the New York Times observed: "The competition between Brooklyn and New York as regards baseball is unparalleled in the history of the national game."

The competition may have been unparalleled but it was also unequal. Throughout most of their history the Dodgers of Brooklyn were a sad sack team. The Yankees were the royalty of baseball.

It was not until 1941 that the rivalry between the two franchises reached fever pitch in the first Subway Series. The results were predictable. The Yankees won. There was another Brooklyn-New York Subway Series in 1947 - same result. In 1949 - same result. In 1952, in 1953 - same results.

In 1955, it was again a Subway Series - Dodgers versus Yankees. Brooklyn had lost all seven Series it had played - five of them to the Bronx Bombers. Casey Stengel's Yankees took the first two games. Since no team had ever won a seven-game World Series after losing the first two games, Yankee fans were getting ready to celebrate. And once again Dodger fans were trotting out their poignant slogan: "Wait 'til Next Year."

But 1955 was Next Year! The Brooks pushed the Yankees to a seventh game. And Johnny Podres threw a 2-0 complete game shutout to give the Brooklyn Dodgers their first and only World Championship.

The precise moment was 3:43 P.M. on October 4, 1955. Brooklyn streets were clogged with celebrating fans. Honking car horns, clanging pots and pans, and shredded newspaper all punctuated that one singular moment. There was joy in Flatbush. The hated Yankees had been defeated.

However, all the celebrating was short-lived and bittersweet. For in 1956,the last time there was a Subway Series, it was Yanks over Dodgers in seven games. And in 1957 the Dodgers of Brooklyn moved to Los Angeles.

Pretenders to the throne of "Subway Series" have sprung up since then - - Yankees versus Los Angeles Dodgers in transcoastal World Series. Even the "Shuttle Series" - - the World Series of 1986 between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The name derived from the two cities that were linked by commuter air-shuttle routes and shameless commercialism by shuttle operators Eastern and Pan American.

But all that is past "Subway Series" footnotes. This October beckons. And there are the sub-plots: Joe Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn, managed the Mets from 1977-1981 and has been Yankee skipper since 1996. Yogi Berra managed the Yankees in 1964, the Mets from 1972-1975, and the Yankee from 1984-1985. He is now a new symbol of the Bronx Bombers after making up with George Steinbrenner after years of estrangement.

And Daryl Strawberry, one time great star for the Mets, now a Yankee, is another sub-plot. "I'm on this side now, a Yankee, but I know there are a lot of Mets fans back from the old days waiting. 

The meeting in October, the Subway Series in New York City - now that would be something else." It sure would.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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