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My Subway Series Story

By Russ Cress ~ May 20th, 2011. Filed under: Digest Contributors.

Once again we’ve arrived at that time of year, where inter-league play starts and a unique energy enters New York’s ballparks. Those grand palaces of our national past time may have changed but the energy and emotion in them remains the same. It’s known as the Subway Series and it’s all about emotion. For me, it always brings up memories of the greatest Subway Series of the modern era, the World Series of the year 2000.

For most of my childhood, I had two baseball wishes. Two pieces of future history that I wanted to see in my life time. The first was simple. I wanted; no, I needed to see my New York Yankees win a World Series. For some reason, we Yankee fans as a group get painted with a bad rap of being spoiled, and taking winning for granted. Well, any child of the 80’s like me will find this tale to be quite familiar. The Yankees won the World Series in 1978, and because I was only 6 years old and just falling in love with baseball, and like most of us do, my Dad’s team became my team as well. However, I was too young to truly understand what I was seeing and grasp its special nature.

The Yankees wouldn’t win it all again until 1996, when I was 24 years old. So, I finally got to experience that epic moment through the eyes of an adult. I loved that 1996 team, and I finally got to get past the jealously that I carried since watching the Mets win the Series in ’86 and their fans’ connection to that team. However, that also meant that I went through my entire childhood, not only never seeing my team win a championship but seeing our impulsive, irrational owner be the one to rip it from us every time we came close to contention. To not ever win anything, and have your own owner and therefore your own team’s incompetence to blame for that futility was frustrating enough but as a kid and a teenager this meant enduring constant trash talk from everyone at school for what seemed like my entire life time. This is your wont in life when you are known as “Mr. Yankee” and your team is going through the biggest draught since the first 2 decades of the 20th Century.

I’d try to salve those wounds through reading tales of Yankees titles past and peppering my father with constant questions about the great Yankees teams from the days of yore. I’d routinely respond to the taunts with “33 pennants and 23 championships, how many do you have?” It was the only possible response and a hollow one at that, since, as I was often reminded, none were really during my baseball life time. The feeling of squelching these demons in 1996 was euphoric, and I’ve appreciated every championship run ever since. Getting to experience my own “Yankee Dynasty” in the late 90’s, built on primarily home grown talent was just the icing on the cake. No one could take that run away from me, “we” won and “we” did it the right way. It was no longer about evading trash talk. It was about the personal experience and extreme satisfaction, pure and simple.

The second wish that I had to fulfill was to experience a Subway Series, the kind from the 1950’s that I read about when I was devouring every Yankees related book I could find (instead of participating in class during my school years, of course). When I finally got to experience it, in the year 2000, you can imagine my emotions. Actually, you probably can’t because there was no way that I could have ever imagined that when it finally came to fruition, instead of excitement the emotion that would overcome me would be absolute horror. In other words, I was scared shitless.

When it came to pass, I realized that here we were, on the verge of officially becoming a dynasty and the only thing in our way was the annoying, pesky New York Metropolitans. This scenario had one major flaw for the Bronx Bombers. We were in an absolute no-win situation. After all, if we were fortunate enough to win, the sports world would yawn and say “big deal”, we’re supposed to win, we are the Yankees, and we’ve won 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4 World Series. If we lost, it would be completely catastrophic because we would have lost the World Series to those damned Mets and we’d never hear the end of it. It wasn’t simply a matter of not winning the World Series but losing to those guys would have, in effect, rendered the previous titles meaningless, we would have been forced to hear about it for the rest of our natural lives and they would always be able to hold this victory over our heads. We’d never, ever hear the end of it, and nothing we did, not even if we beat them in 5 more World Series would erase the sting of the Mets being the ones who won the first ever Subway Series between us and the team who stopped the “great Yankee dynasty” of the end of the 20th Century from ever happening.

It became a situation where if we won, we were supposed to and if we lost the baseball world as we knew it would end forever. The entire New York sports dynamic would change and nothing could put it back together. The Yankees were suddenly “Humpty Dumpty” sitting on the wall; our choices were the status quo or breaking apart into shambles. There was simply no way to improve the situation. So in the end, the 2000 Subway Series absolutely sucked, it was nothing but gut-wrenching tension that was guaranteed to eat away at you until it mercifully ended one way or another. There was no winning, only degrees of losing and I hated every minute of it until it was over. There was no way to enjoy it except in retrospect, a dynamic that no World Series has ever had for any fan base before or since. The final out of the last game had a feeling of relief, almost a “good riddance to bad rubbish” vibe rather than one of celebration and joy. It was something to get through, not something to be savored and for a World Series title, much less the 3rd in a row, it all just felt wrong.

Eventually, that Subway Series developed a bittersweet silver lining for me. I watched it, as always, with my father and I lost him just 9 months later, in July of 2001. Those Yankees teams of the late 1990’s took on an even more special meaning to me, knowing that he got to see them win again and appreciate one last dynasty, like he had in his childhood. The fact that the last one was as historic as it was, the first ever Subway Series against the Mets is what makes that particular Series a uniquely special one for me. To this day, it’s impossible for me to see footage of the 2000 World Series and not think of him and I’m happy, a decade later, that the last World Series he experienced was such an important one, and most significantly, one that the Yankees won. So, for the rest of my natural life, that will be the World Series that makes me think of my Dad and the thousands of hours we spent watching and talking baseball. For me, that means more than the Championship and makes all the stuff that I had to deal with from 1979-1995, worth it. Putting up with all that trash talk and teasing just doesn’t matter and feels far less important because I had that Yankees Dynasty and went through those World Series at my Dad’s side. In the big picture, for most of us, isn’t that what the baseball experience is all about?

Until next time, I’m Russ and this is the Cress Corner.

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Russ Cress

Russ has a Masters of Useless Information and is a proud Alumni of the Old School with a major in Trivial Crap. No, seriously, it's actually 2 degrees one in History the other in Broadcasting. He's worked for NBC Sports, worked on Trenton Thunder radio broadcasts, managed a video production company and taught at a major broadcasting school. A massive Yankee fan and student of baseball history, Russ' contributions will largely be in the area of media critiques, DVD & book reviews, retro-reviews of old sporting events with the occasional column on the current baseball scene. As a rotisserie baseball player since the late 1980's, he will also contribute the occasion musing on the world of fantasy baseball. He can be reached at rcressNYY at aol dot com.

4 Responses to My Subway Series Story

  1. Stu B

    Blah, blah, blah, so the Yankees beat the Mets in 2000. Good for you, we’ve heard about it ad nauseum. It was 11 years ago.

  2. Stu B

    And Roid Rage Clemens should’ve been ejected for throwing equipment in Game 2. Without him, the Yankees probably lose that game and the series!

  3. Will in Central NJ

    Russ, I am sorry to read of the loss of your dad. But I have to take issue with the pithy way you question the worth of the the Yanks’ 2000 WS Championship.

    “It was something to get through, not something to be savored and for a World Series title, much less the 3rd in a row, it all just felt wrong.”

    “Humpty Dumpty’? ‘No way to improve the situation’? Spare us. Only in the warped logic of the spoiled, vacuous Yankee fan mentality could a World Series Championship be devalued. Regardless of who the 2000 WS win was against, to write that it was an ordeal for you, and by association many other Yankee fans, is pompous and ridiculous. Tell that to a Cubs, Astros, or Rangers fan. A Pirates or Royals fan. Re-read your words and ask yourself why Red Sox Nation despises the Yankee fan base. Generations of Americans, fans of venerated MLB franchises have been born, lived, and died without seeing their team win a pennant or a even a division. Go ahead, survey the land of the lesser minions who have the privilege of living in the Yankees Underwear, I mean Universe.

    Face it: your 87-win team defeated the Mets, a strong if not overachieving team that beat division-winning Giants and Cardinals teams. It’s a legitimate WS Championship.

    I look at it this way: any Met team that gets to a World Series will forever be in my personal baseball pantheon. Those 2000 players, from Agbayani to Zeile, will always bring back fun, pre-9/11 era memories for me, despite the loss to the Yanks. To say your team won a pennant, and is in the World Series is an honor and privilege as a fan to see. Please gain a sense of perspective, and treat it that way: an honor and a privilege.

  4. Russ Cress

    It certainly was an honor and privilege but it can only be enjoyed in retrospect. While I respect the achievement greatly and winning 3 years in a row is probably a once in a lifetime thing, at the time the tension was through the roof

    There is no doubt in my mind that a loss would have been held over our heads forever, with no way of removing that “Scarlet Letter” and it would have removed the bloom from the rose of the other 2. The media at the time acted exactly that way, we were expected to win and failure was not an option. Besides, when you already are champions, the best you can do is maintain the status quo, you can’t do any better than that and the only place to go is down.

    As I wrote, I lived without seeing my team win until I was 24. I took ton of abuse for it, especially because our own owner was sabotaging us and the other team in town was winning. The whole reason for my personal tension in 2000, is because I don’t take winning for granted. I always appreciate every championship and I’m in no way spoiled or entitled. I know what it’s like to be bad for a long period of time, and so I never assume anything in terms of outcome. It was just a situation where in this case, all I could think of was spending eternity dealing with the same stuff I dealt with back in my school days if we didn’t win. Those are some heavy stakes on the line, and thus a different kind of pressure and tension from any other series that makes this one unique.

    But getting back to things, the point of the piece was that in the end there was a way to appreciate the 2000 Series that turned out to be far deeper than just a championship, I just didn’t know it when the Series was actually going on.

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