By Jason Keidel
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How much more proof do you need that the Subway Series is saturated? In an error-drenched night of botched grounders high pitch counts, with drunk, bloodthirsty fans howling into the warm night, only hardened and hardcore fans could see the aesthetics in the slop of Sunday Night Baseball.
And only the Yankees could be the bump in R.A. Dickey’s magic carpet ride to immortality.
Dickey, who hadn’t lost since the Korean War, coughed up five earned runs in six innings. You needn’t be a Mets fan to root for the Mets’ laconic, scholar-knuckleballer who had thrown consecutive one-hitters and hadn’t given up an earned run since May.
For over a decade Dickey pinballed between teams, leagues, and continents before mastering a pitch heretofore the province of old men and mystics. Dickey was having a Doc Gooden 1985 kind of year, sans the flaming fastball and requisite youth and ignorance that usually blesses a fledgling star. He is 37, after all.
No, Dickey has brains, balls, and a book. He brushes reporters off the plate with a lexicon that makes even the most seasoned journalists scramble for their thesaurus. He scaled Kilimanjaro, an ultimate literary nod to Hemingway. And while Dickey didn’t return with tales of the dead leopard, he put a chokehold on the National League with a baffling combination of souped-up knuckleballs and sneaky fastballs. He was unbeatable.
Simply, Dickey is what’s great about sports. Beyond the barbaric equalizer of the final score, there are millions of journeys inside and outside the lines that line our pastime. And yet there he was last night, at home, scuffling against the Roman Empire. It’s no secret that the Yankees have traveled well for, well, 90 years. And a trip to Queens for Kings of New York was pretty facile. And it didn’t help that a gaseous Mets reliever called the Bronx Bombers “chickens” leading up to this three-game set. Nick Swisher provided the proper retort.
But the drama feels concocted, forced, and synthetic. Believe it or not, I actually wanted the Yankees to lose this series. Or at least last night’s contest.
For the first five years of the Subway Series I had to be at one game. It didn’t hurt that my beloved Evil Empire reached the World Series in four of them, and were in the heart of the Joe Torre Dynasty. But the “new car” smell is definitely off this local conflict.
Though any authentic New Yorker will tell you that you can’t root for the Mets and Yanks under the idiotic, “I just root for New York!” mantra, this 5-1 season against the little brother only reinforces what we already know. For the last twenty years, New York has been a Yankees town.
And it’s not because we – there I go with the collective – have the most money. The Mets have access to the same fans. Flushing is no harder to find than the South Bronx. About 99 percent of folks who saw Ruth and Gehrig are gone. And Citi Field is far easier on the eyes than that limestone martini bar on River Avenue. It’s about the winning, a habit the Yanks can’t seem to kick and the Mets can’t seem to acquire.
But the one ace up the Mets’ sleeve was their shaggy, bearded behemoth who chucks an ugly pitch, that darting grapefruit to bewildered batters every fifth day, to a symphonic result. Until last night.
The only gripping dynamic I found in this year’s Subway Series was the contrast between the dueling radio entities. When the Yankees hit a home run, it was a “pop fly” according to Howie Rose, whereas John Sterling launched into his ear-piercing, signature calls contoured for each player. Rose & Co. sounded like morticians for five of the six games, while Sterling and Waldman sounded like, well, Romans.
I know, I’m in the minority. The Mets, who average about 29,000 fans per game, drew 42,364 butts last night. No doubt a healthy portion are Yankees fans, but what is the point of not just stomping a dude while he’s down, but pulling a Sonny Corleone on him, replete with slammed garbage cans and chomped fingers?
Maybe since I reached the tender age of 40, I suffer from a severe case of “Low T” that inimitable drain of testosterone that makes me just slightly mellow in my Golden Years. I just don’t hate the Mets when they’re this inferior. The only people I want to stomp reside around State College.
I don’t know if I want three games per year or six games every other year. The Subway Series is to be savored, like fine wine or food or film or..,whatever R.A. Dickey says it should. In a world owned by the Yankees, Dickey it was a nice niche story, a pocket of blue-collar among the bluebloods in the Bronx. But the Yankees aren’t very sentimental.
Maybe the geyser of games is for young men. Indeed, when I was 26, when the Yankees were barnstorming the world with a young Core Four, I couldn’t get enough of anything – whiskey, women, wildness…
But six games per season is overkill, particularly when the Mets are reduced to roadkill every time.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com
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