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Friday Five: Yankee/Mets (or Met/Yankees)

The Yankees' Rickey Henderson during a game against

The Yankees' Rickey Henderson during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (April 12, 1989) (Credit: AP)

The Subway Series resumes Friday, as interleague play mercifully comes to an end. So let's discuss our top five people who have made an impact on both the Yankees and the Mets:

1. CASEY STENGEL

Who else could be number one? He's the only person whose uniform number (37, of course) has been retired by both franchises.

A dynastic manager with the Yankees (seven World Series titles and 10 pennants in 12 years) and the very first manager of the Mets, with whom he put up a comically awful 175-404 record. He is revered by both fan bases, and for dramatically different reasons.

2. DARRYL STRAWBERRY

Part of the reason Strawberry is so beloved by Mets fans is that he doesn't hide his true loyalties. Even though he won three World Series rings with the Yankees compared to one with the Mets, even though he feels a profound affection for the late George Steinbrenner - even though he occasionally shows up at Yankees Old-Timers' Days - the Straw Man says he'll forever be a Met, in his heart.

And why not? The Mets drafted, signed and developed him, they introduced him to the baseball world and they oversaw his initial rise. His huge hits - the 1985 "clock shot" off St. Louis' Ken Dayley, the game-tying blast off Bob Knepper in 1986 NLCS Game 3, the insurance homer off Boston's Al Nipper in '86 World Series Game 7.

As time passes, and as Strawberry continues to prioritize his affiliation with the Mets (even though he's no longer on their payroll), it seems that his Yankees accomplishments have been diminished. Which is too bad, only because Strawberry did some really great things from 1996 through 1999 before his drug problems got the better of him, getting him suspended for the 2000 season and ending his career.

With Yankees fans, there sometimes seems to be an "Oh, yeah, he was pretty good for us!" dynamic when it comes to Strawberry, who further endeared himself by going after Armando Benitez in 1998 and undesiringly won sympathy when he was diagnosed with colon cancer during the '98 postseason. 

With Mets fans, Straw is front and center.

3. DWIGHT GOODEN

After Darryl comes Doc, right? If you're not old enough to remember what it was like watching Gooden pitch for the Mets in 1984 and 1985, then you truly missed out on an all-time experience. Every start was an event, a potential no-hitter before Gooden even took the mound. Good Lord, was he dominant.

His Yankees run was short-lived, but quite memorable. His 1996 no-hitter goes down in my book as one of the all-time no-nos. Because he did it after missing all of the 1995 season due to his drug problems, because he had pitched his way out of the Yankees' starting rotation before David Cone's aneurysm propelled him back in, because Gooden's father was very ill and because it occurred against a potent Mariners lineup.

Gooden also enjoyed a second Yankees act in 2000, when The Boss gave him one more chance. He rewarded the Yankees' former owner with a final good run before retiring. The first start of his return came on July 8, 2000 at Shea Stadium, the only time Gooden pitched at Shea as a visitor. Fittingly, the Shea crowd gave him a huge ovation.

4. YOGI BERRA

One of the things I love about early Mets history is how they brought in so many past-their-prime, future Hall of Famers to play. Richie Ashburn. Duke Snider. Warren Spahn. 

And Yogi, who joined the 1965 Mets as a player-coach after having managed the 1964 Yankees. The playing didn't work out very well - just four games, two as a catcher and two as a pinch-hitter before he called it a playing career for good - but he wound up spending nearly 11 years in a Mets uniform, the last four as the team's manager after Gil Hodges' unexpected death in 1972. 

As the only person to manage both the Yankees (1964) and Mets (1973) into a World Series, he deserves inclusion on this list. Yes, now he's a full-blooded Yankee following the conclusion of his 14-year cold war with The Boss, but he's still welcome in Flushing any time.

5. RICKEY HENDERSON

Yeah, what the heck, I mixed it up here. Maybe David Cone or Joe Torre would've been more logical choices, but I was all 1996 Yankeed out. Make your own darn list if you don't like it.

What strikes me about Rickey is how his baseball travels took him so many places - he made 13 stops with a total of nine teams, including four separate stays with Oakland and two with San Diego - and he managed to hit both New York teams and make his mark. 

He put together one spectacular season with the Yankees (1985), and his next three (1986 through 1988) were all somewhere between very good and great before the Yankees dealt him back to Oakland in the middle of 1989. He seems to get remembered more now for some battles with manager Lou Piniella regarding some questionable injuries, but man, he was so much fun to watch.

And then he came to the Mets in 1999, as a 40-year-old, and put together one last marvelous offensive season. His 127 OPS+ was the best in his final eight major-league campaigns.

Sure, Mets fans understandably remember that Rickey was playing cards with Bobby Bonilla in the final innings of 1999 NLCS Game 6, or that his release the next year was pretty ugly. Nevertheless, in '99, the Mets hosted Rickey's final burst. And it was a blast.

--I'll check in later from Citi Field.

 

 

 

Tags: Casey Stengel , Darryl Strawberry , Dwight Gooden , Yogi Berra , Rickey Henderson

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