Derek Jeter, Joe Girardi review intensity of the Subway Series
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MILWAUKEE - For Derek Jeter, June 16, 1997, will always be his most memorable Subway Series memory.
That's excluding, of course, the teams' matchup in the 2000 World Series, won by the Yankees in five games.
But that mid-June night, inside old Yankee Stadium and packed with noisy Yankees and Mets fans, stands out.
"It was all new," Jeter said before Sunday afternoon's 6-5 loss to the Brewers. "You felt as though you had to win the series. It was all everyone was talking about."
Jeter, who plans to retire at season's end, will participate in his final Subway Series this week, with the first two-game series starting Monday night at the Stadium and another two-game tilt getting underway Wednesday night at Citi Field.
But no matter what happens over four days this week, it probably will be impossible to surpass that first game in 1997.
It did not go well for Jeter, or the Yankees, as Dave Mlicki pitched a nine-hit shutout in a 6-0 Mets win. Jeter took a called third strike to end the game.
But what he remembers most is the atmosphere.
"The fans were pretty vocal, they really got into it," Jeter said. "It was pretty exciting being a part of it the first time."
Joe Girardi, the catcher that night for the Yankees -- he was 3-for-4 with a double -- remembers the buzz for the first game, and what led up to it.
"The excitement in New York, people ribbing each other," he said. "I remember not walking around as much in public because of all the excitement of the fans. And it was exciting for us, too. I played against the Mets a number of times, because I was in the National League, but it was pretty interesting to be part of such a heated rivalry."
Jeter -- and he's not the first to say it -- admits the heat has slowly dissipated since 2000, for obvious reasons.
"Feeling-wise, it doesn't get any bigger than playing in the World Series. That goes without saying," Jeter said.
There's also the Boss Factor. George Steinbrenner, who died in July 2010, was notorious for absolutely loathing any defeat to the Mets, Rays or Red Sox, whether it be regular season or spring training. The cross-city rival Mets especially.
"Those games meant a lot to him, even in spring training," Jeter said. "I remember going to spring training when I was young and we'd bring two or three starting pitchers for a spring training game."
But don't tell Girardi the games have lost their juice over time. Not for a manager whose team lost all four meetings in 2013. "That wasn't any fun going through last year," he said.
He acknowledged that there is not quite as much intensity, but that doesn't imply a lack of it.
"When you get in the ballpark, it's pretty intense," Girardi said. "I think any time you do something for the first time, there's a little more excitement than the second, third, 17th, 18th. But I still think it's great for the city."