Twenty years ago, in what now seems like a completely different world, New York was the undisputed Capital of Baseball.
The Yankees and Mets, who essentially have their own separate worlds even in a normal year, made strong finishes, raced through thrilling playoff series and faced each other in the World Series. “New York, New York” in 2000 became more than a provincial anthem. It was the theme for an entire sport.
The World Series stirred memories of the 1950s, when a one-city final became such a tradition that “Baseball” series documentarian Ken Burns titled his segment on the decade, “The Capital of Baseball.”
Funny thing, though, about this city and its disparate baseball orbits. Unlike the nation’s capital, where Democrats almost never become Republicans or vice versa, crossovers in New York baseball are a tradition of their own. Look back on Game One of the October 2000 Subway Series and you’ll notice that seven of the players either had been or would be on the other side of the rivalry. The manager and pitching coach of the Yankees each had once held the exact same jobs with the Mets.
Despite World Wars, a Great Depression, social upheavals and now a pandemic, fans, executives, broadcasters, managers, coaches and players around here have been passionate and loyal for more than a century. But for one reason or another, they often have transplanted their loyalties from one part of town to another. There is no phenomenon like it anywhere else in sports. And because it involves some of the biggest names in baseball history, it is one of the pastime’s most interesting subtexts.
Now it is the focus of “Baseball 101” for 2020.
Before every baseball season, Newsday explores the soul of baseball with a particular lens through 101 prime examples. Past “courses” have detailed 101 duos, 101 firsts, 101 nicknames, 101 trades, 101 memorable numbers, 101 pitching gems — gleaned from the broad landscape.
This time, the season is beginning much later and under a previously unimaginable set of circumstances. But everyone inside and out of the game is searching for any touch of normalcy they can find. So, here goes. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the 2000 World Series, in recognition of Yankees all-star Dellin Betances becoming a Met and in light of the fact former Mets-Yankees player Carlos Beltran left a front-office job with the Yankees for a brief, aborted turn as Mets manager—remember when that was considered earth-shaking news?--the current seminar is 101 New York-New York Stories.
It involves the sight of Babe Ruth in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, Ralph Branca in Yankee pinstripes. It is the image of Willie Mays playing World Series home games at both the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium. It is Red Barber behind the microphone in Flatbush and the Bronx.
It is a reminder that the same folks who rooted for Duke Snider as a Dodger also cheered for him as a Met. It is that Citi Field looks like Ebbets Field. It is Leo Durocher shockingly managing the Dodgers and Giants in the same season. It is Joan Payson having ownership in the New York Giants then the New York Mets. It is Dwight Gooden as a Mets phenom and a savvy Yankees no-hitter pitcher. It is Robinson Cano as a Yankees prodigy and a Mets elder statesman.
It is knowing that shifting from one intense New York culture to another is not as easy as hopping on an express train. Baseball aficionados have long heard the story of how Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson retired rather than report to the Giants after a trade (in 1956, for pitcher Dick Littlefield). The deal was voided and a massive statement about neighbors’ antipathy was made.
The only flaw with the story is that it is apparently not true. Robinson wrote in his 1972 autobiography, “I Never Had it Made,” that he had earlier decided to retire for a high-profile job with Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee. He explained that he could not reveal the news right away — even to the Dodgers — because he had agreed to give Look magazine the scoop. In a 1997 biography, author Arnold Rampersad quotes a letter from Robinson to the Giants saying his choice had “nothing to do with my trade to your organization.”
But the fact that the bitterness has seemed plausible for more than 60 years says that any interborough switch is a big deal.
And to have worn the uniforms of all four New York teams is, to quote the one man who did it, amazing.
Casey Stengel, a ballplayer for the Dodgers (also known as the Superbas and Robins) and Giants and legendary manager of the Yankees and Mets, said when he was asked in 1962 what it was like to complete the franchise cycle:
"Irealized after I was 10 years of age that they had major league clubs and I certainly wanted to get to New York but I never thought I’d be so successful that I’d go through three major league clubs and have a fair career, or the clubs did, and then get to the fourth. And I hope this one goes faster than the other three.”
Stengelese could go any which way, like most everything else in New York-New York baseball. Having it back, even in a short season and at least for now, seems like a capital idea.
Baseball 101: New York, New York
The beauty of New York baseball is that each franchise is its own universe with its own locale, uniform style, history, songs, customs and fan base. There isn’t and never was any mistaking the Brooklyn Dodgers for the New York Giants for the Yankees or the Mets.
As distinct as they are, though, the teams always have had some common threads. People and things have crossed into two of those worlds, or in some cases three (and in one case, four). Here they are. Newsday’s Baseball 101 course this season is a listing — not a ranking, although No. 1 is there on merit — of those New York-New York stories.
1. CASEY STENGEL
Casey Stengel was a Hall of Fame manager, an all-time baseball character and the only on-field person ever to have worn the uniforms of all four New York franchises. The Kansas City native (thus “Casey,” for K.C.) became known as The Old Perfessor for his wit and peculiar syntax. As a member of the Brooklyn Robins (before they were Dodgers), he hit .364 in the 1916 World Series and led the National League in outfield assists in 1917. As a New York Giant, he hit the first World Series home run at Yankee Stadium, an inside-the-park shot in 1923. He was not a popular choice as Yankees manager in 1949, but he pioneered platooning, dealt with an aging Joe DiMaggio and a young Mickey Mantle, (hilariously) served as baseball’s spokesman before Congress and won seven World Series in 12 years (along with three World Series losses). He breathed life into the expansion Mets in 1962, making them lovable despite 120 losses. He once said, “There comes a time in every man’s life, and I’ve had plenty of them.” Stengel earned the ultimate New York-New York tribute: His No. 37 was retired by both the Yankees and Mets.
2. DELLIN BETANCES says “New York is in my blood.” He grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, went to high school at Grand Street Campus in Brooklyn and played minor league ball on Staten Island on his way to becoming a four-time All-Star in the Bronx. “And now I stand here, having the chance to wear this Mets uniform and play in Queens,” he said during his introductory news conference at Citi Field.
3. LEO DUROCHER was unforgettable from the moment he arrived in town as a brash Yankees rookie in 1928, running afoul of Babe Ruth. The latter called Durocher an “All-American Out” and accused the kid of stealing his watch. After playing with the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang in the 1930s, Durocher returned to New York as manager of the then-moribund Dodgers in 1939 and revived them, winning the 1941 pennant. He cleared the way for Jackie Robinson’s debut in 1947 but was suspended for the season because of alleged ties to gamblers. The city was stunned when he was allowed to switch from the Dodgers to the bitter rival Giants in midseason 1948. He managed the Giants to the 1951 pennant and 1954 World Series title.
4. DAVID CONE became and remains beloved among fans of both current New York franchises. He was an All-Star for the Mets and part of their lively late-1980s core, winning 20 games for the division-winning club in 1988. He then won four championships and pitched a perfect game with the Yankees. In his final World Series appearance, he entered Game 4 in 2000 at Shea Stadium and retired Mike Piazza on a pop-up in a key situation. Cone made a brief comeback with the Mets in 2003, then retired. He has long been a popular broadcaster on Yankees games.
5. DON ZIMMER was born in Cincinnati but became part of the New York baseball fabric on three historic occasions. He was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ starting second baseman in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, when the team finally won it all. He was the first-ever third baseman for the Mets on Opening Day in 1962. He was the valued Yankees bench coach for four titles from 1996 through 2000.
6. CARLOS BELTRAN has had one of the most complicated New York-New York histories. A potential Hall of Famer, he arguably was the Mets’ all-time greatest centerfielder, but he is remembered at least partly for taking a called third strike to end their bid to reach the 2006 World Series. When he became a sage veteran Yankee, he said he really had wanted to be in the Bronx all along. After his retirement, he prepared for an executive career by taking a Yankees front-office job. That led to him being named Mets manager, only to be dislodged by the revelation of his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, which might have kept the Yankees out of the 2017 World Series.
7. THE ALOU FAMILY. Felipe and Matty played for the Yankees. Their brother Jesus played for the Mets, as did Moises, one of Felipe’s sons. Now Luis Rojas, Felipe’s son and Moises’ brother, is the Mets’ manager.
8. WILLIE MAYS is one of only two who played for both the New York Giants and New York Mets, according to baseball-reference.com.
9. ED BRESSOUD, an infielder, is the other one.
10. BABE RUTH is synonymous with Yankees pinstripes, and vice versa, but the last uniform he wore during a major league game was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The team, starved for an attraction, signed Ruth as a coach in 1938 a day after being victimized by the second of Johnny Vander Meer’s consecutive no-hitters.
11. JOAN PAYSON, a stockholder in the New York Giants, tried to purchase the team and prevent it from moving to San Francisco. Horace Stoneham would not sell to her. She won the rights to become majority owner of the expansion team in New York, watched it become a champion in 1969 and remained with the Mets until she died in 1975.
12. JOE TORRE. The Mets were so impressed with his leadership and baseball knowledge that they made him the manager while he was still playing. Those qualities reached their peak when he managed the Yankees to four World Series titles in five years.
13. ARTHUR RICHMAN. He was a Mets executive during Torre’s tenure with the team. As a Yankees senior adviser, he was most influential in getting Torre hired in the Bronx.
14. THE POLO GROUNDS was home to the Giants (1891-1957), Yankees (1913-22) and Mets (1962-63).
15. SHEA STADIUM was home to both the Mets and Yankees in 1974-75 during the reconstruction of Yankee Stadium.
16. THE CITI FIELD exterior is a tribute to Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field — so much so that when the park opened in 2009, fans complained that the park paid more homage to the history of the Dodgers than that of the Mets.
17. THE CITI FIELD second deck hangs over the playing area, as did the stands at the Polo Grounds.
18. BULL DURHAM, the real-life pitcher and not the movie, played for the Brooklyn Superbas (before they became the Robins or Dodgers) and New York Giants.
19. METS CAPS bear the Olde English “NY” of the Giants. Uniforms combine blue from the Dodgers and orange from the Giants.
20. METALLICA’S “ENTER SANDMAN” was the entry music for both Mariano Rivera of the Yankees and Billy Wagner of the Mets. Yankees fans criticized the latter for being a copycat, but Wagner noted that he had been tagged with the song previously with the Astros.
21. FAT FREDDIE FITZSIMMONS threw his knuckleball in World Series games for the Dodgers and Giants, then was a Giants coach in the 1951 playoff between the two rivals.
22. YOGI BERRA’S spectacular baseball resume includes the fact that he is the only man to have both played for and managed the Yankees and Mets (a four-game cameo as a Mets catcher in 1965 after being dismissed as the Yankees’ manager despite reaching the 1964 World Series). He guided both teams through tight finishes and reached two World Series Game 7s.
23. RICKEY HENDERSON is the only Hall of Famer other than Yogi to have played for both the Yankees and Mets.
24. DALLAS GREEN managed both the Yankees and Mets after pitching for the Mets.
25.WILLIE RANDOLPH played for the Yankees and Mets, coached the Yankees and managed the Mets.
26. GIL HODGES was a Dodgers icon in Brooklyn, a cherished first baseman for the expansion Mets in Manhattan, a legendary manager who led a miracle in Queens. Might his New York tour end up in Cooperstown?
27. DAVE KINGMAN played for both the Mets and Yankees in 1977 and was with the Padres and Angels in between.
28. CURTIS GRANDERSON, in his post-signing news conference at Citi Field, said that even when he was a Yankee, he heard that “true New Yorkers are Mets fans.”
29. DARRYL STRAWBERRY is the only man to have played in a World Series for both the Mets and Yankees. Also has the distinction of playing in California for both transplanted New York teams.
30. MEL STOTTLEMYRE was a star pitcher for the Yankees and a World Series-winning pitching coach for the Mets (1986) and Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000).
31. GUS MAUCH was the trainer for Yankees World Series champions in the 1950s and for the 1969 Mets.
32. BOB OJEDA was a Yankee between his stints as a Mets pitcher and TV studio analyst.
33. RON SWOBODA made that diving catch that preserved and emblemized the 1969 Mets miracle, and two years later he was a Yankee.
34. RALPH BRANCA became a Yankee three years after surrendering the iconic, and ultimately controversial, “Shot Heard ’Round the World” as a Dodger in 1951.
35. RAFAEL SANTANA played 148 games for the Yankees two years after he was the starting shortstop for the champion 1986 Mets.
36. JESSE OROSCO recorded the final out in the Mets’ 1986 World Series triumph, and 17 years later, he was a Yankee.
37. MIKE TORREZ pitched for the Mets six years after winning the Game 6 clincher of the 1977 World Series, the Yankees’ first title in 15 years.
38. DWIGHT GOODEN was a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner and All-Star with the Mets and pitched a no-hitter as a Yankee. He won championship rings with both but didn’t appear in the 1996 or 2000 World Series for the Yankees.
39. GARY SHEFFIELD, Gooden’s nephew, also played for both New York teams.
40. JOE PIGNATANO of the Dodgers caught the final pitch at Ebbets Field in 1957. He and pitcher Danny McDevitt reenacted it before a 2007 Brooklyn Cyclones game. A Met in 1962, Pignatano was bullpen coach (and tomato-plant grower at Shea) in 1969.
41. ELLIOTT MADDOX was so good defensively that he supplanted Bobby Murcer as the Yankees’ centerfielder, but he suffered a knee injury on a soggy Shea Stadium field and sued the city. He later returned to Shea as a Mets third baseman.
42. RED BARBER, the Hall of Fame broadcaster, jumped from Brooklyn to the Bronx in 1953 after a contract dispute.
43. CONNIE DESMOND announced Giants and Yankees home games before joining the Dodgers’ booth full-time in 1943.
44 TOM SEAVER announced both Yankees and Mets games on TV.
45. Ditto for TIM MCCARVER.
46. Same for FRAN HEALY.
47. RUSS HODGES, the New York Giants announcer, is known for 1951 and what is arguably the most famous call in baseball history: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” But from 1946 to 1948, he was one of the voices of the Yankees, alongside Mel Allen.
48. BUCK CANEL, a Hall of Fame broadcaster, announced games of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Yankees and Mets on Spanish-language radio station WHOM.
49. The Dodgers traded a player to the Atlanta Crackers for broadcaster ERNIE HARWELL, who moved to the Giants two years later on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer.
50. ROBINSON CANO’S statistics and defensive prowess place him in the conversation among the greatest second basemen in Yankees history, establishing a reputation that makes him highly respected by his current Mets teammates.
51. JOSE CARDENAL became a Met between games of a 1979 doubleheader and did double duty with the late-1990s Yankees, serving as first-base coach and Orlando Hernandez’s interpreter.
52. GENE WOODLING played in five World Series with the Yankees and won all of them, batting .318 in 26 games. He finished his career with the Mets in 1962, batting .274 in 81 games.
53. WFAN was the Mets’ flagship radio station from its inception in 1987 through 2013, then switched to the Yankees.
54. CH. 9 AND CH. 11 regularly carried New York Giants, Yankees and Mets games.
55. GEORGE WEISS was elected to the Hall of Fame after winning seven World Series as Yankees general manager and bringing the Mets into existence as their first president.
56. RALPH TERRY lost Game 7 of the 1960 World Series and won Game 7 of the 1962 World Series for the Yankees. He finished his career with the Mets.
57. PAUL GIBSON of Center Moriches grew up amid Long Island’s divided Yankees/Mets loyalties and pitched for both teams.
58. WEE WILLIE KEELER was known for his philosophy, “Hit ’em where they ain’t,” which produced a .341 lifetime batting average. He played his entire Hall of Fame career in New York with the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees.
59. TONY LAZZERI is a Hall of Famer best known for being part of Murderers’ Row on the 1927 Yankees, but he split his final season, 1939, between the Dodgers and Giants.
60. WAITE HOYT, the ace of the 1927 Yankees, also pitched for the other two New York teams in his Hall of Fame career. He finished in Brooklyn, his home borough.
61. SAL “THE BARBER’’ MAGLIE pitched well (two runs, five hits) for the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series but was second best that day to Don Larsen’s perfection. Maglie earlier was a Giant and later was a Yankee.
62. FRED MERKLE is remembered for “Merkle’s Boner,” the baserunning gaffe that cost the Giants the 1908 pennant and helped the Cubs to their last title for 108 years. But he also has the distinction of being one of 14 men to play for all three original New York franchises. The others (Nos. 63-71 on this list) were . . .
63. JOHNNY ALLEN. Known for his temper and his 17-4 record as a Yankees rookie.
64. JACK DOYLE. Called “Dirty Jack” for aggressive baserunning.
65. LONNY FREY. Tried pro ball after losing his job in the Great Depression.
66. BURLEIGH GRIMES. Had a menacing unshaven look and a wicked spitball (he was the last pitcher allowed to throw a legal spitter after baseball banned the pitch in 1920).
67. ERNIE KRUEGER. Catcher appeared for Brooklyn in the 1920 World Series.
68. BOBO NEWSOM. Played for nine teams, won seven games down the stretch for the 1947 Yankees.
69. LEFTY O’DOUL. A .349 lifetime batter, he hit .368 for the 1932 Dodgers.
70. ROSY RYAN. A 17-game winner for the champion 1922 Giants.
71. ZACK TAYLOR. Spent 58 years in pro ball and was the Browns manager who sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel up to pinch hit.
72. DUKE SNIDER, Brooklyn’s representative in the 1950s “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” centerfielders constellation, returned to New York in 1963 as a Met.
73. DUKE CARMEL was the first player to go from the Mets to the Yankees (in 1964).
74. FRANK TANANA. With the Yankees desperate for pitching in 1993, they made a rare mid-September trade to acquire him from the Mets for Kenny Greer. Tanana’s three Yankee starts were the final appearances of his 21-season career. Greer made his major- league debut on Sept. 29.
75. ORLANDO “EL DUQUE’’ HERNANDEZ’S stellar run with the Yankees included a play in which he retired a Mets batter by throwing his glove (with the ball in it) to first base. He later helped pitch the Mets into the 2006 postseason.
76. KEVIN LONG drew praise as the hitting coach for both the Yankees and Mets.
77. CHILI DAVIS, a former Yankee, is the Mets’ hitting coach.
78. JEFF TORBORG was a Mets manager and Yankees coach.
79. So was FRANK HOWARD.
80. CLEM LABINE of the Dodgers earned a win and a save in back-to-back games of the 1955 World Series. He ended his career with three games for the 1962 Mets.
81. LEE MAZZILLI, who was Brooklyn-born, was an All-Star and matinee idol for the Mets, was traded to the Rangers, played briefly with the Yankees and returned to the Mets for their 1986 championship. He later was a Yankees coach, then moved to their front office. His son, Lee Jr., played in both the Mets’ and Yankees’ farm systems (and was a Long Island Duck).
82. WALT TERRELL, one of two players (along with Ron Darling) acquired for Mazzilli, was a Met from 1982-84 and a Yankee in 1989.
83. ROGER CRAIG, before becoming the guru of the split-fingered fastball, won a ring as a member of the 1955 Dodgers and lost 20 games with the 1962 Mets.
84. TONY CLARK, current executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, signed as a free agent with the Mets and Yankees in back-to-back years (2003, 2004).
85. MARV THRONEBERRY became a cult icon as a star in beer commercials because of his time with the 1962 Mets. But he broke in with the Yankees.
86. Former Met JOSE VIZCAINO won Game 1 of the New York-New York 2000 World Series with a 12th-inning single.
87. In an earlier key play that night, TIMO PEREZ of the Mets hesitated on the bases and was thrown out at the plate on a double by future Yankee Todd Zeile.
88. A blown save in that game was charged to ARMANDO BENITEZ, a future Yankee.
89. MIKE STANTON, a future Met, was the winning pitcher in that game.
90. ROBIN VENTURA, the Mets third baseman that night, and DAVID JUSTICE, the Yankees leftfielder, were traded for each other in December 2001. The Mets dealt Justice to Oakland a week later.
91. “VAN LINGLE MUNGO” was a popular 1969 song written by jazz pianist Dave Frishberg simply because he liked the name of a pitcher who worked 13 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers and three with the New York Giants.
92. JOHNNY MIZE, an All-Star five times with the Giants and once with the Yankees, was one of the players mentioned in the song’s lyrics.
93. Hall of Famer DUCKY MEDWICK, who won the Triple Crown as a Cardinal in 1937, later played 470 games for the Dodgers and 232 for the Giants. He signed with the Yankees in 1946 but never played for them.
94. HACK WILSON, a Hall of Famer, hit 56 home runs for the 1930 Cubs between stints with the Giants and Dodgers.
95. Nearly 40 years before Jackie Robinson, Giants catcher CHIEF MYERS, a Native American, overcame bias and stereotypes (such as his nickname) to become a .332 hitter. When he was released, the Brooklyn Robins won a coin toss for his rights.
96. Before FRESCO THOMPSON headed a Dodgers scouting and player development system that produced Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and numerous Rookies of the Year, he was both a Dodgers and Giants player.
97. EDDIE STANKY, hard-nosed player and Phil Rizzuto antagonist, was an All-Star for both the Giants and Dodgers.
98. CHARLIE NEAL had the first hit in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers, having moved with the team from Brooklyn, and the first RBI in the history of the Mets.
99. HENSLEY MEULENS signed as a teenager with the Yankees, came to the majors with them and now is the Mets’ bench coach.
100. AL LEITER has had an eventful journey back and forth across the New York-New York divide: He grew up in New Jersey a Mets fan, broke into the majors with the Yankees, pitched seven seasons for the Mets (including 2000, when he threw 142 pitches in World Series Game 5,) finished his career with the Yankees, was a broadcaster for Yankees games on YES and now is a baseball operations adviser for the Mets.
101. JIM THORPE had a distinctive New York-New York connection: He played for baseball’s New York Giants in 1913-15 and 1917 and football’s New York Giants in 1925.
See previous years' installments of Newsday's "Baseball 101" series at newsday.com/baseball101.