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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yankees and Mets fans seem to be savoring Subway Series as it's meant to be

Pitcher Taijuan Walker #99 walks off the mound

Pitcher Taijuan Walker #99 walks off the mound after relieved when he lost his his no-hitter by giving up a home run to Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees during the sixth inning against the New York Mets in a game at Yankee Stadium on July 3, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Rich Schultz

This was at about 8:45 on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. The opener of the Subway Series against the Mets had been officially postponed a few minutes earlier after a 90-minute wait in persistent rain.

As you looked out into the stands, you noticed something odd: The fans weren’t leaving.

At about 8:50, same thing. Five minutes later, maybe a few had trickled out. It wasn’t until well after 9 that the covered sections around the stadium really started to empty out.

The fans had rented the hall for the night and they weren’t leaving until they were good and ready.

What did it mean? Maybe nothing more than people didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. Maybe they had just paid for pricey beers and hot dogs and wanted to gobble them down before heading out into the Bronx night.

Or maybe it was something deeper.

Maybe, after everything we’ve all been through, they just wanted to have the shared experience of attending a big event — something NBA fans felt during the Nets' playoff run and NHL fans had on Long Island with the Islanders' exciting postseason.

Now, it was baseball New York’s turn. Even without a game, even in miserable weather, those people just didn’t want to let that good feeling go.

Maybe they didn’t want to leave because they know we need Yankees versus Mets, we need to be together for it, and we need the drama of sports to help propel us into a continuing sense of normalcy.

The skies meant it was not to be, of course, and it didn’t look like Saturday’s forecast was going to allow for a game, either. But the rain held off and Jordan Montgomery threw the first pitch to Brandon Nimmo at 1:08 p.m. as scheduled.

Nimmo lined the second pitch just over a leaping DJ LeMahieu for a single. Nearly everything went the Mets’ way as they defeated the Yankees, 8-3, before 40,047, the largest crowd for either team since before COVID-19.

"It was felt," Mets manager Luis Rojas said. "It was loud. It was electric. I think guys missed it. Outside of the score, outside of the result of the game, I think it’s special to feel an attendance like that."

The Mets had eight runs and 12 hits before the Yankees got their first hit, a sixth-inning home run by Aaron Judge off Mets starter Taijuan Walker.

The Mets seemed to find every infield hole and enjoy the fruits of bloop hit after bloop hit. Their first 10 hits and 11 of 12 overall were singles as they pecked the Yankees into submission.

"I don’t really know what else to do," Montgomery said.

Yankees fans feel the same way. They let Aaron Boone know it when he made a pitching change during the Mets’ five-run sixth.

Still, after a 2020 season in which the Subway Series was played in front of no fans, after a frustrating Friday when the fans tried to will the rain to stop falling, at least there were the usual trappings of a Mets-Yankees game.

The best, and most enduring, one? Chants of "Let’s go Mets" from visiting fans drowned out by boos from home fans and then joined by chants of "Let’s go Yankees."

It’s the same chanting battle we’ve been hearing since the Subway Series was born in 1997. Reverse the order when the games are played in Flushing. Neighbor versus neighbor in a friendly rivalry.

Is it a cliche at this point? Of course. It’s also so much better than the sounds of silence we endured in 2020.

There was no doubt which chant won out as Mets fans took over the stadium in the bottom of the ninth.

Bragging rights to Queens. But those rights will last less than a day as the teams reassemble at 2 p.m. on Sunday for the opener of a July 4 day-night doubleheader.

That’s two chances for the Yankees to get on track. Two chances for the Mets to keep it going.

Most importantly, it’s two more chances for fans to show up, to cheer, to boo, to chant, to get a hot dog and a beer, to grumble about the $45 parking fee, and to turn to their right and their left and see other people doing the same. And maybe linger a little even after it’s over, if they choose.

Because now they can.

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