Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rant #714: New York Baseball History

Today, April 11, is a prominent day in New York baseball history.

Both the Mets and Yankees share in this historical day, although the days were actually separated by decades.

In 1962, the Mets made their debut on this day, playing a road game in St. Louis and losing to the host St. Louis Cardinals 11-4.

The Mets would go on to lose 120 games that year, and their 40-120 record has stood for 50 years as the worst record in major league baseball history.

But for an area that was without National League baseball for the previous four seasons, the Mets were a revelation.

After the Dodgers and Giants left for California in 1958, the only team in town was the Yankees. National League fans had to wait for another team to come along, and not only was another team coming along, but it was going to be the centerpiece of a brand new league.

Branch Rickey, long gone from the Dodgers, dreamed up the new Continental Baseball League as an entity that would try to garner loyalty for a set of teams, including a New York team.

The Continental Baseball League looked like a lock, but then the National League thwarted their opportunity by launching the New York Metropolitans as an expansion franchise, the successor to the Giants and Dodgers. With that launch, the Continental Baseball League died a quick death.

And although the team was inept at the start, and continued to be inept until 1969, New York fans loved the "Amazin' Mets," especially when they moved from the Polo Grounds to their own digs in Queens at Shea Stadium.

And when they improbably won the World Series in 1969, the hysteria was incredible. As a Yankees fan I remember it well. Everyone seemed to love the Mets at that time. Even Ed Sullivan's Topo Gigio wore a Mets uniform.

Now turning 50, the Mets franchise has been more inept than solid through the years, and they really have never risen in popularity above the Yankees, but as the second team in New York, they remain one of the most popular teams in professional sports.

Now looking back even further to the most popular and successful team in professional sports, the Yankees also celebrate an anniversary today, albeit a less auspicious one than the one celebrated by their crosstown rivals.

Facing the Boston Red Sox as the Highlanders in 1912, the soon-to-be-named Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox, the team the would be their main rival through the decades.

The Highlanders would go on to lose more than 100 games that season, the last time the Highlanders/Yankees would lose that many games in a season.

More importantly, today is the 100th anniversary of the Yankees sporting pinstripes on their uniforms.

They weren't the first to do so--the Cubs did it a few seasons earlier--but the Yankee pinstripes stand as the most iconic fashion statement in professional sports.

It is what makes their uniform so special.

Those pinstripes were black, but they eventually morphed into blue pinstripes, and the uniform is prized by many with such a fashion statement.

And although there was a brief hiatus with the pinstripes a few years later, they eventually came back strong, and have never left, and the pinstripes have been with the team for every pennant and World Series since the late teens and early 1920s.

Congratulations on these anniversaries for the two New York baseball teams. Each team has a rich history, and who knows what lurks for these teams over the next 50 and 100 years.

Play ball!

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