There’s no question that New York sports fanatics are a different breed. In this latest installment, I’ll focus on the fans of New York City’s Major League Baseball teams that have been around since the early 1900s. Superfans like Ron Phillips New York always have something to say on why the Big Apple fans are the best.
In 1908, when the Chicago Cubs beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, New York was a three-team town with only two ballparks: The Polo Grounds and Hilltop Park. The Brooklyn Dodgers were known as the Trolley Dodgers because trolleys ran past Ebbets Field until 1940 when they moved to their park, Ebbets Field.
Today, New York is still a three-team town with only two ballparks: Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The New York Mets are playing their first season at Citi Field, located next to Shea Stadium, where they have been tenants since 1964. The New York Yankees have played in the Bronx since 1913 at Yankee Stadium, originally built as a ballpark for the New York Giants.
When there was only one team per city, each team had its following. But, when the Dodgers moved to California in 1957 after being tenants at Ebbets Field for 52 years, New Yorkers were forced to choose sides. The National League expanded from 6 teams with two cities per team to 8 teams with one city per team. After adding an expansion team in Los Angeles and moving Brooklyn to California, only one team per city was added. So, New Yorkers had to choose between the Dodgers or the Giants.
The National League held an expansion draft to stock the new teams with players from existing clubs to make matters more interesting. The Dodgers pick first because there was no other team in California at that time. They loaded up on pitchers for their first four picks before grabbing a shortstop from the Cubs. The Giant’s picks were interesting because they had no money and some very weak teams to choose from. They did get Willie Mays, one of the greatest players ever, but you have to wonder how great he would have been for Brooklyn?
There was no choice when New York got two more teams in 1962, the Mets and the Yankees. The Mets were known as the New York Natives until they picked up its current name from another team in New York City that had gone defunct before their arrival. Their uniforms were blue with orange trim because of their affiliation with the National League’s Giants. That lasted for one year before they changed into their current uniforms and colors: blue and orange.
The Mets’ first manager was Casey Stengel, who the Yankees fired in 1960 after leading them to 10 pennants and seven World Series championships in 12 years. The city of New York embraced its new team with open arms because they were a different breed from their fellow brothers. And, the Mets took full advantage of the situation by winning the 1969 World Series in their fourth year after playing 62 years without a title. That was also when New York had two baseball teams that were very competitive on the field while having very different off-the-field fan bases.