You gotta believe

by Austin Zalkin | 10/19/00 5:00am

New Yorkers seem to believe the world revolves around them. At least in terms of the baseball world, they're right.

The New York Yankees closed out the Seattle Mariners 9-7 two nights ago in the Bronx, setting the stage for an intra-city battle for the world championship of baseball -- a Subway Series, as the already overused phrase goes.

Their opponent, the New York Mets, completed their domination of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series on Monday, winning in five games.

The Mets once again called on their singular magic that dates back to the awful Amazin's of 1962. That team that lost 120 games in a single season was somehow more appreciated than the wildly successful Yankees just across town.

The Mets' post-season history has been marked by tremendous charm. The team pulled off a stunning upset of the Baltimore Orioles to win their first World Series in 1969. Then in 1986, a famous Mookie Wilson ground ball, which should have given the title to the woebegone Boston Red Sox, instead catalyzed another Mets championship. Bill Buckner's infamous error on that ground ball remains a testament to the hope for lost causes everywhere, as the Mets were in Game Six in the ninth inning.

The Yankees, on the other hand, haven't been so much lucky as good. The team has won more than a quarter of all the World Series ever played. Their great players -- Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio -- are more remembered today than most past presidents of the United States.

It was once remarked that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel -- the dominant corporation of the time. The statement was made, however, when player salaries would still fall in the five-figure range. The statement is even more analagous today. Whereas the Yankees then were rich on scouting and talent, they now are also extremely rich in funds. With a payroll over $100 million after mid-season additions of veterans like Jose Canseco, some have charged that the Yankees are buying titles.

Regardless of one's opinion of the Yankees' economics -- the Mets, after all, are paying Mike Piazza $90 million -- the Bronx Bombers can only be termed a juggernaut.

The two teams have met in pre-season games, and in the regular season every year for the past four seasons thanks to interleague play. But they have never met to settle more than bragging rights. Two nights from now, all of New York and probably a few other people as well will watch and see if the magic Mets can become kings in Queens or whether the big, bad Yankees will win again. Stay tuned.

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