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Yankees-Mets rivalry goes back to the 1960s

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Tonight is the second game of the so-called “Subway Series” between the two New York Major League Baseball teams, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.

Last night, the Yankees grinded out a 4-2 win over their crosstown rivals, and the next game of the four game series will once again be played at Yankee Stadium, with the final two games of the series played at CitiField.

This annual series is more than the Bronx vs. Queens for baseball and sports fans; it gives the winning team bragging rights for another year about what team is “better,” even if neither team is really “good,” as is the case this season.

And as usual, the Yankees have everything to play for in these games as they cling to Wild Card hopes, while the Mets are basically playing out the string.

It only means that the games are more important to the Yankees, but the Mets would just love to win the next three games, making this something of their own “World Series” for this lost season.

The Yankees-Mets rivalry actually goes back generations on its own, but really, it stems from the great rivalry that the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers had before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s.

It also can be traced, to a much lesser extent, to the rivalry the Bronx Bombers had with the New York Giants, who also left for the West Coast during the same time.

The aftermath was that for a few seasons, the only baseball team in New York City was the Yankees, but come 1962, once the National League expanded to include the New York Metropolitans, the rivalry was rebooted.

Since 1997, the Yankees and Mets have met during the regular season for a few games in a slate of interleague games between American League and National League teams.

But from 1963 to 1983, the Yankees and Mets played in what was called the “Mayor’s Trophy Game,” an exhibition game played in the middle of the season, alternating between the old Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ old home, Shea Stadium (one year it was played in the Polo Grounds, the old home of the Giants, which served as the Mets’ original home prior to the opening of Shea Stadium).

The annual game, which indeed did have a trophy, actually started in the late 1950s with an annual exhibition game between the Yankees and the Dodgers. The game was in limbo until the Mets came on the scene.

The Mayor’s Trophy Game ended up being little more than a nuisance for the teams to play, as it was right in the middle of the season. In fact, due to disagreements between the two teams, for two seasons, it was cancelled, but for 20 years, that was the only time that the teams played head to head.

And yes, those games also provided bragging rights to the winner, most often the Yankees, who held a 10-8-1 edge over the Mets in these games.

The Mayor’s Trophy Game was simply an exhibition game for the two teams, and often, the teams would play it as almost a spring training game, using many players, not using their stars for too long during the game if at all, and trying things here and there, using the game as a testing ground.

The Mayor’s Trophy Game is but a memory, and today’s kids have no idea what it was all about, but for years, that is all Yankees and Mets fans had as far as head-to-head meetings, so if it was a mere footnote on the Yankees-Mets rivalry, it deserved bold face type with the other footnotes, like the occasional spring training game between the two teams.

Whatever the case, it was a fun diversion for the fans during the regular season, and fans looked forward to it each and every year.

Lawrence Lapka

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