The New York Mets are New York’s most beloved baseball team.
One of the most difficult things in sports is to root for the New York Mets, but during the bad times (which were often funny in the early days) and during the glory days, the Mets fans have loved their team with a passion and fervor rarely seen.
Almost nothing compares to the love and joy Mets had for the 1969 team, which was almost matched by the players’ love for their “new breed” fans.
Nineteen eighty six came close to matching 1969. It took a grievous mistake by Boston Red Sox manager John McNamara, who eschewed replacing first baseman Bill Buckner for defensive purposes, to set the Mets up to become World Champions.
All of New York,including most fans of New York’s other team, the New York Yankees, loved the Mets for beating the Red Sox.
From the time of the championship New York Giants teams during baseball’s early days, New York has been a National League City. In 1957, when Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley convinced his Giants counterpart Horace Stoneham to join the Dodgers in moving to the west coast, the Yankees became New York’s only team.
The deserted Dodgers and Giants fans couldn’t embrace the hated Yankees. Local New York television stations beamed in selected games of the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1957, the Yankees drew 1,497,134 fans. In 1958, their first season as the only team in New York, attendance actually dropped as they drew 1,428,438.
In 1962, New York’s most beloved team started its history.
The Mets played their first two seasons in the Polo Grounds. They drew 922,530 fans in 1962, but then went over the one million mark when they had a 1963 attendance figure of 1,080,108.
Then along came Shea Stadium and 1,080,108 fans. The pennant winning Yankees drew 1,305,638.
Nineteen sixty four was the last season in which the Yankees dominated baseball until the late 1970s. In 1965, they finished in sixth place, and in 1966, they were 10th in a 10 team league. It was a terrible embarrassment.
The low point, which illustrates the point that the majority of Yankees fans are front runners occurred on Sept. 22, 1966.
The last place Yankees played a rescheduled game against the Chicago White Sox. Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber told the television audience, “I don’t know what the paid attendance is today, but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium, and this crowd is the story, not the game.”
There were 413 paying fans.
Barber asked the cameras to pan the empty stands. The head of Yankees’ media relations refused.
New York’s other team has won more World Championships than any other team, they have had more great players than any other team, and they have drawn more than four million fans in a season four times. They are the greatest franchise in sports history, but they are not as beloved as the Mets.
Many Yankees fans love their team, but more are “bandwagon” fans who root for them as long as they win.
The Mets outdrew the Yankees from 1964 until the Yankees started to win again during the late 1970s. When the Mets became contenders during the early 1980s, they again outdrew the other team. Then, when former Mets manager Joe Torre led the Yankees to four more World Championships, the Yankees once again ruled.
But this is about why the Mets are beloved. It must be acknowledged that generalizations can mislead.
An example is that the elite identify with the Yankees (Rudy Giuliani, Henry “Hank” Kissinger, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Kate Hudson, and of course, Minka Kelly). The non-elite usually identify with the Mets.
What a horrible way to classify individuals in a society that purports to be a democracy.
The Yankees are limousines and caviar. The Mets are Chevys, meat, and potatoes.
Many Yankees fans live and die with their team. To paraphrase George M. Steinbrenner, the only way a true Yankees fan lives is when the Yankees win the World Series.
The Mets used to be and once again seem to be lovable losers, but in the early days, losing only made them more lovable.
Fans could identify with Marv Throneberry when he missed an easy pop fly or when he hit what appeared to be a triple and was called out on an appeal play for missing second base.
Manager Casey Stengel came out to argue the call, but was told by the umpire “Don’t bother arguing Casey, he missed first base, too.”
Mets fans stick with their team. They understand and accept the fact that their team, no team, can win every year. Yankees fans understand that but they don’t stick with their team (yes, some do).
The Yankees have outdrawn the Mets for more than a decade, but that is misleading. Many of the individuals who attend Yankees games are interested in baseball on a casual level. For them, going to a baseball game is like going to the movies. They get freebies from corporations or season ticket holders. Most would not go to the game if they had a better alternative or if they had to spend thousands of dollars on tickets.
From the days of Elio Chacon and Ed Kranepool to the days of Vince Coleman and Bobby Bonilla, Mets fans have suffered, but they still love their team. It is a love that reminds one of the love the Brooklyn Dodgers fans had for “Dem Bums.” My team, lose or win.
That is not the mind set of Yankees fans. For them (and me), it is win or else.
I know it’s wrong but I can’t help it. I’m a Yankees fan.
Baseball AlmanacThe Yankees Didn’t Like the Truth
Celebrity Yankees Fans