I don’t tell personal stories very often, but a story on WPIX News at 10 pushed an interesting memory of my childhood forth in my brain.
And, since once in a while, there is a need for a personal story, I had to write this one down.
My fiancee and I were in our living room few nights ago – he was on his laptop, I was reading. The TV was on WPIX 11, a New York City television station I grew up with. Sure, it is a CW station these days (it was an independent station before it became The WB in 1995, I remember the days of both the independent station, as well as The WB years), but the news program remains the same. A few familiar faces exist on WPIX these days, including Tamsen Fadel and Irv Gikofsky (better known as the famous “Mr. G.”), a New York City meteorological staple/legend whose face I remember from growing up watching WCBS 2.
Familiar (to me) faces aside, that’s not the important part, it is one of the stories being shown that trigged a memory from 20 years ago. During a story about a Mets player visiting pediatric cancer patients in the hospital, I remembered the one time in high school (well, one of many times in those four years!) I went to a Yankees game at Shea Stadium. Now, that’s not a big deal in itself these days, they’ve done it before (interleague play, I should add, wasn’t a thing until 1997, outside of the All-Star Game, and of course, the World Series!), but this time around, the Mets were not there.
If you’re a Yankees fan, this may sound familiar to you.
The New York Yankees had this amazing season in 1998, finishing the regular scene with an impressive 114-48 (guess who went to two games they lost that season?) record, a mind-blowing 22 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox. This was a franchise record, a league record, and the stuff of bragging rights (not that I’m a braggart, never have been!). Once you throw in playoff wins, and the World Series 4-game sweep, the total jumped to 125 wins and 50 losses. It was a pretty incredible season.
Incredible seasons aside, the event I witnessed happened at the beginning of that amazing season.
So, in the words of Sophia Petrillo, “Picture it, Flushing, NY: April 1998…”
The Yankees were 6-4 at the midway point of the first month of the regular season, when a structural issue forced the cancellation of two games during Easter week due to the city of New York shutting down the stadium. In an attempt to salvage the series (the first two games of the series against the Anaheim Angels were cancelled), the game was to be moved to Shea Stadium for a day game, with the Mets coming in that night against the Cubs. That meant a 12 pm start.
Now, normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal for most. Sure, it happened on April 15, 1998 (I checked the date, since I only knew it happened in April 1998), but this was especially important because my family (parents, myself, and my brother) were ticket holders for the April 15th game. We found out that rather than heading for the Bronx that day, we’d be heading to Flushing early in the morning for a 12 pm game.
And of course, it was a nasty, rainy day, but we were going to see a game!
Our tickets (usually obtained through work connections my father, an outside salesman, had) were always pretty good at Yankees stadium – always on the lower level and an amazing view no matter where we sat. But at Shea Stadium, the equivalent of our really good seats was even better. We were much further down in Shea Stadium than we would have been at Yankee Stadium. Not only were the seats good, it was a packed house (I checked – there were 40,743 people there that day, just your typical Yankees crowd).
The Yankees won that day, that I can tell you (I also checked this, they won 6-3), but there was this funny, lasting memory I have from the game. It’s one that Yankees fans would find the humor in – not necessarily a “you had to be there” moment – but one I still remember to this day.
Shea Stadium had this giant apple with the Mets logo emblazoned on it in their outfield, only to rise when a Mets player hits a home run.
The Apple (Source)
Coming from a family that basically symbolizes The Subway Series (my mom’s family – except for my mom, who converted in the mid-1970s – are all Mets fans), we knew about The Apple and what its purpose was. The Yankees also had two of the Mets’ more popular players from more recent years – Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Daryl Strawberry, the latter of whom was actually playing the day of the Shea Stadium game. So there’s that.
Strawberry hit four home runs that day (fault him for his personal problems if you will, but damn he was a good player!), and the result of a home run meant The Apple should rise.
Well, rise it did!
The Half Apple
The Apple did come out of its hiding place, but not enough so the giant Mets logo could show itself to the stadium (and the fans watching at home). Instead, it rose halfway – well, almost, it was probably closer to just the top portion – before lowering itself again.
From WNBC 4 New York’s coverage of the game.
That’s where Yankees fans would find this funny, Mets fans would groan, and everyone else would not really understand why this is funny. The clip actually made the 1998 highlights video, it was that memorable.
If you know enough about baseball, you’d know that Strawberry was a Met from 1984 until 1990. That was a prime era for the Mets, we all knew it, and the Yankees basically pulled Strawberry back into the majors after drug issues relegated him to the Northern League’s Saint Paul Saints. When the Yankees acquired him on July 4, 1996, it seemed questionable at this point in his career (laugh it up, Mets fans!), but his acquisition paid off in spades.
Now, if only he kept himself out of trouble.
But, for that one day, those four home runs, and the famous Shea Stadium Yankees game played in rainy weather (which, The Apple rose from hiding, a salute to one of their own from a different era.
Indeed, 1998 was a different era – it was a career resurgence for Daryl Strawberry, the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the (now former) Yankees stadium (that structural collapse should have been a bad sign, don’t you think?), and a sign of things to come for that season. It is a story that Yankees fans who were there for that rainy day will never forget.
And The Home Run Apple even made a cameo.
Related Viewing – How the New York Media Market Covered The Game…
And MSG’s Broadcast Of the Game (Intro Only)