By Arnie Leshin
It was just a beautiful Sunday in New York’s borough of Queens. It was sunny and temperatures were in the mid 80s, the parking lots at Citi Field In Flushing Meadow filled up early and a ton of fans exited from the nearby elevated train.
Yes, it was a packed turnout and from it came loud, humorous, unimaginable things that were rarely seen when the New York Yankees played the New York Mets.
But there it was exactly two decades since Sept. 11, 2001 when the surprising terrorist attack on the towering World Trade Center brought early morning madness, fear, deaths and injuries on Manhattan’s East Side.
Now the fans weren’t exactly celebrating, they were instead doing things that weren’t expected in a late season Major League Baseball game in which both clubs were in quest of making the post-season. It was unreal in a back-and-fourth contest won 7-6 by the Mets on shortstop Francisco Lindor’s third home run in the game, a deep solo shot in the last of the eighth inning off reliever Chad Green’s fastball.
It was a historic happening, for it was the first time for three home runs in a game in the many years of the Subway Series.
In each frame something different was occurring. The teams sounded on each other with rants and raves into each dugout, insults on individual players, nasty, yet funny finger signs, where in the fifth inning, Lindor
and his second base pal Javier Baez stood on the infield and pointed their middle fingers down and meant for the fans.
That got a lot of applause, because it was only last week when the Mets’ fans booed both of them and the next day the two spoke out in an interview and informed the fans they didn’t need to do that, that they were only trying to play hard and win.
But the Yanks didn’t think it was funny, thought it was meant for their dugout, so when their lead-off hitter Giancarlo Stanton came up to bat and lined a 2-run home run to left field in the next inning, he had some words for Lindor and Baez that they both just laughed off.
It began on his way around the bases when he stopped at third, looked behind him and said something to both Lindor and Baez. This got the Yanks to within 5-4.
But it also carried on, and as Stanton crossed the plate, both dugouts and bullpens emptied in a scene near home plate that lasted four minutes, and was just short of a brawl before the umpires cleared the field.
Meanwhile, it was just an unusual day at this ballpark, something commentators Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, bothformer Mets, pointed out. They said in all the years they played here and at nearby demolished Shea Stadium, as well as behind the television mic, they had never seen the place behave like this before.
It was like a God Bless America tribute. Honestly, fans were friendly, Yankees fans sat next to Mets fans, and about all uniform fronts said the same thing — New York. No hassles, instead it looked like a mutual society administration. Both teams had hand shakes, sometimes hugs, for plays that happened whether good or bad.
Aside from the antics of Lindor, Baez and Stanton, no one got in anyone else’s face, as Hernandez pointed out. No one looked to start trouble, as Darling pointed out. And these were two teams in the stretch run and in quest of making the post-season. It was like the fans were rooting for both to gain the playoffs.
There were fans displaying American flags, there were those who hung and swung on the lower fence with signs and funny shirts, some of the men ripped off their shirts because it was of course a hot day.
But there was a game to be played and the national anthem sung before the first pitch, sung in unison by even the fans of a crowd of 33,305 in a game that lasted four hours and six minutes. They chanted USA, USA, USA, which showed patriotism on this wild day. Matter of fact, the same chants continued throughout.
For the Yankees, it was a good start as they scored twice in the top of the first on Stanton’s RBI double and Joey Gallo’s sacrifice fly. In the last of the second, the Mets tied it at 2-2. In the fourth, Lindor’s solo shot into the seats in left-center field brought a 3-2 lead, his first of the three, and it came off a hanging curve ball from Clarke Schmidt.
In the fourth, they took a 5-2 lead on Lindor’s 2-run clout into the left-center field stands, his second of the three, and off a change-up from rookie Wandy Pearman. Two innings later, Stanton got his team to within 5-4.
Both dugouts were buzzing. Some of the players even looked out to see what antics the fans were displaying. Well, it looked like a party going on, although Yankees fans and Mets fans did toss in some boos in response to both dugouts looking out.
In the sixth, the Yanks not wearing their home pinstripes, tied the score at 6-6 on a solo home run from Gleber Torres. Then it was Lindor teeing off with number three, a long shot deep into the right field stands and a 7-6 advantage after eight.
Now the home side had to maintain it and called on cleanup man Edwin Diaz to work the top of the ninth, and he was in quick trouble. After Torres flied out to center, Diaz allowed a one-out single by DJ Lemahieu and a four-ball walk to Joey Gallo, and Tyler Wade pinch-ran for Lemahieu Diaz then struck out Matt Gardner.
And as the dangerous Judge stepped in and the crowd was at its loudest, on a 2-2 pitch he popped up to Lindor at short and the wild game was history but not to be forgotten as the millions who watched on the tubes were trying to believe what they saw.
So that left the team from the Bronx in third place, nine games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East, and in a deadlock with the Boston Red Sox for the first wild card berth.
The team from Queens remained five games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League, one in back of the second-place Philadelphia Phiilies, and three behind in the wild card chase.
Monday night, the Mets are home to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees play host to the Minnesota Twins, except Minnesota was in a weather delay at the airport.
Will their fans pack each ballpark, well hopefully they will because it was great entertainment on Sunday in an unusual wacky way, and not even a single ejection, although two fans came on the field at separate times and were tackled by security while the fans booed.
Yes, play ball and have fun.