Most Major League Baseball (MLB) fans have heard about the Subway Series at least once in their life. Since most baseball fans live outside of New York, chances are they know about it but don’t understand what it entails.
So, what is the Subway Series in Baseball?
The Subway Series is when two New York baseball teams play one another. The first iteration of the subway series was played between the New York Yankees and New York Giants in 1921. After the Giants left New York, the Brooklyn Dodgers took their place, before the New York Mets filled the role in 1997.
While that’s a general overview of what the Subway Series is, we’re going to go into more detail on how the term ‘Subway Series’ came into existence, some of the more memorable moments of the series, and more. So stick around!
Why Is It Called the Subway Series?
When the New York City Subway system was officially opened in 1904, it changed the way New Yorkers traveled around the city. It’s considered one of the most important methods of public transportation in the country.
So when the New York Yankees and New York Giants faced one another in the 1921 World Series, baseball fans from all over the city were using the New York Subway system to get to the Polo Grounds, which both teams called home at the time.
Although calling it the Subway Series seems like the obvious choice, it was actually called the “Battle of Coogan’s Bluff” for the first two matchups in 1921 and 1922. Newspapers were also calling it the “Nickel World Series” because of how much it cost to ride the subway back then.
It would not be until the end of the 20’s that a newspaper journalist would come up with the “Subway Series” title for the matchup. It seemed to be the best title to describe the series.
The New York City Subway ended up being the easiest form of travel between all the New York teams. Starting in 1923, the New York Yankees called the Bronx home and people were able to travel to Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, where the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants played respectively.
How Often Does the Subway Series Happen?
Between 1921 and 1956, the Subway Series only occurred if both teams reached the World Series. Since the games were not scheduled, they only happened if both New York teams reached the World Series.
When the New York Giants faced off with the New York Yankees in 1921, it was the first time two teams from New York played one another in the World Series.
The first three years of the Subway Series occurred between 1921 and 1923 between the Giants and Yankees. But they would not face one another again until the World Series in 1936 and 1937. The final meeting between the two teams before the Giants moved to San Francisco, happened in 1951 when there were three teams in New York.
The New York Giants won the first two World Series but the New York Yankees would dominate them over the final four meetings, winning the World Series battle 4-2.
The Brooklyn Dodgers first meeting with the Yankees happened in 1941 and they would drop their first five World Series meetings with the Yankees before finally earning a hard-fought upset in 1955. Overall, the Yankees would beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Subway Series six times in seven World Series.
The New York Mets would become the first New York team to face the Yankees during the regular season when the Subway Series made its’ regular-season debut in 1997. The only time the Mets and Yankees would face off in the World Series was in 2000.
As of the end of the 2021 season, the New York Yankees lead the regular-season series over the New York Mets winning 76 of the 134 games played between the two teams. The two teams normally face off for a 3-game series at each team’s stadium for a total of six games per year.
Subway Series All-Time Record
Aside from the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry, which began in 1904, the Subway Series remains one of the oldest rivalries in professional sports. When the Subway Series began in 1921, it was the Yankees and New York Giants.
After the Giants moved to California, the Subway Series changed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. The Subway Series would take place (when both teams made the World Series) until 1956 before the Dodgers moved to California.
Finally, in 1997, when MLB decided to make interleague play a staple of every team’s regular-season schedule, the Mets and Yankees started facing off in the Subway Series making it the first time it would be played during the regular season.
Lucky for you, we put together a breakdown for each of the three teams the New York Yankees faced off against during the Subway Series.
New York Yankees vs. New York Giants (6 World Series Matchups)
1921: New York Giants over New York Yankees (5-3)
1922: New York Giants over New York Yankees (4-0)
1923: New York Yankees over New York Giants (4-2)
1936: New York Yankees over New York Giants (4-2)
1937: New York Yankees over New York Giants (4-1)
1951: New York Yankees over New York Giants (4-2)
New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers (7 World Series Matchups)
1941: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-1)
1947: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-3)
1949: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-1)
1952: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-3)
1953: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-1)
1955: Brooklyn Dodgers over New York Yankees (4-3)
1956: New York Yankees over Brooklyn Dodgers (4-3)
New York Yankees vs. New York Mets
2000: New York Yankees over New York Mets (4-1)
Regular Season Series All-Time Record (As of the end of the 2021 season)
New York Yankees over the New York Mets (76-58)
Memorable Subway Series Moments
When two teams are located within 40 minutes of one another, there tends to be a sense of pride when it comes to defending their territory and protecting their fan bases.
The fans, however, are another story. These are people that have lived in New York their entire lives and were raised as either Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, or Mets fans. Since the Yankees had so much success for so long, it caused hatred for the other New York teams which helped create some of the greatest rivalries in sports history.
With so much passion, hatred, jealousy, and respect between all the teams, it has led to some memorable moments in the Subway Series.
New York Yankees vs. New York Giants (1921-1951)
During the 1921 World Series, the first World Series appearance for the Yankees, Babe Ruth was the star of the show in a losing effort. This would be the last time Ruth played in the 1921 World Series before an elbow injury sent him to the sidelines, which helped propel the Giants to win the title.
The next year, during the 1922 World Series, the Giants and Yankees would finish game 2 in a 3-3 tie in 10 innings. It would be the last time ever that a World Series game would end in a tie.
Finally, the 1923 World Series marked the first of 27 World Series titles for the New York Yankees. Although it was not as important to professional baseball at the time, that victory would create one of the greatest franchises in all of sports.
New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers (1941-1956)
The 1941 World Series was a lot closer than it turned out to be and it all came down to a dropped strike three ball that would have allowed the Dodgers to even up the series at two games apiece. The dropped third strike would lead to a Yankees win and ultimately a World Series title (4-1).
But of all the memorable moments that we’ve seen in the Subway Series, the most impactful was when Jackie Robinson started for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1947 World Series. That was the first time a racially integrated team would play in the World Series. It was groundbreaking and remains one of the greatest moments in sports history, not just the Subway Series.
During the 1949 World Series, the Yankee’s right fielder Tommy “The Clutch” Henrich would make World Series history by becoming the first player to ever hit a walk-off home run in the World Series.
While it took them several tries, the Brooklyn Dodgers would finally win a World Series championship after left-fielder Sandy Amoros caught a deep fly ball before firing the ball back to the infield to double-up Gil McDougal. That play would go on to propel the Dodgers to victory.
Finally, in the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen would become infamous for being the only pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game in the World Series, a feat that has never been repeated.
New York Yankees vs. New York Mets (1997-Current)
The hatred between the Yankees and Mets only got worse when the two teams began facing off during interleague play in the regular season, starting in 1997. In fact, the very first time the two teams played one another was highlighted with a complete game shutout by Mets pitcher Dave Milicki.
Two years later, another memorable moment occurred when Mariano Rivera had a one-run lead with two outs in the 9th inning. Instead of closing the Mets out, pinch hitter Matt Franco hit a game-winning single that brought in two runs. It marked the first time Mariano Rivera blew a save chance against a National League opponent.
The Subway Series reached its’ peak in 2000 when Roger Clemens started a feud with Mike Piazza after throwing at his head in what most would consider being on purpose. Later that season, in the 2000 World Series, Clemens would face Piazza again.
This time, however, Piazza’s bat would break and Clemens would throw the broken piece at Piazza causing a lifelong rivalry between the two.
But not all memorable moments dealt with game-winning plays or hitting batters. Carlos Delgado broke a Mets record when he destroyed the Yankees pitching staff by hitting a grand slam and a three-run home run on his way to nine runs batted in for the game.
The following year gave us one of the most infamous moments in the Subway Series when Alex Rodriguez hit an easy pop fly to short right field. New York Mets second baseman Luis Castillo would go on to drop the ball and make the mistake of throwing the ball to second base instead of home, where Mark Teixeira ended up winning the game for the Yankees.
What Is the Freeway Series in Baseball?
Major League Baseball loves to name their most heated rivalries so when the Los Angeles Dodgers started playing the Anaheim Angels once interleague play was allowed in 1997, it didn’t take fans long to call this series the “Freeway Series”
Beginning in 1997, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels have faced one another in the regular season 136 times (as of the end of the 2021 season). Although the Dodgers would win the first-ever matchup in the series, it would be the Los Angeles Angels who hold the series lead (76-63).
Why Is it Called the Freeway Series?
Both the Angels and Dodgers play in Los Angeles. For outsiders, these two teams play in the same city and probably share a stadium, right?
Not even close.
The Angels play at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and the Dodgers play at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Angels are located in Orange County while the Dodgers play in Los Angeles County, two neighboring counties that couldn’t be more different.
The reason it is called the Freeway Series is because these two stadiums are located off one of California’s most famous highways, Interstate 5. The fans just had to hop on the I5 and drive about 40 minutes either way. Assuming there’s no traffic!