The Yankees against the Mets: this is similar to a Sparta – Feyenoord football match in the Netherlands. Two teams that hail from the same city, but different neighbourhoods. North against South, David against Goliath. It´s a derby that stirs up a lot of emotions, which is why it has also been made into a chess game.

New York Yankees and New York Mets logos

On July 7, New York baseball clubs the Yankees and the Mets will meet again for the Subway Series. This time, it is the Bronx Yankees who will receive their Queens rivals at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees play in a different division than the Mets, so they don’t often face each other. This is how it works: the American baseball league consists of two equal leagues, each with a team from New York. Therefore, they both have to finish first in their league in order to face each other in the series of final matches, the World Series. The teams have met only once in this final competition, in 2000.

A new club

The sporty chess game Yankees – Mets, which you can see on display in the Chessmen Museum, is part of the Rademaker Collection. After a holiday in New York, the Rademaker ladies took the baseball-playing men home as a souvenir. They didn´t have any choice regarding teams, as the other legendary baseball teams, the Manhattan New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, had not been playing in New York for some time. In 1957, these two teams left the city for financial -and other- reasons, and settled in California as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. In order to make New York baseball fans forget about this grave loss, a new club was founded in 1962: the Mets. The club inherited its blue and orange colours from its two predecessors, and the former Giants stadium became its new home. However, a new stadium was built for the Mets and in 1964, the club moved to the neighbourhood of Flushing, in Queens, to hit their home runs.

To the finals for a nickel

Yankee Stadium, near the subway station

Before the Giants and Dodgers left town, the nickname Subway Series or Nickel Series had come into fashion for the World Series in New York. If the final matches took place between two teams from New York, people could reach the stadium by subway. The underground ticket cost no more than a nickel at the time. It is not entirely clear when these nicknames first came into use, but they can be found in the local newspapers from 1927/1928 onwards.

The last Subway Series, old style, took place in 1956, with the Yankees only just beating the Dodgers 4-3. After that, the city would have to go without the World Series for forty-four years. Only in 2000 did this grand finale return to New York, with the Mets facing the Yankees for the first time. This historical event caused a lot of commotion. The city was buzzing with excitement and those who consult the newspapers from that time will come across headlines such as ‘Civil War New York – New York’ and ‘Yankees – Mets Clash’. New Yorkers could not stop talking about this city finale, families and friends (temporarily) came face to face, subway cars were painted in the club colours, and all kinds of merchandise for this historic match were sold out within no time

It was not entirely unexpected that the Yankees won this particular final. The World Series has existed since 1903 and the Mets have won twice, in 1969 and 1986. Their big brother, the Yankees, on the other hand, is the grand champion. The club has won the most finals of all participating teams, with 27 wins.

Mets logo on the train in 2000

To make things even more confusing, the World Series were still called the Subway Series in 2000, but in 1997, this same name had also been given to the annually organised derby between the Yankees and the Mets. This way, they could at least regularly play against each other on a professional level, which is great for rivalry as well as the New York fan base. The Mets usually get defeated in the annual Subway Series too: they have only won four times against the Yankees since 1997. But as so often in sports competitions, sympathy goes out to the underdog.

On July 7, another of this special series of games will kick off between the two New York teams. These matches are not as important as the World Series, but they are equally exciting! And for the visitors to the Chessmen Museum, we have the miniature version of the match waiting.

By Marjolein Overmeer