Piazza-Clemens feistiness, 2000 Fall Classic among best Mets-Yanks memories
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Commuters beware, conductors be timely and rats, well, run for your lives. It's Subway Series time again this weekend in New York City, where the No. 7 line will be clogged with pinstripes so close to the autumnal equinox for first time since 2000. The trains will be full with orange and blue, too, like they typically are, those colors sparkling particularly bright at the moment. Mets fans are ravenous now, able to sense their team's first postseason berth since 2006, thanks to a comfortable eight-game lead in the National League East.
Meanwhile, it's Yankees fans in the unfamiliar position of second place, looking up in the standings as every night they fight furiously to catch the soaring Blue Jays in the American League East. In Queens and beyond, Mets fans are relishing the fact that their team has the ability to do the unprecedented this weekend: directly affect the postseason chances of their crosstown rivals during the heart of a pennant race.
The stakes are high. Tension is building along the rails. Households are divided and bragging rights are on the line once again in a series that rarely lacks for signature moments. Here are the most memorable from the past 18 years of the matchup.
13. Gooden returns to Shea (July 8, 2000)
In Dwight Gooden's final season in the Majors, he returned -- donning Yankees pinstripes -- to the stadium where he first burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old. Doc earned the win in the first game of a doubleheader, allowing two runs in five innings and offering up a teeny bit of nostalgia with one strikeout.
12. El Duque tosses glove (June 5, 1999)
Not much went wrong for the Yankees during their dynasty years, as the Mets learned firsthand during this early summer afternoon. Poor Rey Ordonez. The Mets' light-hitting shortstop couldn't catch a break when his comebacker got lodged in Orlando Hernandez's glove. El Duque threw the entire glove to first and recorded the out.
11. The beginning (June 16, 1997)
56,188 fans packed the old Yankee Stadium for the first regular-season matchup between the Mets and Yanks. By the end, only 20,000 or so Mets fans remained to see Dave Mlicki complete a 6-0 shutout of the Bombers.
10. Dae-Sung Koo ambushes Randy Johnson (May 21, 2005)
A reliever, Koo only had two at-bats in his short Major League career. In his first at-bat, he stood feebly at the outer edge of the batter's box, looking more likely to succumb to fainting than to swing. Then in his second at-bat, the lefty pounced on fireballer Randy Johnson, lacing a double to center. Later in the inning, Koo sprinted home from second on a bunt, uncorking a wild successful slide despite running with a weighted practice ball still in his jacket pocket.
After the game, Koo said that he hadn't run the bases since junior high.
9. Wright walks off (May 19, 2006)
In one of the most memorable regular-season moments between the two New York teams, Mets third baseman David Wright capped a four-run comeback to help the Mets get a walk-off win against Mariano Rivera. Wright's long hit technically only went down as a single despite flying to the center-field wall.
8. Matt Franco's walk-off single (July 10, 1999)
And now possibly the most dramatic regular-season moment between these two teams, and another walk-off win against the often infallible Rivera. This time, it was pinch-hitter Matt Franco who sent the crowd home happy with a ninth-inning, two-run single that followed a questionable called ball on an 0-2 count.
7. Timo Perez thrown out (Oct. 21, 2000)
Perez went from phenom to scapegoat in one short trot around the bases late in Game 1 of the first (and only) Subway Fall Classic. The fact that it was a trot was precisely the problem.
With two outs in the sixth in a scoreless game, Perez incorrectly assumed Todd Zeile's line drive to left off Andy Pettitte would leave the yard. He jogged to second, then to third, sprinting again only when Zeile's drive bounced off the top of the fence.
History remembers that Perez was thrown out at the plate because Armando Benitez allowed the Yankees to tie the game in the ninth before they took the 1-0 Series lead on Jose Vizcaino's walk-off single in the 12th. But it's often forgotten just how great Derek Jeter's relay throw to the plate and Jorge Posada's tag of Perez were. They gave the Series its first signature moment amid the sudden dropping of Mets fans' hearts.
6. Jeter jumps out on top (Oct. 25, 2000)
One swing cemented Jeter's claim to the World Series MVP Award in 2000, that short, compact dagger of a cut that won Game 4 right as it began. Jeter's leadoff homer off Bobby Jones came on the first pitch and sent the Yankees sprinting towards a commanding 3-1 series lead.
5. Clemens vs. Estes (July 15, 2002)
The final curtain on the Piazza-Roger Clemens saga finally closed two years after Clemens used his fastball to provide the initial punch. Tabbed with enacting some long-overdue revenge, Mets starter Shawn Estes missed badly when trying to plunk Clemens early in the game. He made sure Clemens left humiliated, though, by homering off the righty later in the game. Clemens had never allowed a homer to an opposing pitcher before.
4. Clemens vs. Piazza, Part I (July 8, 2000)
Speaking of the Piazza-Clemens saga, its opening act comes in at No. 4 on this list for the firestorm it created and the calamity it narrowly avoided. Weeks removed from allowing a grand slam to Piazza at Yankee Stadium, Clemens drilled the Mets star in the helmet when the two teams squared off at the Stadium in the nightcap of a day-night, two-stadium doubleheader. Piazza remained on the ground for several minutes, eventually missing a week with concussion symptoms. But the most lingering effects of the incident festered in the hostile relationship it fostered between the two superstars. They would see one another again. This time, with the stakes even higher.
3. Clemens vs. Piazza, Part II: The bat toss (Oct. 22, 2000)
Best to measure what Clemens said with what your eyes tell you.
Here's Roger: "There was no intent." "There was no intent." "There was no intent."
And certainly no love lost.
2. Luis Castillo: The drop (June 12, 2009)
Francisco Rodriguez vs. Alex Rodriguez with the game on the line. That's how the story of K-Rod vs. A-Rod should have went, what this game should have come down to. Instead it all came down on the Mets -- their heads, their pride and Rodriguez's popup alike. The latter popped right out of Castillo's glove and into the ranks of the unforgettable.
1. Yankees clinch World Series (Oct. 26, 2000)
The Yankees won their third straight World Series championship and the fourth in five seasons. Rivera closed it out, Jeter won the World Series MVP Award, all in front of a Shea Stadium crowd divided in jubilation and bitterness. It doesn't get much more memorable than that.
Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.