“We are pleased to work out a deal with Walter O’Malley for a new stadium at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. We hope this keeps the Dodgers in Brooklyn for a very long time. At the same time, the Giants will be moving to a new stadium in Flushing, NY, to coincide with our World’s Fair in the 1960s.”
Mayor Robert Wagner – Sometime in the Late 1950s.
That would have been music to New York fans ears if that happened. If both the Dodgers and Giants stayed in New York with Walter O’Malley getting the site of the Barclay’s Center and Horace Stoneham having a change of heart and eventually getting Shea Stadium – or selling the team to Joan Payson, how different would our baseball world be?
And what kind of fan would you be, since the Mets would never have existed.
What if the Dodgers and Giants stayed in New York?
As mentioned above, there would have been no need for the Mets. Sure, Major League Baseball eventually would have expanded, but the West Coast would have received the expansion teams and not New York.
And that would have changed the way we all rooted for our teams. It’s safe to say, most Met fans would have pledged their allegiance to one of the two National League teams in town. And some – heaven forbid – may have rooted for the Yankees.
Back in the 1950s, your rooting interests came from the neighborhood you grew up in. If you were from Brooklyn, you rooted for the Dodgers, while those in Manhattan tended towards the Giants. Queens was split, while the Bronx gathered Yankee fans.
Tourists also tended to see Yankee games, because of the history there.
It probably would have stayed the same. Brooklyn would have gotten the Dodgers, while Queens would be for the Giants – remember, they would be playing in Shea Stadium (which possibly would have become to be known as Stoneham Stadium).
Since Manhattan became a transient town, those fans would probably have leaned toward who was winning and that would continue.
Moreover, no matter where you lived, the rooting tendencies would be reflected by what your family rooted for. If your dad was a Dodger fan, more than likely, you would be a Dodger fan and so on down the line. That’s not a blanket statement, however, as some families became split down the middle in recent years. Twenty-First Century fans has seen some fans actually root for teams and players in other cities, and how often do we now see couples or fathers/children at Yankees-Mets games where one is wearing a Mets jersey and the other is wearing a Yankees jersey.
But if there were no Mets, the history of baseball would have been different. Tom Seaver would have been a Phillie or an Indian. Gil Hodges would have stayed in Washington to manage or even run the Dodgers in Brooklyn.
The histories would have been somewhat the same for both the Dodgers and Giants. The Dodger Dome in Brooklyn would have been an expansive field that would have favored pitching (can you just visualize sandy Koufax mowing down the Yankees in the ’63 Fall Classic in the comfort of a domed ballpark?), while the Giants would have gotten a fairer stadium for themselves.
Willie Mays likely could have broken the home run record playing his career in Flushing Meadows rather than Candlestick, while Duke Snider would not have had that sharp decline playing in the LA Coliseum for a few years.
It would have been business as usual. Both the Dodgers and Giants were established franchises that have kept the status quo. If either team went into the tank, fans would have abandoned them, and maybe even take up the cause of the Yankees.
You see, the real rivalry was between the Dodgers and Giants, since they played in the same league and ultimately the same division. Unlike the Yankee – Red Sox wars, this one was pretty much even. Neither Dodger or Giant fans would switch sides, but they might turn on a Yankee game during a lean year.
But what would have been missing is the barometer of life the Mets would have given us. They reflected the new generation uprising in the 1960s and then in the late 1970s, the malaise set in, much like it did during the Carter administration. And then with the rise of America in the 1980s, so did the Mets.
On a side note, and not to get political here, if you think about it, the Mets tend to do better with a Republican in office. They came in during Kennedy and Johnson, but went to two World Series during the Nixon administration and were competitive under Ford.
They fell apart during Carter and came back stronger with Reagan and Bush 41. They went down again with Clinton, but did make the playoffs and World Series his last year. And then in 2006, under Bush 43, and had nothing but failure with Obama in office.
Would the Dodgers have been “Republican Lucky?” Or would that association go to the Queens Giants? Maybe it was Moses in the Meadows Magic, as in Robert Moses, the city architect who guided a team to Flushing Meadows.
Of course that that’s pure coincidence but shows what kind of pulse the Mets have. All of that would have been lost if Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham decided to stay.
No Mets would have meant no Mr. Met, the first mascot, no lovable loser Casey Stengel (he might have retired after 1960, or just stayed in the Yankee organization), no “placards,” which gave birth to Banner Day, no Marvelous Marv, no Tom Terrific, no Miracle Mets, no Ya Gotta Believe, and no “gets by Buckner.”
So next time someone laments about the good old days, remember what the Mets meant to this city for 50 years and how they shaped our lives. Sure it would be nice to have Dem Bums and the Giants, but it worked out in the end.