(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)
When Ryota Igarashi took the mound in the ninth inning of last night’s Subway Series opener, he became the 113th player to suit up for both the Yankees and Mets. Somewhere up above, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, the fraternity’s founding member, must have been smiling. However, Igarashi did more than just add his name to a long list. By making an appearance for the Yankees against the Mets he joined an even more select group of players who rode the rails on both sides of the Subway Series.
Since the Subway Series was inaugurated in 1997, 10 position players have participated as a member of both teams, but only two had considerable experience playing on both sides of the East River. In 42 plate appearances, Gary Sheffield posted an underwhelming OPS of .720 versus the Mets, but after going across town, his Subway Series impact was much greater. Against the Yankees, Sheffield posted a line of .429/.500/.905 in 24 plate appearances, which not only leads all members of this select class, but ranks behind only Richard Hidalgo for the highest OPS of any player with at least 20 plate appearances in the Subway Series.
Robin Ventura had the most plate appearances among the two-timers, but didn’t distinguish himself with either team. His .597 OPS in 62 plate appearances with the Mets was probably more helpful to the Yankees than his similarly subpar performance when he traded in his orange pinstripes for navy blue. Despite his overall struggles, however, it wasn’t all bad for Ventura during the Subway Series. On June 14, 2002,Ventura’s two-run homer in the 10th inning helped the Yankees beat the Mets 4-2, so all things considered, the Bronx Bombers can claim the former third baseman on their side of the ledger.
Several brand name pitchers like David Cone, Dwight Gooden, and Al Leiter have pitched in the Bronx and Queens, but the short list of hurlers who experienced the Subway Series from both dugouts is much more modest. Orlando Hernandez, who is the only starting pitcher of the group, had the biggest impact, but it was one-sided in favor of the Yankees. El Duque not only lost both games he started as a Met, but while with the Yankees, he went 2-0 with one save in his four appearances. Of course, Mets’ fans can always take consolation in the 2000 World Series. In game 3, the Amazins beat El Duque for their only win of the series.
Like Igarashi, the other pitchers who played for both teams in the Subway Series were relievers, who, with the exception of Mike Stanton, had very little influence on the outcome of each game. And yet, one of these pitchers of little renowned probably appreciated the experience more than any other. Allen Watson’s eight-year major league career is likely to fade into the anonymity of baseball history, but the Jamaica, Queens born pitcher will probably never forget his Subway Series experience. A Yankees’ fan growing up in the shadow of Shea Stadium, Watson rooted for Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson and Sparky Lyle, so his appearance in the ninth inning of a blowout game 12 years ago to the date had to be special. Although the left hander may not have another claim to fame, he’ll always be the first pitcher to appear on both sides of the Subway Series.