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CNN Today

Subway Series Awakens New York History

Aired October 24, 2000 - 1:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Baseball's World Series moves from New York's Yankee Stadium all the way over to Shea Stadium tonight. Some folks think New Yorkers are making too much of their series.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: But as CNN's Jeff Greenfield will tell us, the return of the Subway Series after 44 years is about more than just baseball.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go Yankees!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what the "Mets" stands for? My Entire Team Sucks.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST (ON CAMERA): If you live west of the Hudson or north of the Bronx Zoo, you may find all of this highly unappetizing: the team with the largest payroll in baseball playing the team with one of the five largest payrolls. New Yorkers arrogantly convinced, once again, they're at the center of the known universe.

But if you understand what's happened to New York over the last 40 years or so, you'll understand why the return of the Subway Series means what it does.

(voice-over): In a sense, New York's glory days were in black and white, off the field as well as on. The bright lights of Broadway, the days of nightclub swells in fancy dress, great ships crossing the ocean from Manhattan piers, bright lights and skyscrapers -- baseball seemed a perennial affirmation of New York's supremacy.

The year Yankee Stadium opened, 1923, was the year the Yankee's first won the World Series. The eras of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle spanned more than 40 years. And all those black-and-white memories -- Billy Martin's game-saving catch in '52; Brooklyn's one and only championship in '55; Larsen's perfect game in '56.

In the years just after the end of World War II, New York had three Major League baseball teams, 10 daily newspapers, the big stars of a new medium called television; more financial, cultural and political power than any other city -- and then something happened.

(on camera): A city that felt itself the center of the universe became a city under perpetual siege.

(voice-over): The year after the '56 series, the seventh Subway Series in 10 years, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California. The Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field were turned to rubble. In the years after that move West, the stories out of New York city were not out of power and glory, but about chaos and decay.

There were school strikes, subway strikes; the cops walked out, so did the firefighters, so did the people who picked up the garbage. There were blackouts, looting. One year the city tottered on the edge of bankruptcy while the nation seemed to say, who cares? Another year, a crazed killer stalked the streets and looters ran wild when the lights went out.

And the subways became not the symbol of the World Series, but a symbol of terror and vigilante justice against criminals gone wild, as in the film series "Death Wish."

And now, New York is back. The safest big city in America, swimming in Wall Street money; and if its population is now dwarfed by California, there is something about today's New York the old New York didn't have: writer Pete Hamill.

PETE HAMILL, WRITER: The new New York, the New York that has been here for five or six years, which is an extraordinary city -- better than, in my opinion, than it was in the '50s because at least we're hitting race straight on, which we didn't do in the '50s.

I mean, so what you see is Pakistani guys with Yankee caps; you see Chinese guys with Mets caps. That's the kind of passports all immigrants always brought here -- what my father brought here, what the Italians and the Jews brought here.

JOE TORRE, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: And being a kid brought up in Brooklyn, again, I was spoiled because we always had the Dodgers and the Yankees or the Giants and the Yankees or Giants and somebody, the Dodgers and somebody.

But this means something and to me it's exciting and I think the city, being as excited as they are right now, it's supposed to be this way.

GREENFIELD: So, to end where we began, what does a New Yorker, caught up in the midst of all this self-congratulation, say to the rest of America?

HAMILL: Celebrate them. New York went through its humiliation. It was not flat on its back; it got up to one knee and then it stood and took the count and then it came back.

You get up and you go on. And I think that's part of what these two teams represent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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