Note: I wrote this Sunday afternoon, before the Cubs played the Mets later that evening. I watched the 9/11 ceremony the Mets had prior to the game and it was awesome.
When I first started following the Cubs, they had a pretty heated rivalry with the Mets. It was 1969, and the upstart Mets overtook the veteran, but fading Cubs to win the first NL East title. I was crushed and I also developed an intense dislike of the Mets.
If I had gotten this card in 1970 I probably would have torn it to pieces.
Things like a stupid black cat...
....and a blown call at the plate....
...made a picture like this one bring a warped smile to my face.
By the late '70s, both the Cubs and the Mets were both pretty bad teams, and the rivalry cooled. But in the mid-80's it got intense again. When the Cubs won the division in 1984, it was the Mets who were the main rival. There were some great games between the two team. A four game Cubs sweep of the Mets in early August is what really set the Cubs on their way to the division crown.
When division play began in 1969, the schedule was set up so that each team played their division rivals 18 times, nine at home and nine away. Usually, the games played in the first month of the season were with only division opponents. Then you alternated until September, when, again, all the games were within your division. It made for some exciting title races because teams knew that they would play their rivals six more times at the end of the season.
As far as the other division teams go, you would play them twelve times, split between home and the road. And for East division teams like the Cubs, that meant two nine game road trips to the West Coast, and lots of games with starting times past my bedtime.
Sadly, the schedule today is nothing at all like that. It's not unusual to be finished with division teams before Labor Day. But worse, you play teams outside your division only a handful of times. And that has killed the Cubs Mets rivalry. Now that they are in different divisions, the Mets are just another team you barely see.
The Cubs came to New York their one and only time this season over the weekend. It just seems so messed up to me that it took until early September for the Cubs to visit the Mets. Both teams and their high payrolls are going nowhere and the games had no impact on any division race. They are just a couple teams playing out the string.
Time moves on I suppose. Shea is a parking lot and the Cubs only play the Mets six times. I suppose I shouldn't care at all about the Mets any more. I bet most younger Cubs fans don't.
But I'm older, and still carrying scars from 1969. And it kills me that the Cubs couldn't sweep the Mets this past weekend....but I'll take 2 out of 3!