Gallagher column: Subway Series a big deal

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2011

FLUSHING, N.Y. — The game hadn’t started yet when a roaring boo rang out over Citi Field.
The scoreboard was flashing the New York Yankees lineup.
Friday night was going to be the Mets’ time. The Subway Series was beginning at their place and every seat was filled.
“It’s a big deal up here and across the nation,” understated Rowan County’s own Bobby Parnell, a Mets relief pitcher.
At game time, it was 77 degrees. Jets, one after the other, flew over, heading for LaGuardia Airport, seemingly so close you could reach up and touch them.
The Mets are to the Yankees what the Clippers are to the Lakers. They usually play second fiddle. But this Subway Series would be different. The Mets were hot coming in, having scored 54 runs in five games, including 14 in three of them.
They tried to shrug off the fact the Yankees had won five straight and had the second-best record in baseball after the Phillies. Their no-names were going to beat the big names.
The city’s three tabloids, the Post, Daily News and Newsday — who compete against each other as hard as the teams — did quite a hype job beforehand. Every angle possible was taken, including salaries.
For the record, the Post reported the Yankees’ payroll this year is $163,400,000. Ten Yankees make at least $4 million. The Mets’ payroll is far less at $78,600,000, including the $433,500 salary of Parnell, who played the infield for East Rowan and the Rowan Legion back in the day.
Everything was set for a hot time in the Citi. But alas, nothing ever seems to change with the Bronx Bombers. The Mets’ fans, loud at the beginning, were muffled immediately and sent home disappointed. The Yankees scored three quick runs in the top of the first. Some guy named Ivan Nova, got through five innings. The Mets, who have a losing record at home, never got anything going and lost 5-1.

Watching from the Mets’ dugout was Ken Oberkfell, who gives us a second Salisbury connection. He was the manager of Philadelphia’s Class A Piedmont Boll Weevils for three years before eventually getting back to the majors.
No matter how big the club, Oberkfell has not forgotten where he came from.
“It was a good opportunity for me to get started,” he said of his days here with the Boll Weevils. “Lee Thomas was with the Phillies and said the job was open. I had never heard of Kannapolis, North Carolina. But I enjoyed my three years there. It was a nice place with friendly people. I grew up in a small town of 1,900 in Illinois so it gave me that small-town feel.”
How things have changed. He actually interviewed for the Mets managerial position, which was given to Terry Collins. Obie is the Mets’ bench coach.
“I’m happy with the way it worked out, working for Terry,” he said. “He goes with the hot hands. He’s honest with people. And he plays everybody so they stay sharp. That’s important.”
What is a bench coach?
“Terry gives me the lineup and I put it on the card,” Oberkfell said. “I look at the stats a lot to see who’s hot and who’s not. I’m kinda like his right-hand man.”
Oberkfell had to be the main man when Collins was thrown out of Friday’s game for arguing a call. Jose Reyes tried to make it to third but was called out after Alex Rodriguez made what Reyes and Collins thought was a phantom tag.
Oberkfell managed Reyes in Columbia, S.C., as well as Jimmy Rollins in Kannapolis.
“You appreciate stuff like that,” Oberkfell said. “It’s special to see those guys make it to the big leagues and feel like you had a helping hand in it. Now, it’s extra special to be in the big leagues and see them doing it.”
Oberkfell said he always seeks out all-star Rollins every time the Mets and Phillies hook up.
“I give him a hug and wish him the worst,” Oberkfell laughed.

The day after the opener, you realize how much the New York media revs up the fans. For instance, the New York Post sent 10 reporters to the game and they produced 16 — count ‘em, 16 — stories on one game.
Parnell was asked about the New York media. He admitted there is a big difference when talking with the media from the Salisbury Post and the New York Post.
“You always have a clubhouse full,” he said of the reporters, giving a quick thumbs-up to the Mets’ writers.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “We’ve got some good guys covering the team, especially when you’re winning.”
And when the Mets lose?
“You really can’t escape them,” Parnell grinned.
It’s all part of a Summer in the Citi, especially when the guys in pinstripes come over to play.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or