Home View from Underground An end to the Yanks’ Great Subway Race controversy

An end to the Yanks’ Great Subway Race controversy

by Benjamin Kabak

The Yanks' own subway trains are going the way of the dodo. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

For the baseball fans among us, the subways often play an integral part in our enjoyment of the sport. If I’m heading to see my Yankees play in the Bronx, I’ll always take the B, D or 4 train, and if I’m venturing out to Coney Island for a Cyclones game or Flushing to see the Mets, the subways are always the way to go. In the Bronx, the Yankees have long embraced the subway by featuring the Great City Subway Race on the jumbotron, and although I’ve bemoaned the inaccuracies of the scoreboard entertainment in the past, the subway race is a quintessential Noo Yawk part of the Yankee Stadium experience.

Imagine my surprise then when, during the fourth inning of Opening Day, the subway race no longer featured MTA trains. Instead of the B, D and 4 trains, the Yanks were using three trains labeled Road Gray, Midnight Blue and Pinstripes. The animated contest still started at Herald Square and Grand Central, but the trains weren’t a part of New York’s subway system.

Once I got home from the game and thawed off from the cold, I got on the horn with the MTA, and authority sources told me the change seemed to stem from a misunderstanding. As I reported over at River Ave. Blues, when the Yankees first started the subway race, they asked the MTA for permission to use the transit agency’s intellectual property. The subway bullets, after all, are MTA trademarks, and the authority granted that permission, for free, as long as the Yankees did not attach a sponsor to the race. Here, the story gets a little fuzzy. The Yankees had long had Dunkin Donuts sponsoring the race; the 4 train was frequently slowed by a jelly donut in the tracks. The MTA though didn’t seem to notice a sponsor had signed on until last year when Subway took over.

Following the 2010 season, MTA sources tell me, the authority attempted to reach out to the Yankees to discuss the subway race sponsorship. At no point did the MTA ask the Yankees for money, and one person with whom I spoke said the MTA had no plans to do so. Rather, they were going to ask the Yankees to append a public service announcement to the subway race urging fans to take mass transit to the game. The Yankees though never returned the MTA’s calls, and the authority never had the chance to make this offer.

For its part, the MTA was disappointed. “The video race was considered a method to promote taking mass transit to games,” Kevin Ortiz said. ” We are disappointed the Yankees decided to change the look of the trains.”

Yet, this story has a happy ending as the Yanks and the MTA resolved their differences. The trains, as I noted at RAB, will return to the scoreboard tonight, and while the Yanks’ sponsorship will remain, the race will now conclude with a public service announcement concerning mass transit. “The Subway Race,” the authority said in a statement, “will continue to remind fans that taking the train to the game remains the quickest and least expensive way to get to the game.”

For the subways, all’s well that ends well. Yet, I wonder how the company running the South Bronx’s ridiculous $35-per-car parking lots feels about the whole thing. If the Yanks and the MTA are making a more vocal push to promote mass transit at the stadium, those parking lots, which shouldn’t have been built in the first place, will continue to remain empty.

You may also like


Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) April 6, 2011 - 2:54 pm

I would love for the Mets to have a race involving the (7) vs vs LIRR Port Washington Branch. They had that hideous race between the arpielle equipment trucks, but I think they did away with it…

Let’s Go Express!

Lawrence Velázquez April 6, 2011 - 4:17 pm

The 7 beating the LIRR would be even more ridiculous than the B beating the 4. Just a little more ridiculous though.

Douglas John Bowen April 6, 2011 - 3:37 pm

As a railroad advocate and a Yankee fan, I have little sympathy for the owners of parking decks who, for once!, face stiff competition from public transit on a nearly even playing field. No one is holding a gun to autoheads who insist on driving to the game and paying the price.

ferryboi April 6, 2011 - 4:42 pm

There was a controversy? Guess I missed it. Haven’t been to the “new” Yankee Stadium since I don’t have $500 to blow on a few seats, parking and a couple of hot dogs. Every stadium I’ve been to in the last 10 years has been a corporate nightmare.

VLM April 6, 2011 - 4:45 pm

Shockingly, you can take three subways, Metro-North or a ferry to Yankee Stadium, and good tickets are available on the secondary market for under $20. Your high-priced hyperbole is just that.

Clarke April 6, 2011 - 5:08 pm

You can easily get tickets for Yankees games for less than $5 on StubHub. This, plus $4.50 roundtrip on the subway, makes for a total of $10 or less per person for a game. Eat dinner before. Done.

Jason B April 6, 2011 - 9:25 pm

They were on sale for last night for 49 cents on StubHub. I went Monday night for $2, haha.

Allan April 6, 2011 - 5:20 pm

Thanks for the report! I was at the game Monday night, and was wondering about that…

Clarke April 6, 2011 - 6:14 pm

B, D, and 4 will be back starting tonight.


VLM April 6, 2011 - 7:01 pm

Did you read the post? That’s what Ben said in the second-to-last paragraph.

John-2 April 6, 2011 - 8:30 pm

Now all they need to do is move the starting line back to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street, where all three lines actually stop on the way to the Stadium…

dtribone April 6, 2011 - 11:35 pm

Bronx Parking Development (the owner of the Yankee Stadium lots) is basically bankrupt and may be forced to sell some of its properties. My guess on the first to go would be the open-air lots along the Harlem River, then the older lot south of the old stadium since its capital costs are probably mostly paid off (unlike the new lots by the new stadium). This is a great opportunity for redevelopment, hopefully the city won’t botch it, but I’m not holding my breath.


petey April 7, 2011 - 2:56 pm

“What did the Bronx have over Harlem? Stellar subway access.”


Leave a Comment