New Jersey's Loyalty Divided in World Series
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. – When the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees meet in the World Series on Wednesday, New Jersey will be a state of divided loyalties.
Somewhere around Exit 7A of the New Jersey Turnpike, the concrete ribbon connecting the New York suburbs of north Jersey to the outskirts of Philadelphia in south Jersey, is the line of demarcation separating Phillies and Yankees fans.
At the turnpike's Richard Stockton rest area, about halfway between New York and Philadelphia, fans are bleeding Phillies Red or Yankees blue in a baseball version of the Crips and Bloods, as tractor-trailers laden with chemicals and scrap metal roar by.
"Y'all goin' down!" Douglass Thomas of Roselle warned the Phillies and their fans, whose money he is looking forward to taking if the Yanks win the series in six games. "Our bullpen is better than Philly's, and I can't wait to face Pedro Martinez, because we have his number."
Such talk is laughable to the likes of Elaine Finn of Audubon, in New Jersey's Philadelphia suburbs.
"The Phillies are the superior team, and you want to put the Yankees in their place," she said. "There's nothing to like about that team. I'm looking forward to another parade down Broad Street to celebrate our second straight championship. It's our turn for a dynasty now!"
The Yankees have won 26 world championships, the Phillies, two. The last time the two teams met in the Fall Classic, in 1950, New York swept the Phils in four games.
A Quinnipiac University poll in June found the Yankees rule New Jersey when it comes to fan loyalty, 44 percent to the Phillies' 22 percent. The Mets (remember them?) took 21 percent.
Baseball's version of the 38th Parallel or the Mason-Dixon Line corresponds roughly to the boundary between the Philadelphia and New York television markets. South Jersey gets the Philly TV stations and Phillies games; north Jersey receives the New York stations and Yankee games.
To get to Yankee Stadium or Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, most fans will have to use the turnpike, the much-maligned roadway whose images of smokestacks, gasoline tanks and toll booths introduced each episode of "The Sopranos."
At the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Moorestown, just off Exit 4 in south Jersey, there is such a sea of red that you almost expect Moses to come part it. Here, deep in Phillies country, you cannot buy any Yankees gear.
"It's about bragging rights," said Al Nicolosi, 52, a financial planner in Marlton.
Ryan Tetro, a third-year student at Seton Hall Law School in Newark and a Yankees season ticket holder, picks the Bombers in six, on the strength of C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
"If they pitch C.C. on three days' rest, they won't lose any game he pitches, and I trust Pettitte to win at least one," he said. "And I don't think we'll lose any games at home."
You want divided loyalties? Joe Finley is the co-owner of the minor-league Trenton Thunder (a Yankees Class AA affiliate) and the Lakewood Blue Claws (the Phillies' Class A affiliate).
"I grew up a Phillies fan and I bled Phillies red, but it's the perfect storm, being affiliated with both the Yanks and the Phillies," he said. "These are definitely the two best teams in baseball, two juggernauts coming right at one another."
The only prediction he will offer: "It's going to be great theater for everyone."
Smack in the middle of no-man's land is Gregg Berke, a lawyer and die-hard Phillies fan. The house he and his wife bought last year in Manalapan had one major flaw that would have been a deal breaker had it not been for his wife's gentle reasoning.
"One of the smaller bedrooms where the previous owner's 2-year-old lived was a shrine to the Yankees," said Berke, 37. "He had painted the walls Yankee blue. It had hand-painted jerseys with the numbers of all the great Yankee players, and around the top was the Yankee Stadium facade.
"I didn't want to buy the house, but my wife was able to see the big picture more clearly than I was," he said. "We painted over it. Now the room is normal colors, green and gray. I guess you could argue that makes it an Eagles room."