Inside the changes to the Great City Subway Race

Game Five: Andruw's debut
Yankees manage to grab defeat from jaws of victory in second game against Twins
The Yankees have replaced the B, D and 4 trains with their own subway colors. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

When Opening Day dawned at Yankee Stadium last week, fans watching the between-innings entertainment were in for a shock. The Yankees had changed the Great City Subway Race. Instead of featuring the MTA’s familiar 4, B and D trains, the subway cars were now labeled Road Gray, Midnight Blue and Pinstripes. Gone was the connection — albeit a tenuous one — to New York City.

In the ensuing days, fan response has been loud and negative. What started out on my part as an amusing look at the changes has turned into something personal for others. A group dedicated to bringing back the subway designations has popped up on Facebook and already has over 130 members. Others now find the subway race a shell of its former self. It’s just another part of the constant barrage of stadium noise.

Behind the scenes, rumors are flying. At first, it sounded as though the MTA had asked for licensing fees from the Yankees, but as I dug deeper into the behind-the-scenes goings-on, that story changed. In fact, this is a tale that has its origins in the original subway race at the new stadium.

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.

When reached for a comment, an MTA spokesperson was guarded. “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.” The Yankees had no comment.

So that’s where things stand right now with the subway race. I doubt we’ve heard the end of this, but the Yankees and the MTA appear to be at an impasse. I’m hoping the real subway bullets come back, but in the meantime, I think I’ll root for Pinstripes. It’s a classic look.

Game Five: Andruw's debut
Yankees manage to grab defeat from jaws of victory in second game against Twins
  • Chris

    Anything for a buck.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      Meaning what? Money wasn’t exactly the issue here.

      • Chris

        Sounds like the whole issue arouse when the Yanks tried to make money off sponsorship from the race after they already agreed the wouldn’t.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Oh yes. That does seem to be the case. If what I’ve heard from the MTA is right, it’s strange that the Yanks didn’t return their call.

  • Xstar7

    Nice try, but it’s going to take more than even the Great City Subway Race to take my mind off the Yankees debacle against the Twins.

  • paul

    please stop posting stuff about the subway race. its bad enough that i have to sit through it at the games…

    • Esteban

      Shame on Ben for making you click on this post.

      • radnom

        Putting thing on the internet is an open invitation for criticism, both good and bad.

    • Brien Jackson

      Or, conversely, you could just skip the posts about stuff you don’t want to read. Some of us may actually find it interesting.

      • MikeD

        I didn’t find it interesting in the beginning, but now I do.

  • oh hell

    The saga over the subway races is totally overplayed. Can we concentrate on what goes on the field? This topic is better left to the weekend writers and the whismy columns.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      If you don’t like it, don’t read the post. No one is forcing you to do so. We post plenty of game analysis, and there’s clearly enough interest here to warrant a follow up.

      • DQ

        Relax dude… its just that a lot of us couldn’t give two cents about the “Subway race” … calm down…

        • Benjamin Kabak

          If you don’t give two cents about it, why are you wasting your time commenting on it? It’s not like we have no other content for you. We run the site as we like and publish what we want. End of story.

    • Esteban

      Are you new to RAB? On game nights, they often have posts like this in between the game thread. DoTF, and the Recap. It’s not a big deal, no ones running away from this game. We’ll be able to discuss the game in the recap that comes at midnight.

    • MikeD

      This post came up while the Yankee game was still going on. Calm down, or go start your own blog and you can post whatever you like.

  • pollo

    So, in other words, the front office jumped the gun again, much like the Feliciano, Jeter and Soriano contracts.

    Brilliant job NYY front office.

    • bexarama

      These things are not equivalent

  • Vinny Scafuto

    I blame Randy Levine and his curly hair.


    can’t wait for the typical “ahh this isn’t about baseball you suck rab” comment that we always get at least once

  • Gonzo

    I don’t keep up on baseball finances, but wouldn’t the Yankees want people to drive and park in expensive parking spots? Doesn’t that give the Yankees reason not to promote mass transit?

    I don’t even think the Yankees own the parking spots, and I think they are going in bankruptcy, but I was wondering if there was a connnection/conflict of interest here.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      I thought of that too, but the Yanks don’t own or have a financial hand in the parking lot operations. At best, they would be neutral about it.

      • Gonzo

        I thought they had no connection. Maybe they don’t want the parking people to default and draw even more attention to a)the fact that the Yankees selected a company with a history of default and/or b)the fact that taxpayer money was flushed down the toilet.

        It could just be the Yankees wanting to play nice with a specific politician in an upcoming election and try to prolong default.

  • Jason Arnold

    I’m glad the MTA is left in the cold. Serves them right. Makes me glad I don’t live in NY anymore.

  • Noseeum

    I was there to tonight and this subway thing is lame to the extreme. Look, people come from all over the country and all over the world to the Stadium. The subway lines are pretty much the only thing to remind them they’re in NYC. It’s an important part of our city and a small way to celebrate it.

    This is important, and I’m not joking. It’s got to be fixed ASAP.

    • fire levine

      “The subway lines are pretty much the only thing to remind them they’re in NYC.”

      That and the team name, the interlocking NY, and basic awareness. Oh and “New York, New York” after the game.