A subway doubleheader

NEW YORK - This is Ernie Banks' dream, taken one step further.

Banks loved doubleheaders because they meant he could play two games in one day. Now, the New York Mets and New York Yankees are about to play two in one day, but in two New York ballparks.

With all parties agreeing yesterday, a June rainout will become part of a unique baseball bonanza: A 1:15 p.m. EDT day game between the Mets and Yankees at Shea Stadium on July 8, followed by an 8:15 p.m. game between the teams, 10 miles away at Yankee Stadium.

This is the ultimate day-night doubleheader, the solution to a schedule squeeze created by a rainout Sunday, the final game of the season's first interleague series between the teams at Yankee Stadium.

It would be the first time teams played two games at different ballparks on the same day in 97 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician.

On Sept. 7, 1903, which was Labor Day, the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Superbas (the team's nickname eventually became the Dodgers) 6-4 in the morning at Washington Park in Brooklyn. In the afternoon, rookie Henry Schmidt's four-hitter led Brooklyn to a 3-0 victory at the Polo Grounds. That split doubleheader was on the original National League schedule.

"I think it's fine," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said of the new two-park plan. "It'll be different. It takes you back to the old days when they relished doubleheaders. They loved to rain out games so you could play a doubleheader on a Sunday and get more people."

Yogi Berra, who managed both teams, appreciated that issue.

"They don't want to get cheated out of an attendance," Berra said.

Berra recalled playing day-night doubleheaders while he was with the Yankees three or four times in Boston.

"It's lousy, but sometimes you got to do it," he said. "You hang around and play cards between games."

For the Yankees and Mets, the only game will be bridge - as in "Triborough." They will be doing a commuter dash from Queens to the Bronx.

The teams have one remaining mutual day off, Aug. 31. But playing in New York that day would be a problem for the Yankees, who have a night game in Seattle on Aug. 30. A makeup game that day would mean the Yankees would have no off-days after July 31.

The alternative is to make up the game when the Yankees and Mets play at Shea in July. That series begins with a night game, Friday, July 7, followed by day games on Saturday and Sunday, July 8-9. The proximity of the stadiums makes the unusual double dip possible.

Friday was ruled out because of traffic concerns. That left Saturday or Sunday - which is likely to be switched to a night game by ESPN.

The teams agreed on the Saturday doubleheader, and the players' association approved it.

"We think it's a great idea," said Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the union. "There are some potential promotional aspects. If we can get players to take the subway, maybe we can have some fun with it."

That would mean jumping on the No. 7 train and then transferring at Grand Central for the No. 4, about a one-hour ride. The police-escorted bus would be quicker, but less interesting.

"There is some inconvenience to the players," Orza said, "but on balance, it's positive."