It’s that time once again. When the pastoral game of baseball becomes a war. When even mild mannered fans become filled with bloodlust and hate. When friends become enemies, and enemies become bitter rivals. It is time for Yankees/Red Sox.
Usually, I reserve these times for blasting the National Outlets and mainstream media for bleeding the most epic rivalry in sports for all it’s worth. But I’m not going to do that today. Today I am going to celebrate The Rivalry. Because, as any Yankee or Red Sox fan can tell you, these dates are circled immediately after the schedule is released for the upcoming season. Records don’t matter. Standings don’t matter. And, for three or four days at a time, the rest of the baseball world recedes into the background.
So, before we delve into the cornucopia that is Yankees/Red Sox, I thought it’d be fun to look at 18 reasons why this is the greatest rivalry in North American sports. Why 18? Because the teams square of 18 times this season. Yes, there are many more reasons that I couldn’t fit in this space, and the list is in no particular order. These are just the first 18 that came to mind. So please, enjoy the list. And feel free to add your own reasons why you love this clash of perennial titans. After all, a rivalry is nothing without passionate fans!
1) The Curse Of Bambino– Babe Ruth was larger than life and a Baseball Icon. But, for Boston fans, he loomed even larger in death. For it was Harry Frazee who sold Ruth to the Yankees to help finance is Broadway Play. Ruth helped transform the once lackluster Yankees into the most successful franchise the World has ever seen. All the while, The Red Sox became a study in loss and disappointment. Before Ruth was traded, the Yankees were not only second fiddle to the dominant Red Sox (winners of 5 of the first 12 World Series played), they were vagabonds in their own city, renting out the Polo Grounds from the dominant New York Giants. Ruth’s arrival in New York changed the course of Baseball History… for the Yankees, The Red Sox, and Baseball in New York.
2) 1978– After winning the 1977 World Series, it seemed that the incidents that made The Bronx Zoo what it was were starting to weigh on the team. Instead of trying to defend their title, the Yankees found themselves struggling just to keep the dominant Red Sox within sight in the AL East race. But all of that changed in July as the Yankees, trailing the AL East leading Red Sox by 14.5 games, surged to a second half comeback for the ages. In September, the Yankees and Red Sox played a four game series in Boston in which the Yankees swept the Red Sox and outscored them 42-9. The Boston Massacre, as it came to be known, completely erased Boston’s once insurmountable lead. It all led to a one game playoff which is famous for Bucky Dent’s improbable home run… And another World Series Title. It should be noted that the Yankees replicated their massacre in August of 2006. Proving that even without The Curse, the Yankees are the dominant team.
3) Bucky Dent– As mentioned above, Dent is Public Enemy Number One (That may be open to debate) in Boston. With the Red Sox clinging to a 2-0 lead, the light hitting Dent blasted a 3-run home run over the Green Monster, sending the Yankees to the ALCS and plunging the dagger further into the hearts of Red Sox Nation.
4) Bill Buckner– The Yankees presence over the Red Sox has always loomed large amid the Rivalry. But during the 1986 World Series it took it’s first steps out of the Bronx to the Borough of Queens. Poised to finally end The Curse, the Red Sox succumbed to an incredible Game 6 comeback staged by the New York Mets that was highlighted by the misplaying of a routine ground ball that was mishandled by the usually sure handed Bill Buckner. What made it worse was that the Red Sox had another chance at glory, and even held a 3-0 lead in Game 7, only to see the Mets come back once more. It seemed that even in a city as big as New York, the Red Sox couldn’t hide from The Curse Of The Bambino.
5) 2003– It seemed that the playing field had finally been leveled. And with the advent of the Wild Card, the Yankees and Red Sox took their show to the League Championship Series for the first time. It it lived p to the billing. Close games, brawls, and an epic Game 7 comeback proved that there was no love loss for these bitter rivals. But the Series is best known for Aaron Boone’s dramatic 11th inning home run off of Tim Wakefield that sent the Yankees to the World Series and extended the curse to an 86th year. This series also cos Grady Little his job as he inexplicably left Pedro Martinez in the game instead of going to his bullpen with a lead in the 8th inning.
6) Aaron Boone– An unlikely hero, Boone was picked up by the Yankees at the trading deadline. Deals like this happen every year. Some fall into obscurity. Some work out and the player helps the team to a championship. This one sent Boone straight into the Lore of the Rivalry. As one Red Sox fan pointed out to me in the days that followed, “His name begins with a B. Red Sox fans saw it coming.” The “B” obviously referring to Babe, Bucky, & Buckner. It should be noted that Boone played another role in this rivalry as well. While playing a pick up game of basketball, he blew ut hi knee, thus voiding his contract with the Yankees. This turn of events allowed New York to swoop in and acquire Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers. The Rangers had already agreed to trade A-Rod to Boston, but the Union killed the deal because financial wranglings. The end result was that A-Rod went on to play third base for the Yankees, and Red Sox Nation had another player to hate. This wouldn’t be the last time the Yankees swept in a stole player from out under Boston’s nose.
7) 2004– Though the Yankees won the 2003 ALCS in dramatic fashion, and swept in to acquire the most dominant hitter of the era, the Red Sox finally got in a shot of their own. After falling behind 3-0 in a rematch of the 2003 ALCS, Boston staged their own magical comeback and turned the Rivalry on it’s ear by becoming the first team in Baseball to erase a 0-3 deficit in the Postseason. Finally breaking the Curse Of The Bambino. The comeback vaulted Boston to their first World Series in 86 years. And doing against their bitter rival only added fuel to the most intense rivalry in sports. The series, most remembered for the comeback, also featured the bloody sock, A-Rod slapping at a ball running to first, & David Robert’s running ability… among other things.
8) Who’s Your Daddy– Every Rivalry needs a hero and a villain. And depending on which side of the fence you’re on, the title will change. Pedro Martinez is reviled in the Yankee Universe. Whether it’s throwing at Posada’s head, or tossing Don Zimmer to the ground. Pedro is persona non grata among Yankee fans. Though he is one of the games premeir pitcher’s, Martinez found himself unable to navigate the Yankees vaunted offense and in September of 2004, following a loss at the Satdium, he was heard to say “They beat me. They’re that good right now. They’re that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.” This became a rally cry for Yankee fans that extended to the 2009 World Series, where Martinez was a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees were his Daddy that year too!
9) Munson Vs. Fisk– This hearkens back to a time when the players on both teams really didn’t like each other. This hate was epitomized by Munson and Fisk. Munson was hard nosed and didn’t back down from anyone. He seemed to always be in the shadow of Fisk and he didn’t like it. He was the first Yankee Captian since Lou Gherig. And he deserved that title. Their hatred for one another is one of the many things that make this rivalry so great. And like Varitek (see below), Fisk was an ass (to Yanke fans anyway), but at least he fought fair.
10) A-Rod Vs. Varitek– This one doesn’t have the length of Munson and Fisk, but it could be pointed to as the point that the Red Sox began to level the playing field in the Rivalry. On July 24th. 2004, A-Rod and Varitek exchanged words, and punches. Always looking for something to rally around (Cowboy Up, Idiots), the Red Sox used this as the fuel that would eventually end The Curse. There is one thing that I take umbrage with regarding this incident. Varitek wouldn’t even remove his mask to exchange blows. All the while, shoving his giant catchers mitt into A-Rod’s grill. I thought then, as I do now, that the move was rather cowardly. If you’re going to fight… Fight like a man.
11) Derek Jeter– Not since the days of Joe DiMaggio has there been a Yankee who so graciously epitomizes what it means to where The Pinstripes. Jeter is the personification of Yankee Success. And for that, he is understandably hated by Red Sox Nation.
12) Dustin Pedroia– Everything that Derek Jeter is to the Yankees… That’s what Pedroia is to the Red Sox. And for that, Yankees Universe hates him.
13) The Evil Empire– As the saying goes “Stick and stones may break my bones…” When the Yankees swooped in (yet again) and signed Cuban star Jose Contreras away from Boston, Larry Luchino dubbed them The Evil Empire. The problem is that the Yankees latched onto this title and ran with it. Proving that “Good” doesn’t always win, and rooting for the Bad Guy is a lot of fun. A point of note. In December of 2008, the “Evil Empire” would again foil the plans of the Red Sox by signing Mark Teixeira away from them at the last minute. It was a move that would help the Yankees eventually net their 27th World Series Championship.
14) David Ortiz– The once obscure Ortiz became a fixture in The Rivalry by ascending to the status of Yankee killer. Only Manny Ramirez strikes more fear into the hearts of Yankee fans when the game is on the line.
15) Manny Ramirez– Aloof as he is, Manny is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. And, like him or not, he has a flair for the dramatic. He also loves to hit against the Yankees. He, like Ortiz, is a staple of The Rivalry. Especially since he represents the times which it would seem the Red Sox had the edge over the Yankees.
16) Teixeira vs. Padilla– As with most rivalries, there has to be players that don’t like each other. Enter Mark Teixeira and Vincente Padilla. Both have a history that dates back to when they were with other teams. And even when they were teammates in Texas. I don’t think anyone can argue that Padilla is a bit of a head hunter. And Teixeira, who is normally very soft spoken, as been very vocal when it has come to the Red Sox maligned reliever. This kind of story is always good for the media. Put the players in Yankees and Red Sox Jerseys… it’s the stuff that rivalries are made of.
17) 27-6– The Red Sox may have been one of the most successful franchises at the dawn of the game. But there is no doubt which team holds the edge when it comes to hardware. The Yankees 27 World Series Championships are by far the most of any North American franchise in any sport. The Yankees have lost more World Series than the Red Sox have played in. As the slogan says… “Got Rings?”
18) Since The Curse Ended– On the surface, it would seem that the Red Sox hold an advantage over the Yankees. After all, they’ve won the Word Series twice (2004, 2008) while the Yankees have won only once (2009). But those numbers don’t tell the entire story. For that we have to dig a little deeper:
American League Pennants: Boston 2; New York 1
AL East Titles: New York 5; Boston 2
Failed to reach the Postseason: Boston 3; New York 1
As you can see, the implementation of the Wild Card has helped tremendously in evening this Rivalry. Who knows how it might have played out if this was how the postseason was set up so many years ago.
But it doesn’t matter who is dominating at the moment, or what history may say. What it comes down to is that these series are looked forward too by players and fans alike. A Rivalry like this is why we watch sports. So, wherever you are this weekend, enjoy the latest installment of Yankees/ Red Sox! I know I will!