New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox Rivalry


Ask any baseball fan about the greatest game or the greatest player ever and there is a chance they might give a wrong answer. But ask him about the greatest rivalry of all time, and there is absolutely no chance that he would fumble. The answer would most certainly be Red Sox vs. New York Yankees. This is not the case with just big fans of baseball; almost everyone who has ever lived in the United States knows there is stiff competition between the baseball teams from Boston and New York City. But it is unlikely that everyone would be aware of the root causes of this rivalry.

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Though they know it has something to do with baseball’s greatest player ever, Babe Ruth, but what exactly happened back in 1920 is something very few modern baseball-lovers have tried to discover. Boston residents would certainly not like to find out the truth, as it might give them a good reason to hate Harry Frazee, the man responsible for series of losses encountered by Boston Red Sox since 1918.

But it is important to know what exactly was that one thing that gave birth to this rivalry. This is because on the surface, Red Sox is no match for the America’s strongest baseball team, Yankees. As TIM SULLIVAN of The Cincinnati Enquirer (1999) writes, “The Red Sox are to the Yankees what anguish is to achievement; what disappointment is to dominance; what bugs are to windshields.”

The enduring rivalry between these teams began in 1920 when Harry Frazee, the ‘unlucky’ owner of Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to New York Yankees for $100,000. This was a huge amount, which Harry Frazee wanted to utilize to fund his theatrical venture. This was the biggest managerial blunder of all times in the baseball’s long exciting history. Frazee would have never taken this step if he knew that his team would never again win World Series while the New York Yankees would win 24 championships. Babe Ruth must have advised Harry Frazee against this decision because upon his refusal to comply, he responded with ferocious hitting in next season. He broke his own record by scoring 59 home runs in 1921 and 60 in 1927. This kind of response by Babe Ruth initiated the greatest baseball rivalry and balance of power shifted in favor of New York Yankees for an indefinite period. This is now known as the Curse of the Bambino that has badly affected the Red Sox performance and fans are keenly awaiting a strong comeback 84 years after the team won its last major championship.

Since that fateful Bambino trade, New York Yankees has maintained its domination in the field of baseball. Not only do they play skillfully, they also have the right attitude towards the game. Apart from that they have the psychological edge over Red Sox that is backed by a wonderful record. A rivalry, which was initiated by Babe Ruth, was gave an enduring touch by other great players including Bucky Dent whose home run hit in 1978 occupies a major place in the successful history of Yankees.

BOB HERTZEL (1993) comments on the rivalry between two teams and explains how it intensified over the years:

Its roots are entrenched in the history of baseball, all the way back to the day the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, creating a rivalry that has endured for 70 years. It grew in the 1940s as the DiMaggio brothers competed against one another and as Joe D. And Ted Williams became the game’s most prominent players. The rivalry reached a climax in 1941 when Williams hit.406 and DiMaggio batted safely in 56 consecutive games. In the 1950s they fought on. The intensity was best captured, perhaps, on the night of Sept. 28, 1951, when Allie Reynolds was pitching a no-hitter against Boston and needed to retire Williams for the final out. He got Williams to hit a foul pop that was dropped by Yankee catcher Yogi Berra. Given a reprieve, everyone assumed Williams would get a hit but, instead, he gave Berra a second chance at a foul pop and this time Berra put a stranglehold not only on the baseball but on the Yankees’ domination of the Red Sox.”

This strong rivalry has led to undesirable fan behavior on the field. Players often face problems from the fans of the rival team as Don Zimmer recalls. Zimmer now a major part of Yankees was the coach of Red Sox when Buck Dent scored that famous 1978 home run. He feels that the rivalry that exists is not between the players but the fans, which often leads to unruly fan behavior on the field. There are fights in the stands and for some odd reason fans have refused to let go of past glories. However for the players, it is simply another day on the field where they know the better team would win. Zimmer says, “I didn’t even know there was a big rivalry until I came to the Red Sox…But I found out soon enough. I was coaching at third base in 1974 at Yankee Stadium, and the fans were throwing so much crap on the field that I had to put on a helmet for protection. The players don’t really hate each other…It’s really a rivalry of fans.” (Harvey Frommer, 2002)

It is commonly believed that the rivalry between the two teams is not only about the game itself. These teams represent two different cultures, accents, self-image and in short different lifestyles. New Yorkers consider themselves better than Boston citizens in many ways and feel they rule on the field and off it too. This kind of attitude doesn’t help matters and only adds fuel to fire of competition between Yankees and Red Sox. But fans are certainly not the only one who can be accused of unruly behavior. Though the players no longer hate each other, this was not the case in 1970s when the rivalry was its peak. During these decades, baseball lovers around the globe witnessed many unpleasant clashes between the players, most noticeably in 1976.

HAL BOCK (1999) ‘”There was no greater rivalry in the 70s,” Don Zimmer said, “Those players hated each other.” For evidence of that, there was a celebrated brawl in 1976 when Lou Piniella collided with Carlton Fisk at home plate and came up swinging. In the ensuing fight, Boston pitcher Bill Lee was body-slammed and wound up with a broken collarbone. And that happened in the serenity of May, not the pressure cooker of October. Boston’s John Valentin grew up in New Jersey. He understands the intensity of the rivalry. “Playing the Yankees is not just a regular series,” he said. “It’s a lot more than that. When you think about the playoffs and you think about America, you think about the Yankees and Red Sox.”

While Babe Ruth’s sale was the biggest blunders of all times, it was certainly not the only one that did not work out in the favor of Red Sox. Red Sox club made some other sales to New York that fiercely backfired. For example Journeyman outfielder Danny Cater was given to Boston in return of Spark Lyle but this the latter went on to win the a Cy Young Award for the Yankees. Similarly Luis Tiant and Wade Boggs were spent Boston forces when they joined Yankees only to put their careers back on the right track. Roger Clemens and newcomer Michael Coleman are just two other victims of fateful deals and only time will tell if history will repeat itself in their cases too. Why these managerial errors always work out for New York Yankees is anybody’s guess? The team offers more than just monetary benefits. The players start playing better when they have the psychological advantage of being with the team that has won 24 championships.

Let us now take a brief look at some of the games and decisions, which serve as the catalyst for this enduring rivalry. These games, brawls and decisions mark

April 18, 1923: The opening if Yankee stadium where NY Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1

Sept. 6-7, 1927: Babe Ruth end the season with the glorious record of 60 home runs with five scored in these two days

May 30, 1938: Yankees’ Jake Powell clashes with Archie McKain after being hit by a pitch

Oct. 2, 1949: Red Sox are beaten in the final two games of the season and Yankees go on to win the pennant

April 14, 1967: Red Sox player Billy Rohr’s no-hitter broken up with two outs by Catcher Elston Howard of the Yankees

March 22, 1972: Another fateful sale takes place as Sparky Lyle joins Yankees in place of Danny Carter. Lyle however is declared the ’77 AL Cy Young winner with 26 saves.

May 20, 1976: The famous Yankees-Red Sox player clash of all time occurs when Lou Piniella collides with catcher Carlton Fisk. Unfortunately during this brawl, Bill Lee of Red Sox suffered a serious shoulder injury, which proved detrimental to his career

Sept. 7-10, 1978 Yankees outshine Red Sox with a superb score of 42-9 and go on to win four consecutive games at Fenway Park

Oct. 2, 1978: The most disastrous blunder by Red Sox takes place this season when it fails to capitalize its 14 games lead. And lost to Yankees 5-4 due to Bucky Dent glorious home run.

July 4, 1983: Yankees beat Red Sox 4-0 at Yankee Stadium.

Sept. 22, 1991 The Yankees beat the Red Sox again at Fenway Park with a score of 7-5

Facts and Figures taken from Mel Antonen’s article)

Red Sox needs to get over this curse jinx if they truly want to beat Yankees and reduce the impact of this long and fierce rivalry. But it will have to overcome many things including the fact that Yankees have 24 championships behind them while Red Sox has none since 1918. They will also have to forget that they failed to capitalize their 14 game lead in 1978 and above all they will need to shun the curse story. Only then will they be able to face Yankees successfully to win a major championship.

Works Cited

TIM SULLIVAN, For Red Sox, facing Yankees is facing history, The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 13, 1999

Mel Antonen, Curses! Red Sox foiled again and again by Yankees, USA Today, 10-13-1999, pp 03C

HAL BOCK, AP Sports Writer, Yankees, Red Sox Have Long Rivalry, AP Online, 10-13-1999

Harvey Frommer, Yanks vs. Red Sox Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry,

BOB HERTZEL, Staff Writer, REKINDLING A HEATED RIVALRY., The Record (Bergen County, NJ), 08-10-1993, pp d01

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