They are at it again this second weekend of July 2012, just as they have been at it all through the decades the two franchises have been part of Major League Baseball, since the beginning of the last century.
Researching, writing and interviewing for my books Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of the House That Ruth Built and Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox, I had as back story and front story the narrative of the oldest and strongest rivalry in American baseball history - the Yankees of New York versus the Red Sox of Boston. I wanted the more than 200 people I interviewed to talk ballparks. Most did. But many wanted to also talk Sox-Yanks rivalry. And why not?
It is not only a competition of teams, cities, styles, ballparks, fans and, at times, writers. It is a rivalry of contrasting images. The New York Yankees represent the most successful franchise in baseball history. It's a club of legends with Ruth, Gehrig, Combs, Dickey, Ford, Berra, Munson, Raschi, Reynolds, Mantle, Maris, Jackson, Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mattingly, Clemens and many others. Through the years, winning has been as much a part of Yankee baseball as the pinstriped uniforms, and the monuments and plaques. The New York Yankees are the most successful of all franchises in baseball history, in sports history.
Through the years winning has been as much a part of the ethos of the Yankees as the pinstriped uniforms, the monuments and plaques in deep centerfield. It was once said: "Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for General Motors." Unlike General Motors, the Yankees roll on.
The Red Sox - less successful, more human, more vulnerable - have most of the time seemed like the rest of us. For the team and its fans, winning at times has not seemed as important as beating the Yankees and then winning. For the fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, the slogan used to be "Wait 'til Next Year." For Boston fans it has been -"When are they going to fold this year?"
The competition is the Charles River versus the East River; Boston Common compared to Central Park. History, culture, style, pace, dreams, and self-images. All are mixed up in the competition in one way or another.
Don Zimmer: 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 rivalry is violence. It is also the Babe and Bucky and Butch. It is Carl Yastrzemski trotting out to left field at Fenway with cotton sticking out of his ears to muffle the boos of disheartened Sox fans. It is the Scooter, the Green Monster, and the Hawk. It is Rich McKinney on April 22, 1972 making four errors on ground balls to third base that figured in Boston's scoring of nine runs to defeat the Yankees, 11-7. It is Joe Dee versus the Thumper, Yaz and the Commerce Comet, Mombo and King Kong.
The rivalry is Mickey Mantle slugging a 440-foot double at Yankee Stadium in 1958 and tipping his cap to the Red Sox bench. It's Williams spitting, Jackson gesturing and Martin punching. Fisk's headaches from the tension he felt coming into Yankee Stadium. It is also the Yankees' Mickey Rivers jumping out of the way of an exploding firecracker thrown into the visitors' dugout at Fenway.
The rivalry consists of signs: ‘I LOVE NEW YORK, TOO, IT IS THE YANKEES I HATE,' or 'BOSTON CHOKES. BOSTON SUCKS. BOSTON DOES IT IN STYLE. ‘
Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry – the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees just kept on going at fever pitch as through the 1949 season. On June 28th after missing the first 69 games of the season because of an ailing heel‚ Joe DiMaggio finally returned to the Yankee lineup. His single and home run helped the Bombers beat the Red Sox 6-4 in a night game at Fenway before 36‚228‚ the largest night crowd in Fenway history to that point.
The next day the Yankees came back from seven runs down. DiMag torqued the charge with a 3-run homer in the 5th and another home run in the 8th inning.
"You can hate the Yankees," one sign read, "but you've got to love Joe DiMaggio!"
In the final game of the series, after seven innings before another SRO crowd, the Yankees were in front,3-2. Then the great Joe DiMaggio put the game and the series away for the Yankees with a three-run smash off the light tower giving his team a 6-3 win and a sweep of the
In 1967, the Sox finished 20 games ahead of the 9th-place Yankees. Boston was going into the World Series. People started tearing apart the scoreboard, ripping the sod off of the field, just trashing the place.
DICK BRESCIANI: (Sox historian) 1985. We're opening the season against the Yankees. Terrible weather. Teams were going to work out the best they could. Joe Mooney, head groundskeeper, had covered the mound. Ron Guidry wanted to throw off it and removed the tarp. A bellowing voice screamed: “Get the hell off my mound!”
"I’m a Yankee pitcher," Guidry said.
“I don’t care who the hell you are.” Joe had a hose and he was spraying water. “If you don’t get off there, you’re going to get the full force," he said. Guidry left.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: (top shelf baseball columnist) 2004 in my view is still the greatest sports story ever told. The idea that you would have the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years, to do it at the expense of the Yankees and to do it in something that hadn’t been done in 140 years in a seven-game series in baseball. The World Series was clearly anticlimactic.
In Boston, they scream: "Yankees suck! Yankees suck! " And even when the Yankees are not playing in Boston you can hear those words at Fenway during a Tampa Bay, Mets or a Baltimore game.
In New York, they still sometimes chant: "1918! 1918!"
Item: In 1925, the Yanks sought to trade a first baseman even up to the Red Sox for Phil Todt. Boston passed on the trade. The first baseman Lou Gehrig became one of the great players of all time. Todt batted .258 lifetime with 57 home runs.
Item: During a time of Yankee glory from 1919-1945, the Red Sox never placed first in the eight-team American League, finishing an average of thirty games behind in the standings. They came in last nine times, and had five 100-plus-loss seasons.
I could go on and on, have even written a book on the subject of the great rivalry with my son Fred: ttp://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/REDSOXvYANKEES.htm.
You pays your money and takes your choice –Yankees, Red Sox, neither. Just enjoy the rivalry. There’s always something new to it.
About the Author
Dr. Harvey Frommer received his Ph.D. from New York University. Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Professor nominee, Recipient of the "Salute to Scholars Award" at CUNY where he taught writing for many years, the prolific author was cited by the Congressional Record and the New York State Legislature as a sports historian and journalist.
His sports books include autobiographies of sports legends Nolan Ryan, Red Holzman and Tony Dorsett, the classics "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "New York City Baseball: 1947-1957." The 1927 Yankees." His "Remembering Yankee Stadium" was published to acclaim in 2008. His latest book, a Boston Globe Best Seller, is "Remembering Fenway Park." Autographed and discounted copies of all Harvey Frommer books are available direct from the author. Please consult his home page: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/