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Legends On Deck

Game of the Week: Boston and New York’s Historic Rivalry

The Red Sox have long been bullied by the “Evil Empire,” as they were soon dubbed after their multitude of championships and reign of dominance. Soon after Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1919, there has been, at least around Boston Red Sox fans, the superstition known as “The Curse of the Bambino.” For the next 86 years, the Red Sox were plagued by freak injuries and just some plain bad luck while trying to capture a World Series title.

Photo Courtesty of Tom Sande AP/New York Post

Photo Courtesty of Tom Sande/New York Post

The Yankees dominated the 20’s and 30’s with Babe Ruth at the helm, capturing eight World Series in 20 years. The 40’s were dominated by superstars that played for both their respective teams. Joe DiMaggio still holds the record for most consecutive games with a hit (56), while Boston’s Ted Williams holds the record for highest batting average in a season (.406) and has been deemed by some as the greatest hitter that ever lived. After the outbreak of World War II, both men served their country and lost key years in their baseball careers. Some wonder how this heated rivalry would have panned out if they stayed, but we will never know. The 50’s and early 60’s were tough times for the struggling Red Sox, as the Yankees continued to dominate One bright spot, however, was the 1967 season. Known as the Dream Team, and led by Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, Boston won the pennant but fell short to Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Photo Courtesy of Dick Raphael/ Sports Illustrated

Photo Courtesy of Dick Raphael/ Sports Illustrated

Now, please enter the Curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox were poised to make it to the World Series in 1978. Led by the likes of Jim Rice, Freddy Lynn, and Carlton Fisk, the Red Sox were an all star team. They even held a 14-game lead on the Yankees at one point in the season. After a complete collapse by the Red Sox, however, the Yankees pulled into a tie for first to finish out the regular season. A one-game playoff would determine who would win the pennant in 1978. The light-hitting Bucky Dent would launch a three-run home run over the Green Monster to give the Yankees the 3-2 lead and they would never look back. After defeating the Red Sox, the Yankees would go on to beat the Dodgers in the World Series.

 

In 1986, the Red Sox again looked like the team destined to win the World Series. Luckily for the Red Sox, this one didn’t even involve the Yankees. But don’t worry Yankee Fans, we didn’t pull a fast one on The Great Bambino. In Game six of the World Series, with the Red Sox leading the overall series 3-2, Boston was in a dogfight. The game was neck and neck until Boston took a 5-3 lead in the top of the 10th inning. Boston got the first two outs with relative easy, until the Mets scored two unanswered runs. A ball was then hit to the right side of the infield towards Bill Buckner. The ball did not look to be hit that hard or have any weird spin on it, nonetheless, it went right through his legs and the Mets ended up winning the game. In the next game, fresh off the heels of their crushing defeat, the Mets again beat the Red Sox and were able to capture the ’86 World Series title. After the World Series, many New York writers called the Red Sox “cursed” for the first time.

I don’t even want to mention this one. It hurts the most.

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Solomon/ Sports Illustrated

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Solomon/ Sports Illustrated

Although the game changed as baseball moved into the 90’s, the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry remained the same. Some players would talk and be friendly with one another, but the New York vs. Boston mentality was still fresh after 70 years. It also did not help that the Yankees put together yet another dynasty in the late 90’s, winning three titles and another in 2000. However, after 80 years, the tides of the American League East started to change and the Red Sox were continuously competing for a playoff birth after the franchise was bought by now-Red Sox-owner, John Henry. In 2003, the Red Sox and Yankees met again in the ALCS to decide who would be moving on to the World Series. After a terrible outing by former Red Sox ace, Roger Clemens, Boston led the Bronx Bombers 5-2 heading into the eighth inning. In one of the most historic moves in sports, after allowing a run and being notably exhausted, Red Sox skipper Grady Little elected to keep Pedro Martinez in the game to finish out the inning. Pedro would let up two more runs and the game would remain tied until the 11th inning. Tim Wakefield, Boston’s knuckleball starter enters the game in relief to see if they can extend the game to a 12th inning. Unfortunately, Aaron Boone launches a Wakefield knuckleball over the left field wall and the Yankees yet again defeat the Red Sox and knock them out of the playoffs.

However, the Baseball Gods had something up their sleeve for the 2004 season. Even entering the season, something felt different about this club. Among others, the Red Sox added ace Curt Schilling to an already great starting rotation. The season featured many eventful games, most notably a July 24th matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees in which Jason Varitek shoved Alex Rodriguez in the face. The Red Sox would again finish second to the Yankees in the American League East standings and were set to face off in the ALCS.

I still remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was more than 10 years ago now. Most Red Sox and Yankee fans probably feel the same way, right?

The Yankees jumped out to a quick 3-0 series lead against the Red Sox and things looked to be heading in the wrong direction yet again. Heading into the ninth inning of Game four, the Yankees led 4-3 and the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, was about to take the mound. After issuing a leadoff walk to Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts entered the game as a pinch runner. After Rivera threw over to first multiple times, Roberts got a great jump and Yankees catcher Jorge Posada fired a strike to second base, but Roberts got in right underneath the tag. After a lengthy, beautiful at-bat by Bill Mueller, Roberts scored and tied the game. In the bottom of the 12th, David Ortiz hit a home run to lift the Red Sox and give them life for at least one more game. In Game five later that night, Ortiz again came up clutch as he drove in Johnny Damon in the 14th and brought the game back to New York.

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe

Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe

Game six, now deemed as the “Bloody Sock Game,” may be the most historic baseball game in the history of the game. Fresh off of ankle surgery, Curt Schilling was set to take the mound. The crowd was hostile, yet Schilling proved why one day he will be in the Hall of Fame. He threw 7 innings of one-run baseball and gave the Red Sox the opportunity to live another day and “shock the world” as Kevin Millar put it. Although Game 7 was not all that close at any point, there was always a lingering thought in the back of every Red Sox fans’ mind that they would somehow manage to blow it. After Johnny Damon‘s grand slam, Red Sox Nation was ready to party. Ironically, the Red Sox went on to beat the Cardinals, who, as we all remember, defeated them in the 1967 World Series. The Red Sox swept the 2004 World Series and broke their 86-year curse. The “Curse of the Bambino was finally put to sleep after almost a century.

Red Sox and Yankee fans tend to not agree on much. However, we all know where we were when Aaron Boone hit his home run off of Wakefield, when Pedro Martinez threw down Don Zimmer, or when Roberts stole second. Has the game changed significantly since 2004? Absolutely. Players nowadays are more friendly and do not buy into the heated rivalry as much as they once did. However, when the game is on the line, and you look across the diamond and see the legendary pinstripes or historic red and blue uniforms, there is always a part of every fan and player that knows the game means a little bit something more.

Pete Packowski

Pete has lived in the Boston area his entire life. He grew up going to Fenway Park and watching the Red Sox. He is currently attending Boston University and is majoring in sports journalism. Once he graduates, he plans on entering the Army. He is also the owner of Biased Boston Sports, which covers the four major sports in the city. His main strength is current major league talent and highly regarded prospects. You can follow him @Pete_BBS