NEW YORK YANKEES-BOSTON RED SOX.
The single greatest sports rivalry of all-time. Hands down.
What makes this rivalry so intense, so fulfilling? Is it the banter that has carried on between the acute white lines on the baseball diamond from series to series, season to season and on to the next generation? Is it the audacity of several players playing for one team then shaving their beards to trade in their sox for stripes? Or is it just the pure hatred that has built up amongst the fans for each respective city after thousands of head-to-head games, a matchup that has lasted over 110 years?
It’s all of it. But most importantly, it all comes down to one of the biggest transactional mistakes in the history of sports?
On December 26th, 1919, as a lovely belated Christmas gift, The Boston American League Baseball Club [Red Sox] sent George Herman Ruth–aka the Caliph of Clout, aka the Sultan of Swat, aka the Great Bambino. AKA BABE RUTH.–to the American League Baseball Club of New York [Yankees] for seasons 1919, 1920, and 1921 for the sum of $25,000 cash.
I repeat–$25,000. $25k in 1919 is equivalent to $358,371.21 today.
That flushed expression on your face along with that frog nesting in your jugular is the same feeling that has carried amongst so many Red Sox owners, organization members, and fans for nearly a century. Don’t even bother trying to bring it up within the grounds at Fenway Park. You may come out with a missing limb. The feeling still rumbles within the pit of the stomachs of all those Red Sox fans.
But as mentioned earlier, Babe Ruth isn’t the only Red Sox player to trade in his sox for stripes. Actually, the list is quite lengthy. Either via trade or free agency, players have made the bold move. Many of those players on that devastating list of traitors are actually hall-of-fame caliber, including:
Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Luis Tiant, Sparky Lyle.
It’s as if soldiers of the north traded hats and decided to fight for the south. Or if Hans Solo decided to jump to the Dark Side. Die hard baseball fans see it as trading religions.
Today, April 29th, that rivalry continues as the Boston Red Sox will host the New York Yankees for the 2176th meeting between the two teams. The Yankees hold a stern grasp of bragging rights, winning 1175 [57.1%] of those games.
It has been a restless war between the two that has lasted over a century now. Some of the greatest moments in the history of baseball has rooted from this rivalry.
In 1961, on the last game of the regular season, Yankee outfielder Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record of 60–hitting his 61st against the Boston Red Sox.
In a one-game playoff for the American League East title in 1978, Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent hit a homerun over the Green Monster at Fenway to help clinch the title and punch their ticket into the playoffs. For a good read and a better understanding of the infliction and heartbreak the homerun caused, check out: Bucky F*ckin Dent: A Novel by David Duchovny.
It gets even better. The rivalry has even dragged into the postseason. In 2004, at an epic peak of an 86-year World Series drought, the Boston Red Sox changed playoff history, and the definition of the underdog, by becoming the first team in MLB history to come back from being down 3-0 in a best of seven series…against none other than the New York Yankees. Only pictures and video feed can truly capture the magic of that comeback.
These are just a few examples of the level of intensity of the rivalry between the Sox/Yankees. The war is so cavernous. Not only does each organization hold a personal vendetta on the enemy, the depth of the ugliness carries even deeper amongst the bleachers. For a romanticist, the baseball quarrel is so ugly, it almost seems to magically reflect beauty.