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Encore - Red Sox Vs Yankees: the Great Rivalry

Fenway images from Harvey's book being released in early 2011.

August 5, 2009

Redux - Red Sox Vs Yankees: the Great Rivalry:

You do remember Don Zimmer being thrown down by Pedro, A-Rod cursed, the chants of "1918" and worse.

This weekend they will be at it again.

It is perhaps the oldest and strongest rivalry in American sports history - the Yankees of New York versus the Red Sox of Boston. Part of the rivalry is the stark contrasts in the images of the two teams.

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.

The New York Yankees are the most successful of all franchises in baseball history, in sports history. A club of leaders and legends: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Earle Combs, Joe McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Casey Stengel, Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter . . . .

Through the years winning has been as much a part of the ethos of the Yankees as the pinstriped uniforms, the monuments and plaques. It was once said: "Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for General Motors."

For the Red Sox and its fans, winning at times has not seemed as important as beating the Yankees and then winning. For through the years, the success of the Sox has been measured against Yankee success.

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: Since shipping Babe Ruth to the Big Apple, the Sawks have lost a Game Seven in the World Series, lost the flag in a playoff in 1948 and 1978. The Sox lost game 7 of the World Series four times since selling Ruth: 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986.

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.

The Yankee-Red Sox competition involves much more than a baseball team representing Boston against a baseball team representing New York. It is, in reality, a competition between the provincial capital of New England and the mega-municipality that is New York City: the different life-styles of the residents of those areas, the different accents they speak in. The contrasting symbols are like guideposts to their cities. It's the Charles River versus the East River, Boston Common compared with Central Park.

History, style, culture, pace, dreams, self-images, bragging rights - all are mixed in, mixed up with the rivalry in one way or another. And the fact that both teams have been in the American League since the beginning of the last century doesn't hurt the competition either.

The late Bill Crowley, former Boston public relations director, said: "Red Sox fans hate the Yankees desperately. The pinstripes, the hoopla, the glamour - it is something that is very deeply resented. And when they win - especially over us - you can cast a pall over the entire area."

Red Sox territory comprises 5 states - Massachusetts Vermont, Maine., New Hampshire, Rhode Island and half of Connecticut.

The Sox give away Western Connecticut to the Mets and the Yankees, and there are pockets of resistance in Providence, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts. Most of the pockets are Italian. The people there were fans of Yankee stars like Crosetti, Lazzeri, DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto. And they transmitted their feelings on to their sons and grandsons.

Boston and New York attendance figures have ballooned through Yankee-Sox encounters. Historically, thousands have taken flights or motored or trained or bussed it between Boston and New York. Some have gone for a single game; others have stayed for an entire series. There have been times when the national television networks have been outdrawn in the ratings by local stations broadcasting the games between the ancient rivals.

On the field , inside the white lines, the rivalry has been characterized by some of baseball's wildest moments.

In all my years of covering the New York Yankees," notes New York Daily News sportswriter Bill Madden, "I can hardly remember a game at Fenway Park that was a normal game. I'm sure there were some but it seems like they have been low scoring, tension filled, white knuckle games or these 10-9 barn burners where no lead was safe. Players will never admit it but the intensity level is up whenever the Yankees and Red Sox meet."

In the first game ever played at Fenway Park, on April 12, 1912, the Sox trimmed the Yankees, 7-6 in 11 innings. The game was finally played after it had been rained out for two straight days.

On August 12, 1934, what was then the largest crowd in Fenway Park history, assembled to see Red Sox versus Yankees up close, going at each other. They split a doubleheader and Babe Ruth played his last game in a Yankee uniform in the Boston ballpark where he had begun his professional career.

On August 7, 1956 as 36,350 watched as the Sox defeated the Yankees, 1-0, in 11 innings. Ted Williams walked with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run. "Terrible Ted" was so infuriated, some would say, pissed off, at not being given a chance to swing his bat that he sprayed Fenway Park with saliva.

Odd, awesome and unpredictable rallies have contributed to the zany and wild mood - just part of the atmosphere in meetings between the Yanks and Sox. New York had a six-run eleventh inning in 1970, a seven-run ninth inning in 1940, an eight run ninth inning in 1937, a ten-run fourth inning in 1915, an 11-run seventh inning in 1952, a 13-run fifth inning in 1945.

In 1954, the Red Sox were up 5-1 lead over the Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader and lost. They were trailing 7-0 in the second game and won. The big Boston blow was a Jimmy Piersall home run off Johnny Sain.

On August 29, 1967, both clubs struggled through 19 innings until Boston went down to defeat in the 20th inning. The Yankees won the game, 4-3.

On September 19, 1981, Boston was able to pull out an,8-5, triumph with a seven run eighth inning rally.

Many still talk about the long summer of 1949 when the Yankees and the Red Sox battled for the pennant playing out their drama in jammed stadiums before rabid and enraptured fans. Each day was another time for the tension, the drama and the excitement to be recharged.

BoSox? Bombers?

Rivalry . . .

Let's get it on again!

Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his classic "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball." The prolific Frommer is at work on REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK (2010).

Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.


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