The Greatest Rivalry in Sports
Throughout the world of sports, there are many rivalries that are “must-see” games. There’s Duke vs. North Carolina in college basketball, and in college football, there isn’t a more heated rivalry than Ohio State versus Michigan. In the NFL, the Packers and Bears return to the league’s early part.
However, there are no more heated rivalries than in Major League Baseball. After all, the teams face each other up to 20 times per year, excluding the possibility of a postseason battle. The biggest and greatest rivalry of them all is between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Let’s dive deeper into what makes this rivalry the greatest in all sports.
The cities’ rivalry started long before baseball became America’s national pastime. Boston was considered the economic power of the United States for a century after its founding. In fact, New York was largely viewed as overpopulated and dirty during this time.
In the 19th century, New York became the economic center due in large part to the rapid growth of population and the possession of the terminus of the Erie Canal and Wall Street in the early 20th century.
Red Sox Early 20th-Century Success
Winner of the first World Series in 1903 as the Boston Americans, the organization took home four more titles from 1912 through 1918. The Yankees were known as the Baltimore Orioles at the time, and the teams played their first game in 1901. The Orioles moved to New York in 1903 and became the New York Highlanders.
On April 11, 1912, the Highlanders unveiled their pinstripes for the first time against the Red Sox. Just nine days later, the Red Sox opened Fenway Park with a game against the Highlanders.
The Yankee’s lone notable accomplishment against the Red Sox was a no-hitter hurled by George Mogridge at Fenway Park on April 24, 1917.
Yankees Dynasty of the 1920s and 1930s
The move that sparked the Yankees into becoming the dominant franchise of the era was when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and a loan of $300,000.
Ruth led the Yankees to their first American League pennant two years later while sharing the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants. The Yankees opened their new stadium on April 18, 1923, with Ruth blasting the stadium’s first home run, which became known as “The House that Ruth Built.”
Ruth went on to hit .393 and led the Yankees to their first World Series title.
During the 1930s, former Red Sox pitcher Red Ruffing was traded to the Yankees, where he had great success and eventual induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Yankees went on to win eight World Series titles during the 1920s and 1930s.
Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio Lead the Next Era
The 1941 season featured Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ leading the league in hitting at .406. Williams was quoted at one time saying that DiMaggio was the greatest all-around player he ever saw.
There was a rumor that the Yankees and Red Sox were going to swap the two superstars in 1947, but the deal fell through after the Yankees declined to include Yogi Berra in the deal. An interesting side note is that DiMaggio’s brother, Dom, played his entire career with the Red Sox during the 1940s.
Despite being in first place all but two days in 1946, the Red Sox fell to the Cardinals in the World Series. Since the last pennant by the Red Sox in 1918, the Yankees had won the World Series 10 times, clearly dominating the rivalry.
In 1951, Allie Reynolds hurled a no-hitter against the Red Sox. A year later, showing the pure intensity of the rivalry, Billy Martin of the Yankees and Jimmy Piersall of the Red Sox got into a fight under the stands prior to a game in Boston.
The Yankee’s dominance continued with 14 American League titles over a 16-year period, with the likes of Mickey Mantle taking the reign during the 1950s.
Milestones and Bucky Dent
In 1961, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were on pace to pass Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record set in 1927. Maris reached the mark of 61 home runs on the last day of the season. Things were not as good in Boston, as the Red Sox were in the middle of a streak of eight losing seasons in a row. Finally, in 1967, the Red Sox won the pennant behind Carl Yastrzemski’s triple crown season.
A first in Major League Baseball occurred in a game between the Red Sox and the Yankees. When Ron Blomberg came to bat on April 6, 1973, against the Red Sox Luis Tiant, he became the first designated hitter in Major League history.
Later in the season, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson tried to score on a missed bunt attempt, crashing into Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, resulting in a fight between the two catchers. Two years later, Lou Piniella and Fisk got into a fight after Piniella crashed into Fisk, attempting to score and clearing the benches.
After the Yankees won the 1977 World Series behind Reggie Jackson, the Red Sox looked to be in prime position for the series the following season. However, the Yankees swept a series in September against the Red Sox. At the end of 162 games, the heated rivals were tied at the top of the AL East.
In the tie-breaker game, the most unlikely player came to the forefront to be the hero for the Yankees. Light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent belted a three-run home run with two outs in the 7th to lead the Yankees to a win and an eventual World Series title.
A Cooling-off Period: 1980 – 1995
Both teams fell in the World Series during the 1980s despite leading their respective series 2-0. Despite the lack of dominance, there were moments to remember in the rivalry. The Yankees Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox, striking out Wade Boggs to end the game.
Righetti also came to the forefront on October 6, 1986, by saving both games of a doubleheader over the Red Sox. Don Mattingly edged out Boggs for the batting title that season, although Red Sox hurler Roger Clemens won the AL MVP.
The two teams battled for first in 1988, with both teams holding the lead at some point in the season. The Red Sox prevailed but fell to the Athletics in the ALCS.
The Yankees were in last place in 1990, prompting the firing of Bucky Dent. Ironically this took place at Fenway Park, the site of his most famous moment as a player. Neither team was good at the same time during the early to mid-1990s, with both teams near the bottom in 1992.
A notable occurrence in 1993 was the move of Wade Boggs from the Red Sox after 11 seasons to the hated Yankees. The frustration of the Yankees hit its apex when the 1994-95 MLB strike ended the season with the Yankees in first place; hence there was no World Series that season.
First Postseason Meetings
The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, which was the first-ever for Wade Boggs in his 18-year career. Another former Red Sox great, Roger Clemens, joined the Yankees a year later. In 1998 the teams finished 1st and 2nd in the AL East, which led to the first-ever meeting of the long-time rivals in the postseason.
The lone highlight for the Red Sox was a 13-1 win in Game 3 at Fenway Park between Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. Martinez stuck out 12, and the Red Sox bombed Clemens, knocking him out of the game after two innings. The Yankees got the last laugh, winning 11 of 12 playoff games and winning against the Braves in the World Series.
The following season, the Yankees continued their overall dominance, winning their third-straight World Series and 26th overall. In 2001, David Cone started for the Red Sox against the Yankees in New York, where he received a standing ovation for his time with the blue and white pinstripes.
To further intensify the rivalry, MLB changed its scheduling format in the early 2000s, so now the teams would square off 18 to 19 times a season.
Curse of the Bambino is Broken
From 1920 through 2003, the Yankees won 39 pennants and 26 World Series, while the Red Sox won only four pennants and not a single World Series. During the 84 years, the Yankees had the better regular-season record 66 times.
After losing in the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees, a rematch was one that both sides were longing for in 2004. Everyone got their wish, but it appeared it would be another World Series appearance for the Yankees after taking a commanding 3-0 lead. After all, no baseball team ever returned from such a deficit. Everyone knew this, but the Red Sox.
A late-inning comeback in Game 4, capped by a David Ortiz home run in the 12th, kept the Red Sox alive. Ortiz was also the hero in Game 5, knocking in the winning run. A memorable moment in Game 6 was when Curt Schilling, pitching after tearing a tendon sheath in his right ankle during the previous serious, pitched seven stellar. Everyone will remember Schilling’s blood-stained sock from his recently sutured ankle.
After winning Game 6, the Red Sox appeared destined and completed the remarkable comeback with a 10-3 blowout in Game 7. The Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years. Once again writing another epic tale about the greatest rivalry in sports.
More Titles and Collapses for Both Teams
While Yankees’ fans were talking about a new curse, insinuating that the Red Sox would not win another title until 2090, the Red Sox won another title in 2007, sweeping out the Colorado Rockies in four games. Meanwhile, the Yankees kept the Phillies from repeating in 2009, winning in six games.
Although out of the playoff race in 2010, the Red Sox played the role of spoiler by knocking them out of first place in the AL East. The following season, the Red Sox dominated the series between the teams, winning 12 of 18 games. Nevertheless, the Yankees earned the AL East title after the Red Sox stumbled in September.
Boston climbed to the top of the baseball world once again in 2013, taking down the Yankees in 13 of 19 games on their way to another World Series title.
Both teams fell in the playoffs in 2017 to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. This prompted both teams to hire new managers, the first of both franchises in the same season since 1932. Among the top teams in baseball, both teams reached the 100-win plateau. The long-time rivals faced off in the ALDS, with the Red Sox advancing three games to 1. Boston would go on to defeat the Dodgers in the World Series, four games to 1.
The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was last season when the Yankees fell to the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game, 6-2. Adding another chapter in this greatest rivalry in sports.
There are many reasons that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is the greatest in all of sports. From the historic Hall of Fame players to the dramatic finishes, to geographical proximity, to the number of games played each season, to the pure hatred of the two franchises and fan bases, no other rivalry can touch the more than a century-old feud between the Yankees and Red Sox. In my opinion, without a doubt, this is the greatest rivalry in sports.
Do you believe Yankees V. Red Sox is the greatest rivalry in sports?