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Yanks vs. Red Sox Baseball's Greatest Rivalry

It is the oldest and strongest rivalry in American baseball history - the Yankees of New York versus the Red Sox of Boston. These two teams will once again test each other beginning Wednesday night, when they square-off in the American League Championship Series. 

It is a competition of teams, cities, styles, ballparks, fans and, at times, writers. Its roots reach back to Babe Ruth and Harry Frazee.

Part of the rivalry is the stark contrast in the image of the two teams. The New York Yankees represent the most successful franchise in baseball history. It's a club of legends with Ruth, Gehrig, Dickey, Ford, Berra, Munson, Raschi, Reynolds, Mantle, Maris, Jackson, 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 in deep center field.

The Red Sox - less successful, more human, more vulnerable - have 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 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 of New York City, the different lifestyles of the people in those areas, the different accents they have, and the contrasting symbols that are the guideposts to the cities.

It's 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.

And the fact that both teams have been in the American League since the beginning of the century doesn't hurt the rivalry either.

Don Zimmer, a baseball lifer of more than 51 years and today the confidante of Yankee manager Joe Torre, was the manager of the Red Sox when Bucky Dent hit the home run.

"I didn't even know there was a big rivalry until I came to the Red Sox," Zim said. "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 players don't really hate each other" Zimmer said. "It's really a rivalry of fans."

The rivalry is also a rivalry of 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 which read 'I LOVE NEW YORK, TOO, IT IS THE YANKEES I HATE,' or 'BOSTON CHOKES. BOSTON SUCKS. BOSTON DOES IT IN STYLE.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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