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The Rivalry: Yanks vs. Red Sox

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox battle for first place in the American League East this Memorial Day 1999 weekend. At least that is what they say in Boston.

It's really far too early to make much of this upcoming series. For as everyone knows, it's a long season and the Yankees always break the hearts of the Red Sox and their loyal rooters. But in Red Sox country, hope springs eternal. You've got to give them that.

Until about four years ago, I was a life-long New Yorker. And then, I moved on to New England. Back in the Big Apple, I was always a witness and a keenly interested onlooker to the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. In fact, I even wrote a book about it, "Baseball's Greatest Rivalry".

But it wasn't until I moved up into the mountains of New Hampshire that I realized via chance encounters, e-mails, letters, phone calls, general store conversations just how important "THE RIVALRY" is in New England.

But I am not alone in this reaction. Don Zimmer, involved with the national pastime now for more than half a century and the current confidante of Yankee manager Joe Torre, shares my view.

Zim was the manager of the Red Sox when Bucky Dent hit what they refer to in New England as "the home run". "I didn't even know there was a big rivalry until I came to the Red Sox," Zimmer says. "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 adds. "But the rivalry is there especially in New England - and it won't go away. It's really a rivalry of fans."

It is the fans, but it also is the media, the cities, and the players. It is a competition of two teams, two cities, two ballparks, two styles of living. Its roots reach back to Babe Ruth and Harry Frazee.

Part of what makes up the rivalry is the different images of the two teams. The New York Yankees are the most successful franchise in baseball history, a team of legends such as Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Thurman Munson, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson. The list does not end. Winning has been as much a part of Yankee baseball as the pinstriped uniforms, the monuments and plaques.

Much less successful, much more human and vulnerable, the Boston Red Sox are a franchise whose fans seemed to regard winning at times not as important as beating the Yankees.

It's the Charles River versus the East River; Boston Common against Central Park. The rivalry is also a rivalry of the Babe and Bucky and Butch. It is Carl Yastrzemski during a game against the Yankees 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 D 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 Billy Martin punching. Carlton 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.

Who knows what this weekend has in store as baseball's greatest rivalry takes center stage.

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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.

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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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
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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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