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
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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Harvey Frommer at:
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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