Every time I get before an audience talking
sports I am always reminded of when I was
promoting one of my early books – “New York City
Baseball - 1947-1957 – The Last Golden Age” -
about the old Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants
and New York Yankees.
The publishing company’s publicist asked – which
team did you root for as a kid?
reply was - -“None of these teams.”
“Oh my, oh my, that won’t do. Please pick one –
had grown up in Brooklyn- -so I picked the
I went about promoting the book. One day I
was in the Staten Island Mall introduced as a
former Brooklyn Dodger fan when a guy in the
back started to shout – you were never a DODGER
fan . . . .I remember you from the old
neighborhood. You were that Cardinal fan.”
“Folks,” I said, “that’s my crazy cousin.
Don’t pay any attention to him. He has always
been a bit jealous.”
He quieted down . and I went on with my
But truth be told, I was a St. Louis Cardinal
- fan for a brief time. Youthful folly.
Today I am considered the ultimate Yankees
fan having published 8 books on the subject,
hundreds of articles, written for the team for
18 years.My REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM came out
At the same time I am a student of the Red
Sox. In fact, my book CELEBRATING FENWAY PARK is
going into production. So I have interest in
I was a life-long New Yorker until about a
dozen years ago. And then, I moved on to teach
and write and live in New England. Back in the
Big Apple, I had always been a keenly interested
onlooker to the rivalry between the Yankees and
the Red Sox. But it wasn't until I was living
in the mountains of New Hampshire that I
realized via conversations at the gas pumps, and
in the general store just how important "THE
RIVALRY" is - - to the Red Sox
I have authored many books but the ones I
have written with family members have a special
place . . .like the ones written with my wife
Myrna and RED SOX VS YANKEES written with my son
Fred that traces the long historic feud between
the two teams through oral history,narrative and
When it comes to Red Sox/Yankees baseball,
there is never a dull moment, and those caught
up in it are never at a loss for words. There
are stories, asides, poignant memories,
insights, game accounts, vulgarisms, quips and
rejoinders that cut across generations and
geography. As an oral historian all of these
anecdotes have much appeal to me.
And now a new story
was added to rivalry lore when
Martha Coakley lost
to Republican Scott Brown in the special US
Senate election in Massachusetts. There are
those who say Coakley’s dissing of Fenway Park
and her off base comment that former Red Sox
great Curt Schilling was a "Yankees fan" -
helped bring her down.
That’s a big talk
topic now (as part of the “Rivalry” and will
certainly still be a talk topic on APRIL 4th
2010 @ Fenway Park and beyond when the Red Sox
of Boston and the Yankees of New York, meet once
again in a regular season game.
It will be the 2,065th meeting between them.
The first time they met was way back on May 7,
1903 at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston
- - The teams weren't the Yankees and Red Sox
then but instead had more geographically correct
names: the Highlanders -- they played on the
hilly terrain of upper Manhattan; and the
Pilgrims -- in tribute to their New England
game at Fenway Park between them was
April 20, 1912, just a few days after
the sinking of the Titanic. Boston Mayor
John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the
grandfather-to-be of President John F.
Kennedy, threw out the first ball, and
the Red Sox eked out a 7-6 win in 11
of all sparks was ignited by BoSox owner
Harry Frazee, a show business
wheeler-dealer with a home in Boston and
a main residence on Manhattan’s Park
Avenue, who liked to quip: “The best
thing about Boston is the train ride
back to New York."
On January 9, 1920, he committed “Harry
Frazee’s Crime.” At a very cold morning
press conference a very happy Yankee owner Jake
“Gentlemen, we have just bought Babe Ruth
from Harry Frazee of the Boston Red Sox. I can’t
give exact figures, but it was a pretty check –
six figures, strictly a cash deal.”
It may have been the biggest mistake in
The fallout from Harry Frazee’s infamous deed
has become known as “the Curse of the Bambino.
From 1919 through 1933, the Sox dropped at
least 100 games a season five times, at least 90
games a season five more times. The Red Sox
lost Game 7 of the World Series in 1946, 1967,
1975, and 1986. They lost the pennant in
playoffs in 1948 and 1978;
You might say – the “curse was working.” THE
The golden age of Yankee baseball can be
traced directly to the arrival of the Sultan of
In Boston, irate fans have screamed: "Yankees
suck! Yankees suck!" even when the Yankees were
not playing at Fenway.
-- The Yankees of New York versus the
Red Sox of Boston is the greatest, grandest,
strongest, longest rivalry in baseball history
– a competition of images, teams, cities,
styles, ballparks, fans, media, culture, dreams,
bragging rights - all mixed in, mixed up.
The competition is so much more than a
baseball team representing Boston -- going
against a baseball team representing New York.
It is a competition between the provincial
capital of New England and the mega-municipality
of New York
The New York Yankees are the glitz and
glitter, the most successful franchise in
baseball history, perhaps in all sports
history. Through the years, winning has been as
much a part of Yankee baseball as their
monuments and plaques, as much as the pinstriped
uniforms, the iconic intertwined “N” and “Y” on
the baseball caps.
Less successful, more human, more vulnerable
– the Bostons have seemed until recent success
like the rest of us.
The rivalry is 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 shut out the boos of Sox fans.
The rivalry is Mickey Mantle slugging a
440-foot double at Yankee Stadium then tipping
his cap to the Red Sox bench.
It is Carlton Fisk's headaches from the
tension he felt coming into Yankee Stadium.
For the BoSox and their 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 always has seemed to be -"When
are the Sox going to fold this year?"
The rivalry is Ted Williams spitting, Reggie
Jackson jabbering, Luis Tiant hurling for NY and
Boston and smoking those Cuban cigars. It is
the Yankees' Mickey Rivers jumping out of the
way of an exploding firecracker thrown into the
visitors' dugout at Fenway.
LOU PINIELLA ( managed and played for the
Yankees): There was always a lot of excitement
in that small park that made it special. You
might have 20,000 Red Sox fans at Fenway and
15,000 Yankee fans. Their rivalry helped our
rivalry. It excited the players who had to
respond to it.
Piniella may have enjoyed Fenway but a former
Red Sox star hated Yankee Stadium.
DWIGHT EVANS: "When you have coke bottle go
by your head from the third deck, you wonder
what kind of people these are. When you have
cherry bombs thrown at you or thrown into
crowds, that's not fun and those are not fans.
When they throw a penny or a dime from the third
deck and it hits you, it's going to put a knot
on your head. You knew you had to watch out if
you came in wearing a Red Sox uniform.”
……On the field, inside the white lines, the
rivalry has been characterized by some of
baseball's wildest and most intense moments:
There has been anger, rage, occasionally
violence. Sometimes it has been triggered by
personality clashes, at other times the trigger
has simply been the "Blood Feud."
In 1938, players from both clubs stormed the
mound at Yankee Stadium when New York’s Jake
Powell and Boston's Joe Cronin started punching
each other. Cronin was ejected from the game and
moments later was assaulted by several Yankee
players under the stands.
In 1951, a six year old was taken to his
RUDY GIULIANI: It was between the Yankees
and the Red Sox, with Joe DiMaggio playing for
the Yankees and Dominic DiMaggio playing for the
Red Sox. I found that fascinating -- that
brothers would be on two different teams. I
asked my father: “How come they’re playing for
different teams- are they angry at each other?”
Perhaps no two players have symbolized the
rivalry as much as Joe DiMaggio and Ted
Williams. Both Californians,both bigger than
life. One was an outspoken iconoclast, the
other a soft-spoken team man.
As the story goes, Sox owner Tom Yawkey and
Yankee boss Dan Topping were at Toots Shor’s
(famous NYC restaurant and hangout). They agreed
that that Ted Williams would hit much better at
Yankee Stadium and Joe DiMaggio would hit much
better at Fenway Park. The two ended the evening
on a handshake agreement to make a trade of
DiMaggio for Williams.
When Topping arrived home in the early
morning and realized what he had agreed to, he
picked up the phone and called Yawkey in a
"Tom,Tom" he cried, "I'm sorry but I can't go
through with the deal."
"Thank God!" was Yawkey's reported reply.
Another version of the story has Tom Yawkey
making the phone call. "Dan, I know it's very,
very late, and I still want to make that trade
we discussed. However, if you still want to make
it you'll have to throw in that left-handed
hitting outfielder. You know who I mean, that
little odd-looking rookie."
"I can't,"Topping said. “We’re thinking of
making him a catcher. I guess we’ll have to call
off the deal."
So Joe DiMaggio remained a Yankee. Ted
Williams played out his career with the Red Sox.
And the little odd-looking rookie stayed with
the Yankees and became a catcher. His name - -
Berra, DiMaggio, Williams were all on the
scene in 1949 and so was Walter Mears, who went
on to become a Pulitzer-prize winning political
reporter for The Associated Press. He recalled
the last two games of that season.
WALTER MEARS: The result was inevitable -
Boston goes ahead, Yankees catch up and win.
Tied. Same outcome the next day and New York
wins the pennant. There was no TV to watch then,
and I sat listening to the radio in Lexington as
the Red Sox blew it. At 14, it seemed like the
end of more than just a season. I remember
saying to my father 'I think I'll just go for a
walk,' which I did, so that he wouldn't see me
cry. I think that's when I learned that there
was no point in mourning the Red Sox. You just
In 1952, excitable rookie Jimmy Piersall came
onto the Red Sox scene. During a game Piersall
shouted to Yankee infielder Billy Martin, “Hey,
Pinocchio!" (in what was an overt reference to
the size and contours of the Yankee second
baseman's nose), “too damn yellow to
"Put up," snarled Martin. “Let's settle this
under the stands.”
As the story goes Boston pitcher Ellis Kinder
accompanied Piersall and Bill Dickey accompanied
Martin as seconds. Martin sucker-punched, threw
the first blow. They got into a clinch. That
ended the “fight” as Piersall bled profusely
from the nose.
JIMMY PIERSALL: It wasn’t a real fight, just
pushing and shoving. The only guy that got hurt
was Bill Dickey. Heck, the way the media played
it up it was like a real brawl. You know writers
would hang their mothers for the Pulitzer Prize.
That moment in Yankee-Red Sox history
underscored the rivalry’s "bad blood." But it
was not the most famous of the on-the- field
altercations. One that qualifies for that title
took place on August 1, 1973.
Boston catcher Carlton Fisk had led the
American League All Star balloting for catcher.
Munson was runner-up.
“Fisk hated Munson,” said Don Zimmer who was
on the scene back then. “Munson hated Fisk.”
The game was tied, 2-2, top of the ninth.
Munson doubled down the left-field line and
wound up on third thru an infield groundout.
Gene Michael missed the ball on a squeeze bunt
attempt, but the solidly built Munson came
tearing down the line attempting to score. He
slammed into Fisk who had the baseball and was
blocking the plate. Fisk tagged Munson hard and
then shoved him off his body. Munson punched
the Sox catcher in the face, bruising his left
eye. The two got into -- clinching and clawing.
Next Fenway Park was swarming with pushing,
shoving, cursing -- more than 60 players and
coaches. When order was finally restored,
Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson were ejected
from the game. But an exclamation point had been
added to the sometimes violent, sometimes
ridiculous, sometimes odd, sometimes dramatic,
sometimes poignant, nature of the rivalry.
The following abbreviated timeline provides a
few more RIVALRY highlights or lowlights
depending on which team one roots for.
May 6, 1915 – Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth
hammered his first major league home run. And
sure enough it came against the New York Yankees
when they still called the Polo Grounds home.
April 18, 1923 Yankee Stadium opened. Before
the game, Boston mogul Harry Frazee walked
side-by-side with Yankees owner Jake Ruppert. A
shot by Babe Ruth into the right field bleachers
highlighted the Yankees' 4-1 triumph over the
Red Sox - -the first Yankee Stadium homer.
1925, the Yanks sought to trade their first
baseman to the Red Sox for Phil Todt. Boston
blinked. The first baseman, Lou Gehirg,became
one of the greatest players of all time. Phil
Todt had a mediocre career.
1935 -In a Red Sox-Yankees doubleheader:
47,627 fans jammed into Boston’s little
ballpark. The Yankees won the first game, 6-4.
They slammed seven ground-rule doubles into the
roped-off crowd to take the second game, 9-0.
September 6, 1960 in his final game at Yankee
Stadium, Ted Williams rapped his 518th career
homer, pacing Boston’s 7–1 win.
In 1961, last game of the season, Yankee
Roger Maris stoked his 61st home run breaking
Babe Ruth’s single-season record. The historic
shot came off a 2-0 fastball from Boston pitcher
October 2, 1978: A one-game playoff got
underway inside Fenway Park. Yankees against Red
Sox, the two teams with the best records in
baseball after 162 games – winner take all for
the American League East title.
Mike Torrez was on the mound for Boston;
Ron Guidry, the best pitcher in baseball
then, started for the Yanks.
(Red Sox Hurler )DENNIS ECKERSLEY: It was
electric that day. I had pitched Saturday and
won #20 and was glad I wasn’t pitching that
playoff game. I was in the dugout. I was in
the clubhouse. I was all over. I was more
nervous watching than pitching. We were ahead
2-0 in the seventh. They were setting up this
little stage for the celebration. Then all of a
sudden . . .
BUCKY DENT: When I hit it, I knew that I had
hit it high enough to hit the wall. But there
were shadows on the net behind the wall and I
didn't see the ball land. I was running from the
plate because I thought I had a chance at a
double. I didn't know it was a home run until
the second-base umpire signaled. It was an eerie
feeling because the ballpark was dead silent.
Red Sox manager Don Zimmer changed the Yankee
shortstop's name to "Bucky F_____g Dent." Yaz
had two hits in that game, including a homer off
Ron Guidry, but he also made the last out.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: Yaz was crying in the
trainer’s room. It was not as crushing for me
because when you’re 23 you think, well, we’ll do
it next year. But if I knew what I know now, I
would have been devastated. We never really got
there again after that.
WALTER MEARS: Speaker of the House of
Representative Tip O'Neill went to Rome that
fall and saw the Pope. When he came back he was
at some function with Yaz and told him the Holy
Father had spoken of him. Yaz wanted to know
what the Pope had said.
" Tip,” he said, “How COULD Yastrzemski pop
out in the last of the ninth with the tying run
on third? "
A frustrated fan, has the final word on the
DAN MACKEY: It was only a wind-assisted pop
up that barely got out of the infield and then
through a harmonic convergence - -the Jet
stream, Babe Ruth in heaven, a minor earthquake
in the Phillipines, gravity from Mars and Pluto,
a kid stomping his foot in the Bronx, high
pressure over the northeast, a jet landing at
Logan Airport, a pigeon flapping its wings, a
whale spouting off the coast of Finland, a
heavy lady in the third row waving her program
and yelling “Get OUT, GET OUT,” all these forces
and more aligned , a little white ball floated
further and further up and over the Green
Monster, light as a feather, then fell like a
stone into the net, the home run net. . .
I hit bottom them. I swore the Red Sox off. I
said I’d turn my life over to a higher power.
Unfortunately, the higher power turned out to be
Roger Clemens. He was a false god.
Speaking of higher powers and stories . .
.There’s was always been classic one that
typified what it was like to be a Red Sox fan.
A Pirate fan, a Cubs fans and a Red Sox fan
were bemoaning their team’s history. Grieving,
they called on a higher authority .
The Pirate fan asked: “Oh, God, when will my
team return to the World
And God replied: “Not in your
The Cub fan asked: “Oh, God,when will my team
return to the World Series?”
And God replied: “Not in your children’s
The Red Sox fan, who had listened
quietly, finally worked up the nerve to ask:
“Oh, God, when will my beloved Red Sox return
to the World Series?”
And God said: “Not in My
But as we all know - -the RED SOX have won 2
world championships in OUR lifetime - -2004
and 2007. One more than the Yankees have won in
the 21st century. So that classic story is just
a story. And the reality is the Red Sox are
alive and very well. Just as the RIVALRY is.
The Rivalry action was hot and heavy in October
American League Championship Series. Game 3.
Top of the fourth inning. Boston’s Pedro
Martinez popped Yankee outfielder Karim Garcia
in the back of the shoulder with a pitch.
Moments later Garcia slid hard into Boston’s
Todd Walker at second base.Martinez made
menacing gestures to the Yankees bench. Lots of
Bottom of the
fourth, Manny Ramirez screamed at Roger Clemens
for throwing too close to his body. Profanities
were exchanged. Ramizez held his bat menacingly.
Enter one time Red
Sox manager/ now Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer.
The man Bill Lee called a gerbil moved slowly
around the pushing and milling about crowd.
Then Zimmer threw a left hook in the direction
of the Martinez. Pedro grabbed Zimmer around the
neck and threw the 72-year-old to the ground
where he tumbled over and over like a roly poly
Boston police and
Yankees gathered around their feisty coach
making sure he was all right. Umpires huddled.
No one was tossed from the game, but beer sales
Three days later - - like a pair of
heavyweight fighters, the rivals met in a winner
take all seventh game at the Stadium on October
16th. It was again Pedro Martinez against Roger
A win this night for the Red Sox would send
them to the World Series for the first time in
85 years. Many members of Red Sox nation were at
Yankeee Stadium to cheer the Olde Towne team
Bob Sullivan was one of them: I grew up in
Boston. Yankee Stadium was always enemy
territory. There were times when my girlfriend
and I would be near some lout who would carry on
over our wearing our Sox caps.
To the delight of Sox fans and the dismay of
Yankee rooters, Boston racked Clemens for four
runs in three-plus innings. Martinez seemed on
cruise control and was leading in the top of the
With a pitch count over 100, with Red Sox
relievers at the ready, it seemed Pedro was
done. But Grady Little, Sox manager, sent him
out to pitch the bottom of the eighth.
“The Curse of the Bambino” was there for the
taking, for the breaking. Five more outs for
Boston to get into the World
Derek Jeter doubled to right. Bernie
Jeter scored. Hideki Matsui was
Little exited the Sox dugout. He had a righty
and a lefty at the ready in the bullpen.
BOB SULLIVAN: We were standing up when Grady
left the mound. He was not taking Pedro out.
Matsui pulled an inside fastball down the
right field line. It bounced into the stands.
Ground-rule double. Williams on third; Matsui
at second. Martinez’ pitch count was 118.
Jorge Posada lifted the ball over second
base. It dropped in, the fourth straight one
out hit for New York. Williams scored. Matsui
scored. The game was tied, 5-5.
Little finally pulled Martinez. Bottom of
the eleventh inning. Boston knuckleballer Tim
Wakefield against Yankee pinch hitter Aaron
It was 16 minutes past midnight, Friday
morning. The ball jumped off Boone’s bat and
went deep over the left-field wall.
Jubilant Yankees raced out of the dugout and
bullpen onto the field. There were those who
said Yankee Stadium shook and moved. The noise
level was ear-splitting.
Rounding third, Boone jumped into the arms of
teammates waiting at home plate. It was another
triumph for the "Evil Empire,"a fifth pennant in
DEREK JETER: I don't know about a curse, but
I believe we have some ghosts in this stadium
that have helped us out.
It was a low point for Red Sox Nation.
But 2004 lay ahead.
Spring training - -in the first Yankees-Red
Sox game of 2004 in Fort Meyers, Florida
scalpers sold 21 DOLLAR seats for $150 – a
testament to the power of the Rivalry.
At mid season the Yankee lead over Boston was
8 1/2 games. But the Sox turned things around
and faced off against the Yanks in the American
League championship series one again.
16, 2004 in a marathon Game Three of the
ALCS, the Red Sox were gouged, 19-8 by
the Yankees who went up 3-0 in the
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: My son, a high school
student then, gave up his ticket for Game Four.
He didn’t want to see the Yankees win in Fenway.
(Red Sox Vice President)
LARRY CANCRO: It was just gloomy getting to
the park the next day. President Lucchino said:
“We are all going to have to think of something
to get us back in this thing and win it.”
Most of us were looking at him like he was
“Hey, you know
Mike Eruzione, from the 1980 Miracle Olympic
hockey team,” he says to me. “Call and see if
he can come here and be part of the first pitch
ceremony. He was part of a miracle; let’s see
if he can inspire us.”
Mike came in that night; the players were
excited to meet him and he participated in our
In the bottom half of the seventh of that
Game 4, the Sox were losing 4-2 to the Yankees.
In the private box of Red Sox President Larry
Lucchino, the mood was one of frustration and
GEORGE MITROVICH ( Chair of The Great Fenway
Park Writers Series) I was working on a
statement for Mr. Lucchino that would
graciously congratulate the Yankees while
letting heartbroken Red Sox fans know this isn't
the end. I was oblivious to the fact that the
Sox had pulled within a run of the Yankees.
TERRY GUINEY, Managing Partner of Boston’s
Hotel Commonwealth, That game seemed more like a
wake.Then the rally started against Mariano
Rivera, “Mr. Automatic”, the greatest stopper in
Kevin Millar walked. Dave Roberts, God love
him, came in as a pinch runner. Everybody who
knew anything about baseball could tell he was
going to steal.
Roberts goes. He makes it. Then Billy Mueller
hits one up the middle, and the game is tied!
People were hugging people they didn’t know;
TERRY FRANCONA: Roberts’ steal was the most
thrilling event I’ve been associated with. I
doubt we could have done all that we did without
that happening. The Sox won it in the twelfth on
a towering home run by David Ortiz.
LARRY CANCRO: The movie "Miracle" had just
come out; many of the players had not seen it.
For Game 5, Mike came in and gave out blue hats
and the word "Miracle" emblazoned on them.
On October 18th the fifth game of the ALCS
started at 5:10 P.M. just 16 hours after Game 4
had ended early that morning.
It was Mike Mussina versus Pedro Martinez. In
the bottom of the 14th inning with two outs
Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez drew walks.
David Ortiz, Big Papi, singled to center on the
tenth pitch thrown to him. The Red Sox win 5-4.
LARRY CANCRO: Game Six, we go to New York. We
Game Seven, Our team doesn’t show up for
batting practice. They've voted to watch the
movie “Miracle” in the clubhouse. They come out
and clobber the Yankees.
DAN SHAUGHNESSY: 2004 is still the greatest
sports story ever told. The Red Sox win their
first World Series in 86 years at the expense of
the Yankees. The World Series was clearly
The Sox swept the Cards four straight in the
And at last, the curse was broken.
And as you know, the Red Sox won another
World Series in 2007.
Then the Yankees won it in 2009.
And the great rivalry rolls on . . .
Who knows what 2010 holds in store?