Tonight, for the first time this season, the Boston Red Sox will face off against the New York Yankees. The uniforms remain unchanged, the lattice of Yankee Stadium still present, the green on the Monster still fresh, and the game being played has been untouched for over a century. All of these constants swirling around the same two teams for decades, but something seems different. There’s fire behind these teams, a hatred between them, a genuine desire to drive the other into the ground. There is tension in the air. A tension that lives in silence and gets more electric with each passing second.
Growing up in Massachusetts, Halloween was always a mess since you had to fit a winter coat under your costume. In order to get a jump on the planning and construction of our costumes, my mother asked us at dinner what we wanted to be. My older brother wanted to be the Ultimate Warrior, I wanted to be Mankind and my younger brother refused to answer. My mother asked the question again, “What do you want to be for Halloween?”
“… I want to be Derek Jeter… don’t tell Dad.”
You could have heard a pin drop in a haystack while a fish farted under a waterfall, that’s how silent it was at this dinner table in Andover, MA. I was sure we’d have to kill him, or at the very least send him away to boarding school.
To my parent’s credit, they let him go as Derek Jeter. My mom found a Yankee jersey t-shirt, some pinstriped baseball pants, but they drew the line at the hat. To this day, the only person in my family to have ever worn a Yankees hat is yours truly and it was 100000% a contractual obligation.
How do you think this story ends? Do you think it ends with people opening their homes to a small child dressed like Derek Jeter? Do you think it ends with him coming home to get another pillowcase from all the candy he acquired? Do you think it ends with him being crowned Halloween King of our town?
No. It ends with my little brother getting doors slammed in his face and getting denied candy. This rivalry has no age limit, no geographical limitations, nothing. This rivalry is constant, undying and forever.
Why did I tell you a long personal story?
Good news, you guys.
The rivalry is back.
The Red Sox and Yankees have always hated each other. That’s been true for centuries, but no other rivalry has spanned so many decades and seeped so far into our fandom as baseball fans.
Bucky Dent, Roger Clemens, Aaron Boone, Grady Little, Don Zimmer, Pedro Martinez and his Daddy, A-Rod, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, and Babe Ruth, the list goes on and on of players whose names will always be intertwined with the greatest sports rivalry of all time.
What makes this rivalry great was the David versus Goliath qualities both teams seemed to exude. New York might not seem like a David-type character in this story, but when you consider the disrepair the franchise came from in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The Yankees were fighting against their past demons, trying to reclaim the glory days of the past.
Not only were they fighting the ghosts of Mantle, Ruth, DiMaggio, and Gehrig, they were battling the entire league. Everyone wanted to be the team to knock the Yankees down a peg. It’s lonely at the top and everyone wants a shot at the champ.
Call me crazy, but I’m one of the more cultured Sox fans, who can understand that without the New York Yankees, modern baseball simply doesn’t exist. Without the Yankees, there’s no baseball, no Red Sox, no nothing. What a miserable existence it would be.
Out of their 27 rings, the modern day Yankees have only won 5 in the last 22 years.
The Red Sox have won 3 in the last 15 years.
The Boston Red Sox were the perennial David to the Yankees Goliath for the greater part of the last century. It begins with a trade, that leads to a curse, that leads to the absence of a championship for 86 years. In that 86 year span, the Red Sox watched New York claim the World Series 26 times.
If your mortal enemy succeeds 26 times in front of your face, stepping on you to get to the top, you can’t take that lightly. You most certainly cannot take it for 86 years. Something has to give eventually.
There are few things I remember clearer in my life than the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry from my childhood, but specifically 2003-2004. There was simply nothing like it in sports. The run-up to those two seasons was insane. Roger Clemens gets traded to the Yankees from Toronto, proceeds to win his 3rd Cy Young after leaving Boston, and wins two rings with New York. A-Rod goes to New York instead of Boston, cementing his reputation as a punk, steroid using, cheating Yankee scumbag.
The Sox were desperately trying to compete bringing in top talents like Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling. However, the Sox stayed relevant and the Fenway Faithful kept their chins up.
All of this lead up to Aaron Boone crushing a Tim Wakefield knuckleball into the October night sky.
That moment was all because of Grady Little’s decision to leave Pedro in the game through the 8th inning. Fun Fact: This moment was the first time I ever heard my dad say the F-word.
When the Sox went down 3 games in 2004, I will not lie to you, I thought we were done.
If you can sit there reading this and say that you didn’t think the Sox were done at any point in the 2004 ALCS, you’re a liar and I love you. So much has been said about that incredible series, otherwise known as the greatest comeback of all time, but my favorite is Kevin Millar’s “Don’t let us win tonight.”
I carried “Don’t Let Us Win Tonight” in my heart for years. It’s my favorite saying. To me, it trumps “Ya Gotta Believe” and “Cowboy Up” and “Claim The Crown”. It’s my jam. The Red Sox won every night for the rest of that MLB Season. They lifted each other up at Busch Stadium, they made grown men cry and made lives complete. We then got wasted and had one hell of a parade.
Duck Boats 4Lyfe
The Sox/Yankees rivalry has since laid dormant. Sure there have been bits here and there, where games had meaning, and they flirted with a race to the top of the AL East. But the two teams haven’t had an arms race like they have in the last few years.
Armed with star-studded lineups, full of young talent, seasoned veterans and mammoth contracts, the Bronx Bombers and the Boston Boys of Summer lock horns for the first time this year at Fenway Park. The 5-5 Yankees with their super sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and the 8-1 Red Sox sending their Aces to the mound in Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello.
I wrote earlier this year how the Red Sox might not have the firepower to compete with the Yankees. I wrote about how the New York Lineup is impeccably put together, and Ryan wrote about how J.D. Martinez might not be the answer to Giancarlo Stanton. I neglected to mention how the Yankees would fair against the Red Sox arms. That’s going to be a huge deal this series. These games are made and broken by pitching. Don’t believe me? Ask Goose Gossage, Tim Wakefield, Pedro, Mariano, CC, etc. Pitching is going to win this series. Mark. My. Words.
As Opening Day fades in the rearview mirror, and Spring slowly takes our hand and leads us towards Summer weather, it’s hard not to get romantic about this time of year. Baseball is back, Summer is on the horizon and now for the first time in what feels like forever two Northeastern cities absolutely despise each other. It’s not that the hatred between New York and Boston ever went away. Quite the opposite. It’s been lying dormant through the winter and is now back in full force.
Bring on the boos, bring on the chants, bring on the beers. It’s rivalry time, you guys. And doesn’t that feel good?!