Tom Hanks once uttered the famous words,”there’s no crying in baseball,” so why are there so many broken-hearted fans in New York and Boston? It is because the Boston Red Sox and Yankees rivalry needs a desperate hate injection. There is no sports rivalry more beloved and revered than the love and hate saga of the two biggest names in sports. But in the last couple of years the sparks, seventh game dramas, and breath-taking Jeteresk moments have taken a backseat to steroid headlines, over priced free agents, and the Kardashian sisters.
It all started in 1919, when Harry Frazee, the owner of the Red Sox, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in order to finance a Broadway play. The purchase would haunt the franchise for 86 years. The”Curse of the Bambino” was born, and so was the hate for the rival New York Yankees. The Yankees have won 26 World Championships and 39 pennants. The Bronx Bombers had used the Sox as stepping stools in many of their historic championships, until the 2004 ALCS, when the Boston Red Sox stunned the Yanks in a seventh game blowout win in the house that Ruth built.
The Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1908. It was a Gorilla on every fan’s shoulder in Fenway Park, and the familiar hate for each other could be seen on every “Boston Sucks” t-shirt, and every heated brawl in the bleacher creatures section of Yankee Stadium. Whether it is comparing the greats, like Boston’s Ted William’s unreachable batting average of .406, or Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, loyal fans always enjoy good old-fashioned, in your face trash talk.
This year the faces are different, the Yankees are no longer the Bronx bullies of old, and free agency and steroids have sterilized both franchises. In the 2003 ALCS, Pedro Martinez, the hated ace of the Boston Red Sox at the time, hit a Yankee batter with an inside pitch. Roger Clemens retaliated by hitting one of Boston’s batters next, and both teams cleared the benches after a brawl ensued. Martinez was charged by Don Zimmer, the 72-year-old bench coach from the Yankees. In a notorious moment that has stained the future Hall of Famer’s career, Martinez threw Zimmer to the ground, and became New York public enemy #1. The incident added a new dimension and detest between the two historic franchises.
In March, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, Martinez said that after the smack down, he and his family received death threats, and was told by police to keep his family out of New York. The threat of loss and triumph are what defines a meaningful rivalry, and it is why the subway ride to a game at Fenway or 161 street in the Bronx, is the most treasured routes in sports. Conflict is drama, that is why the Boston Red Sox and Yankees rivalry needs a hate injection.
David Ortiz, the current veteran on the Boston Red Sox, during a game against the Yankees this year, said that the rules of the game today have changed the rivalries of the past. The truth is, players are too expensive now, and would rather tweet their hated feelings towards each other than risk their signing bonuses, or injuring themselves in a brawl. Ortiz also said,”We want to beat each other up, but in a professional way.”
The fire that has lit such rivalries as Bird-Johnson, Ali-Frazier, and even Spike lee and Reggie Miller at the Garden have been snuffed out. The Yankees are in first place this year, and the Boston Red Sox might make the playoffs. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz are good pals, but the Boston Red Sox and Yankees rivalry will need a hate injection to fill dwindling ticket sales, and rekindle old flames. The elements of a classic rivalry still remain, you just need the villain, the hero, the heartbreak and the love story. It is what makes the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees, the greatest and loved soap opera in sports.
Opinion by Phillip Hernandez
Boston Globe: Red Sox, Yankees prove there’s still magic in the Rivalry
Sports Illustrated: Pedro Martinez talks 2003 season, rivalry with Yankees
Fox Sports: The Inning That Changed the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry
Photo Courtesy of Tracy Lee Carroll’s Flickr Page Creative Commons License
Second Photo Courtesy of Michael Femia’s Flickr Page Creative Commons License