A Brief History of the Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry
The Boston Red Sox are on a tear this season, setting the pace not only for their own best season ever, but among the winningest teams of all time. The best Sox team ever was in 1905 when they dropped 105 wins, and they haven’t topped 100 since 1946. This season, however, they are on pace for 113, and if they manage that feat they will be only the third team ever to make that mark.
Historically, the one team who has always managed to be a thorn in their sides is, of course, the New York Yankees. This season the Sox are the dominators, having topped the Yanks on Sunday 5-4. With one of the best, if not the best, rivalries in each sport, we figured it was worth looking back at some of the key moments of the famed feud between the two.
In the early days of Major League Baseball, the Sox were the most successful–winning the first World Series in 1904 and more games than just about anybody until 1918, including four more titles. The Yankees were annual also-rans, never getting a title during the first 20 years of play, and they were pretty much wrecked by their New England neighbors at every opportunity.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the Sox become absolutely terrible, getting trounced not only by the Yankees but virtually everybody.
That all changed, however, in 1919 when Babe Ruth was traded from Boston to New York, making 1918 the last time the Sox would win the series until 2004. The Curse of the Bambino would live in infamy, as it launched the Yankee dynasty of becoming not only the most successful team in baseball, but in all of sports. The won 26 titles between 1920 and 2003, as well as 39 pennants, while Boston only managed four.
Ruth subsequently hit the first home run ever at the newly built Yankee Stadium, and of course it was against Boston. In 1923, the team won its first ever title, featuring 11 former players from the Sox. The next few decades saw the Yankees play in seven World Series with Ruth, winning four.
Later, more fuel was poured on the fire when Red Sox great Ted Williams became the first player to hit better than .400 in 1941, yet Joe DiMaggio got the AL MVP that year for his 56 game hitting streak. Oddly enough, the two players were almost traded between the teams a few years later, but the deal fell through.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the Sox become absolutely terrible, getting trounced not only by the Yankees but virtually everybody. Seething with vitriol for their state, the rivalry developed into a full-blown hatred with fans regularly getting into brawls with one another whenever the two teams met. The players got into the act occasionally too, most notably in 1967 when Sox outfield Reggie Smith body slammed Thad Tillotson. The brawl began when Tillotson beaned Joe Foy–perhaps as revenge for Foy having hit a grand slam a few days earlier against the Yanks.
In the 1970s, fans and players began getting violent with one another, starting when a fan threw a dart into Yankee first-baseman Chris Chambliss’ arm in 1973. A couple of years later the teams saw a brawl like no other, with virtually every player on each side getting in a few swings and taking a few as well.
On September 10, 2001, the two teams had a game rained out, and the following day the 9/11 attacks devastated the country (and more specifically New York). Setting aside the once-heated rivalry, Boston fans and players led a song in honor of their neighbors.
The 1980s saw a downturn in the Yankees’ fortunes, and they found themselves on the wrong side of the winning column for the first time in decades. They began to lash out at their hated foes, often cannibalizing eachother’s chances at taking the division.
By the mid-to-late 90s the Bronx Bombers were back on top, once again using their Boston punching bags to vault themselves to the top of the standings each year. In 1996, the Yankees won the championship (again), and once again they did it with a former Red Sox star: this time Wade Boggs. A couple of years later they snagged up another former Boston great, Roger Clemens, and proceeded to dominate once more.
In 1999, for the first time ever, the two squads met in the ALCS. The series was expected to be one for the ages, but the Yankees walked all over the Sox and won the series easily in five games. The next year they delivered the worst defeat Boston had ever had at home, a mind-boggling 22-1.
On September 10, 2001, the two teams had a game rained out, and the following day the 9/11 attacks devastated the country (and more specifically New York). Setting aside the once-heated rivalry, Boston fans and players led a song in honor of their neighbors. The peace and goodwill didn’t last long, however, as Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the “evil empire” in 2003, and the two faced off once more in the ALCS that season.
The Sox had been the top team in the regular season and the playoffs, and it was looking like they would finally end their long drought. The Yankees had other plans, however, and the series went to seven games–the 25th time the two had met that year, a Major League record. Also of note was a bench clearing brawl in Game 3, though no real punches were thrown. New York ended up winning the final matchup, and the Sox once again left defeated.
The following year, a matchup ensued, this time with the Sox finally breaking the Curse of the Bambino with style. They went down 3-0 in the best of 7 series, but became the first team to ever overcome such a deficit to take the series 4-3. Game 7 wasn’t even close, with the Sox wrecking the Yanks 10-3. They went on to win the World Series that year for the first time in 86 years, and did it again in 2007, both times sweeping their opponents. The Yankees finally had a worthy opponent.
For their part, Yankees’ fans began taunting Boston with signs showing the long timespan between championships. When the Sox won in 2007, the taunts died down, but the Yanks also snuck in a few. The Sox collapsed over the next few years, but they finally had some rings, and the Yankees, for their part, also saw little overall success with their attempts to essentially buy championships with their deep pockets.
In 2013, the Sox were back, winning another title while the Yankees didn’t even make the playoffs. Over the next few years, the Yankees were mediocre at best, often falling short of making the playoffs, and getting regularly beaten by Boston. But the Yankees are once again on the upswing, becoming contenders once more.
This season began with a brawl between the two in their second meeting, and both teams are likely to make the playoffs. The Yankees already have 70 wins, and Boston has topped 80 at a historically early point in the year. The two are on a massive collision course, and it would surprise few if they ended up in the ALCS once more. In any event, they are poised to face off a few more times in the regular season, with the pennant at stake. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy road!