30 Most Intense Moments in the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is one of the most famous and fiercest rivalries in all of sports. For more than a century, these two ballclubs have butted heads. In fact, the Sox went 86 years in between World Series titles (1918-2004), with some blaming the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" for the long championship drought.
While selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees may not have been their best move, the Sox certainly have become one of the winningest teams since breaking the curse, though it is the Yankees that hold the record for most titles, with 27.
On the weekend series of April 20-22, the Red Sox will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park against the Yankees—the team they opened with. Recognizing this historic achievement, I present to you the 30 most intense moments in the history of this famed rivalry.
The moments are presented in chronological order. Enjoy.
Opening slide photo courtesy of www.sullybaseball.blogspot.com
May 7, 1903: First Official Meeting
Well, you got to start somewhere, so it may as well be the first official meeting between the teams.
From 1901 through 1918, the Red Sox were one of the most successful teams in baseball. They won the very first World Series in 1903, though they were known as the Boston Americans then. The changed their name to the Red Sox in 1908 and went on to win four more titles between 1912 and 1918.
During this time, the Yankees were often called the Highlanders, in reference to the neighborhood they played their games in. The Yankees franchise was in Baltimore when the teams first met in 1901, but on May 7, 1903, both teams played for the first time since they moved to New York to be named the Highlanders.
Of course, their was a fight (yes, the rivalry has begun!) when Boston pitcher George Winter was knocked down.
But Boston would go on to win the pennant and the very first World Series.
Meanwhile, a rivalry was in the making.
Boston Sells Babe Ruth to the Yankees
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
While this does not technically qualify as an "intense" moment, it certainly cannot be ignored for the impact it had on future relations between the teams.
In 1916, Harry Frazee bought the Sox on credit (for $500,000), and he was under pressure to get out of debt caused by his purchase of the team and his Broadway shows, which he produced.
Needing money to finance the Broadway musical No, No Nanatte, Frazee sold several players, including a guy by the name of Babe Ruth. It would not be one of the Red Sox' better moves.
Frazee got $125,000 and a $300,000 loan for the Babe. The Yankees dynasty had begun while the Sox went into a funk.
While the Red Sox's five World Series titles were a record at the time, 1918 would be the team's last championship for 86 years.
May 30, 1938: Jake Powell Fights Joe Cronin
At Yankee Stadium, on May 30, 1938, with 83,533 fans on hand, Yankees outfielder Jake Powell and Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin fought on the field and underneath the stands.
Each player received a fine and a 10-game suspension. The Yankees would wind up finishing first and the Red Sox second in the league that year (there were no divisions at the time of course).
New York would go on to sweep the Cubs in the World Series. They also won the title the following year, (beating the Reds) with the Sox again finishing second.
1941: Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The rivalry intensified in 1941 when Red Sox legend Ted Williams batted .406, becoming the last hitter to ever bat above .400 in a season. Yet, he finished second in the AL MVP race to the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio, who had a record 56-game hit streak.
Here are some lesser-known facts about the DiMaggio-Williams rivalry. DiMaggio's hit streak started in a 13-1 loss to the Sox on May 15, 1941. Plus, the two were almost traded for each other.
Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankees GM Larry MacPhail were rumored to have a verbal agreement to swap the two players in 1948, but MacPhail refused to include Yogi Berra, so the deal fell through.
Finally, Joe's brother Dom played the Sox his entire career.
1948 Pennant Race
Another intense moment in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry occurred during the 1948 pennant race. Legendary manager Joe McCarthy came out of retirement after a feud with Yankee ownership and signed with the Red Sox in 1948.
Each team was involved in an intense pennant race with the Cleveland Indians until the final weekend. The Sox eliminated the Yankees in the final series at Fenway Park, despite four DiMaggio hits in the final game.
So, in a tie for the pennant with Cleveland, the teams were forced into the first-ever, one-game playoff, which the Indians won; If the Sox had won, it could have been an all-Boston World Series, as the NL was represented by the Boston Braves.
1949 Season Ending Series at Yankee Stadium
One year later, in 1949, the Red Sox came into Yankee Stadium needing only one win to advance to the World Series. The Sox had a one-game lead over the Yankees with two games remaining.
The Sox lost 5-4 in the first game and followed up that loss with another losing effort, this time 5-3. So the Yankees won their 16th American League pennant.
New York ultimately went on to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series to capture their 12th title.
1952 Jimmy Piersall and Billy Martin Slug It out
Fast forward to 1952. Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall and Yankees' second baseman (and future manager) Billy Martin fought in the tunnel under the stands after exchanging insults.
The fight was broken up by a couple of Yankees coaches and Boston starting pitcher Ellis Kinder. Piersall took off his blood-soaked shirt and proceeded to get into another fight, this time with teammate Maury McDermott.
The Sox ended up winning the game, 5-2, with Piersall on the bench, licking his wounds.
1961 Roger Maris Hits 61st Home Run off Red Sox Rookie
The 1961 season included a furious assault of the single-season home run record by Yankees Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. While Mantle got hurt late in the season, Maris would go on to break Babe Ruth's all-time record for home runs in a season with his 61st homer.
On the last day of the season, Maris hit that fateful homer off of—who else—a Red Sox pitcher. Tracy Stallard gave up the home run to Maris at Yankee Stadium.
New York won the game 1-0. That season, the Yankees won their 26th pennant and 19th World Series title.
1967 Billy Rohr Near-Miss No-Hitter vs. Yanks
Six years later, in 1967, while the peace and love generation were walking around with flowers in their eyes, rookie Red Sox pitcher Billy Rohr was flirting with a no-hitter at—where else—Yankee Stadium.
Of all the teams to throw a no-hitter against, to have a Red Sox pitcher throw one against the rival Yankees was beyond amazing to Sox fans.
Meanwhile, Rohr not only got the first two outs of the ninth inning, he came within a strike of placing his name in the record books. But Elston Howard spoiled the Sox party by hitting a single to end the no-hit bid.
Rohr finished the one-hitter, but incredibly had only one more win in his major league career. And, of course, both of his wins came against the Yankees.
1967 Double-Header Brawl
That same year, Red Sox third baseman Joe Foy slugged a grand slam during the first game of a doubleheader against the Yankees. In the second game, Yankee pitcher Thad Tillotson threw some chin music at Foy, not once, but twice.
The next pitch beaned Foy in the helmet. So, the next inning, Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg retaliated by nailing Tillotson in the head.
Both pitchers went at it, and a brawl was started. During the fight, Sox outfielder Reggie Smith picked up and body-slammed Tillotson to the ground.
Just another day in Red Sox-Yankees paradise.
Yankees Beat Sox in Longest Game Ever at Yankee Stadium
Just two months later, the Sox and Yankees battled in what ended up being the longest game ever played in Yankee Stadium (by innings).
The Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 20 innings.
Thurman Munson vs. Carlton Fisk
The year was 1973. In a game at Fenway Park, with the score tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson tried to score from third base on a missed bunt attempt by Gene Michael.
Munson barrelled into Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, which resulted in a fight. Munson ended up punching Fisk in the face.
Fan Throws Dart at Chambliss
The next year, 1974, a fan at Fenway Park threw a dart at the Yankees' Chris Chambliss after a triple. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
But it was a scary sign that, perhaps, the rivalry was escalating to new heights, and maybe one involving violent acts form the fans, not just between the players.
It was the source of a lot of fear and anger for players, as they wondered aloud what was next, a bullet form some crazed fan? Or perhaps, retaliation from Yankees fans?
Fortunately, there were no more documented incidents involving serious weapons thrown from the stands.
Sweet Lou Brawls with Fisk
But the players didn't let a dart stop them from brawling. Lou Piniella went in feet first trying to score in the sixth inning, and he brawled with Fisk at home plate. The benches cleared.
After the fight apparently died down and order appeared to be restored, Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee and Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles exchanged words, resulting in another fight.
Lee suffered a separated left shoulder and missed a significant portion of the 1976 season. He would continue to pitch until 1982, but his level of performance was not the same as it was prior to the fight. T
The 1976 season resulted in a pennant for the Yankees, but they lost to the Reds in the World Series.
1978's "Boston Massacre"
In 1978, the Red Sox, managed by future Yankee coach Don Zimmer, seemed to be on their way to the World Series. They led the Yankees by 14.5 games in mid-July.
But the Sox began to crumble just as the Yankees started turning their season around. By early September, the Yankees had trimmed the Sox lead to four games as they headed into a four-game series with the Sox.
The series became known as the "Boston Massacre," as the Yankees swept all four games by a combined score of 42-9.
Bucky Dent's Homer
That same season, following the massacre, the Sox fell behind the Yankees but had their own comeback and finished the season in a tie with the Yanks. A one-game playoff was held in Boston with Ron Guidry on the mound for New York.
Guidry was 24-3 on the season, but the Sox had a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning. However, Bucky Dent, of all people, came to the plate and slugged a three-run homer to give the Yanks a 3-2 lead.
It was only the fifth home run of the season for Dent.
New York held on to win the game 5-4 and end the Sox season. Yankees closer Goose Gossage was spit in the face and had beer thrown on him, and he commented that it felt like more of a playoff game than the following series.
The Yankees went on to win the World Series again that year.
Dave Righetti No-Hits Red Sox
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The 1980s were the only decade when neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox won a title.
Each made it to the Series but lost in New York (the Yankees lost to the Dodgers in 1981 and Boston lost to the Mets in Shea Stadium in 1986). But the rivalry had some good moments.
Included in those memorable moments was Dave Righetti's Fourth of July 1983 no-hitter vs. the Sox in Yankee Stadium. Wade Boggs struck out to end the game.
This was the first no-hitter thrown by a left-hander at Yankee Stadium and the first no-hitter by a Yankee since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
Righetti Saves Double-Header
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Dave Righetti, who had no-hit the Sox earlier in the decade, was now a closer and made history by saving both ends of an October 4, 1986 double-header against Boston, finishing the season with 46 saves, which broke the all-time record for saves in a season (the record stood until 1990, when Bobby Thigpen had 57 saves).
1990 turned out to be Righetti's last season with the Yanks.
Despite Righetti's performance, the Sox won the division and went to the playoffs while New York stayed home.
The Curse of the Bambino Takes Hold in 1990
In 1990, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy penned a book entitled The Curse of the Bambino which Yankees fans and media used to taunt the Sox repeatedly. In September of that year, Yankees fans began shouting "1918" to remind Sox fans how long it had been since their last title.
Going forward, any time the Sox played in Yankee Stadium, pictures of Babe Ruth and signs with "1918" on them littered the ballpark.
Photo courtesy of www.openlibrary.org
Yankees Fire Dent in Boston
In 1990, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was roundly criticized for firing then-manager Bucky Dent while in Boston. Because the firing took place in Boston, it was much more of a media circus that it would have been had Steinbrenner waited, or at least, that's what the popular thought was at the time.
Sox fans felt retribution, similar to an execution of a player who had haunted them years before.
Photo courtesy of www.articles.nydailynews.com
The Boss Is Suspended
Look, any news involving either team becomes fodder for the other, so the news that George Steinbrenner had been suspended (for the second time) from day-to-day operations of the Yankees is part of the rivalry between the teams.
Yankees fans were happy, and Sox fans felt the turmoil could be a boost for their own team.
The first time "The Boss" was suspended was in 1974 when he was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon.
But this time, in 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent ordered the Yankees owner to resign as a result of Steinbrenner's $40,000 payment to confessed gambler Howie Spira for damaging information about the since-traded Dave Winfield.
Later, Spira was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for attempting to extort $110,000 from the Yankees organization, but Red Sox fans didn't care. They were just happy there was dissension among the Yankees.
First Playoff Meeting in 1999: Game 1
In 1999, the Yankees and Red Sox faced each other for the first time in the playoffs. The Yankees were the defending World Series champions and in the midst of a run of three consecutive World Championships, while Boston had not appeared in the ALCS since 1990.
Game 1 was won by the Yankees on a 10th-inning walk-off home run by Bernie Williams off Boston reliever Rod Beck.
According to Wikipedia, "The game is the first actual postseason meeting between the rivals because the one-game playoff in 1978 technically counted as a regular season game."
There was an intense build-up to this series.
First Playoff Meeting: Game 3
While the series ended up being anti-climactic, with New York winning in five games, the third game in Boston was the lone bright spot for Sox fans.
It was a much anticipated pitching matchup between Roger Clemens, the former Red Sox, and Boston ace Pedro Martinez. Through seven innings, Martinez was pitching a shutout and struck out 12 Yankees batters.
Meanwhile, Clemens was hit hard, giving up five runs and only lasting into the third inning.
The Sox went on to crush the Yankees 13-1. However, New York came back to win the series and advance to the World Series, where they beat the Atlanta Braves.
The loss to Martinez was the Yankees only postseason loss, going 11-1.
Photo courtesy of www.redsoxbeacon.com
Mussina Comes Within a Strike of a Perfect Game
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Yankees starter Mike Mussina came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against Boston in 2001. Only Carl Everett's ninth-inning single with two outs and two strikes on him separated Mussina from history.
It was certainly a tense moment in the rivalry, as Sox fans would rather take a sharp stick to the eye than have a perfect game thrown at them by a New York Yankee!
The Yankees went on to win the game 1-0, but Sox fans could breath a sigh of relief that Mussina's bid had been thwarted.
September 11th Tragedy Brings a Different Kind of Intensity
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The fierce rivalry between the teams temporarily resulted in a truce following the devastating September 11, 2001, attacks. Following a rain out between the teams the previous day, when games resumed, Boston fans held up signs stating "Boston loves New York."
Yes, it was an intense moment in the United States and one of the most horrific tragedies ever on American soil, but even Sox fans could put aside their hatred toward New York for awhile, in honor of the heroic displays by New York police, fire fighters and other rescue personnel.
However, the peace didn't last long. That offseason, Red Sox President Larry Lucchino uttered the infamous label that would stick to the Yanks to this day—"The Evil Empire."
This happened after the Sox lost out on Cuban free-agent Jose Contreras to the Yankees.
2003 ALCS Game 3 Brawl
Both teams faced off against each other once again in the 2003 LCS. The Red Sox were the favorites, with many media members writing about a potential Sox-Chicago Cubs World Series.
Game 3 at Fenway Park was particularly intense. Pedro Martinez hit the Yankees' Karim Garcia, resulting in both benches emptying, though no punches were thrown. Then, in the bottom half of the inning, Roger Clemens threw some chin music to Manny Ramirez and the fight was on.
Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer, who was the Sox manager in 1978, charged at Martinez, who grabbed the portly Zimmer by his bald head and threw him to the ground. Scenes of that fight are still shown on ESPN to this day.
Later, midway through the ninth inning, Garcia and Yankee pitcher Jeff Nelson fought with a Fenway Park groundskeeper.
After reviewing the incident, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig expressed his disappointment by the behavior of the participants and fined Martinez $50,000, Ramirez $25,000, Garcia $10,000 and Zimmer $5,000.
2003 ALCS: Game 7
In Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, Roger Clemens was ineffective, and the Sox were up 5-2 through eight innings. It looked as if they had the series in hand. Martinez gave up a run in the eighth, and Sox manager Grady Little came out to the mound.
In a decision that would ultimately cost him his job, Little elected to leave Martinez in the game. The Yankees tied the game against Martinez, and it went into extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Aaron Boone hit a homer off Tim Wakefield, giving the Yankees their 39th American League pennant. However, the Yanks went on to lose in the World Series to the Florida Marlins.
Sox, Yankees Battle over A-Rod
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
In 2004, the Red Sox thought they had a trade with the Texas Rangers finalized that would send Alex Rodriguez to the Sox for Manny Ramirez and prospects. The trade did not occur, with the player's union opposing the terms of the deal.
Much to the chagrin of the Red Sox, A-Rod was later dealt to the rival Yankees. The Sox had spent three months trying to work out a deal with the slugger, only to watch him go to their arch-rival.
Varitek Punches A-Rod
This just may have been the moment that sparked the Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years when, on July 24, 2004, Sox catcher Jason Varitek smashed his glove into the face of A-Rod, and the benches cleared.
Just prior to Varitek doing that, Bronson Arroyo had hit A-Rod with a pitch, and as he started fuming at the Sox starter, Varitek stepped in front of him in case he was going to charge the mound.
Boston staged a comeback to win the game, which ended on a walk-off homer by Bill Mueller off Mariano Rivera.
2004 ALCS: Red Sox Complete Historic Comeback
The Sox and Yankees met in the 2004 ALCS with New York winning the first three games. No team in the history of baseball had ever won a best of seven series after being down three games to none. With the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera entering the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 at Fenway, it looked to be over.
But the Sox completed a highly improbable comeback from down three games to zero, taking Game 7 after winning Game 6 in the infamous Curt Schilling "bloody sock" game.
Their win in Game 7 was a blowout and completed what was the biggest collapse in the history of the rivalry.
Going on to win the World Series was almost anti-climactic after coming back in historic fashion to defeat the Yankees. But the Sox did win their first World Series in 86 years, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sorry, Yankee fans, for ending this slideshow with the story of the collapse. But I'm sure there will be plenty of other moments in the rivalry yet to come, and anyway, no one can claim more titles than the Yankees.
You may now go back to your regularly scheduled fighting.