The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have met a total of 2,109 times during their storied rivalry that dates back to 1901. In spite of the heated nature of the rivalry, the Yankees showed their class in honoring a Red Sox icon on Monday night.
When the news passed through the baseball world that former Red Sox shortstop and manager Johnny Pesky had passed away at the age of 92, many throughout baseball were saddened by the news, and not just baseball fans.
The Yankees honored Pesky, who never represented the Yankees once during his over 60 years in baseball, with a moment of silence and a scoreboard tribute moments before the start of their game at Yankee Stadium with the Texas Rangers.
Despite the supposed hatred between the two teams between the lines, the Yankees showed an incredible amount of class by their actions.
Pesky wasn't just a player and manager for the Red Sox—he was an ambassador of the game that he so loved for over 60 years, dedicating his life to the team that he adored and the players that he enjoyed watching through the years.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was one such player who Pesky admired.
“He was always so nice to me throughout the years. Every time I’d see him, he would come over and say, ‘I hope you get four hits today, and the guy behind you hits into four double plays.’ I’ve always enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to him," Jeter said.
“I always like the fact that we have a lot of ex-players that come around all the time. I always liked going up [to Boston] and having an opportunity to see him. They loved him there; fans, players, media, everyone loved him. I send my best wishes to his family.”
It didn't surprise me at all to see Jeter show class in his remembrance of Pesky—it was Jeter's style of play and the way he carried himself that Pesky admired.
The Yankees may have the Red Sox' number in terms of World Series championships and head-to-head record through the years, but for one shining moment on Monday night, the Yankees stood by their American League brethren and honored a man who touched the hearts of many fans through the years.
For the true Boston fan, the Yankees will always be the hated Yankees, the Evil Empire, as Red Sox president Larry Lucchino once coined them.
But on Monday night, the Evil Empire became a class act, even for the staunchest of Red Sox fans.
I hated the yankees a little less today as they honored Johnny Pesky with a moment of silence. #RedSox— Lindsay Holcomb (@LindsayJ2) August 14, 2012
Former ESPN SportsCenter and political analyst Keith Olbermann, himself a New Yorker, had this to say about the passing of Pesky.
Words cannot adequately describe the loss of Johnny Pesky, who has died after a lifetime of being genuinely, generously terrific to people— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) August 13, 2012
Others from across the country chimed in with their thoughts on the passing of Pesky via their Twitter accounts as well.
What it really boils down to is this—as much as fans may hold their allegiances and beliefs regarding the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, the Yankees' magnanimous gesture in their tribute of Johnny Pesky indeed put those differences to the side.
Hats off to the Yankees and to players like Derek Jeter who genuinely and sincerely respect the men like Johnny Pesky who gave all they had to the game they so loved.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.