B/R MLB Rivalry Series: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Welcome to the first edition of Bleacher Report's MLB rivalry series.
In the weeks to come, we'll be highlighting some of the biggest head-to-head rivalries in our national pastime and shining light on the past, present and future of those matchups.
We're kicking things off with the big one—the Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees in a clash of two of the biggest media markets in the northeastern United States and all of professional sports.
This rivalry goes beyond market size and geography, though.
It's rooted in the landscape-changing deal that sent Babe Ruth from Boston to New York and has provided us with plenty of memorable moments over the years.
The following provides a look at notable numbers and notes from the rivalry, a detailed breakdown of the rivalry's origins, an overview of memorable regular-season moments, a rundown of postseason meetings between the two clubs and finally a preview of the future outlook of both franchises.
Rivalry Numbers and Notes
Head-to-Head Record (Regular Season)
- 1,163-966 (adv. NYY)
Head-to-Head Postseason Meetings
- 2004 ALCS: Boston over New York (4-3)
- 2003 ALCS: New York over Boston (4-3)
- 1999 ALCS: New York over Boston (4-1)
- 6/30/1908: Cy Young, BOS
- 6/21/1916: Rube Foster, BOS
- 4/24/1917: George Mogridge, NYY
- 9/28/1951: Allie Reynolds, NYY
- 7/4/1983: Dave Righetti, NYY
- 7/29/1903: Patsy Dougherty, BOS
- 9/8/1940: Joe Gordon, NYY
Notable Players Who Made an Impact on Both Sides
- 3B Wade Boggs
- SP Roger Clemens
- OF Johnny Damon
- OF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SP Carl Mays
- RP Sparky Lyle
- SP Herb Pennock
- OF/P Babe Ruth
The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees: two legendary MLB franchises separated by roughly 200 miles and front and center in two of the biggest media markets in the country.
That geographical closeness aside, the groundwork for what may be the most well-known rivalry in all of professional sports began with one cash-strapped owner's ill-fated decision to sell a man by the name of George Herman Ruth.
With a .322/.456/.657 line that included 29 home runs and 113 RBI in 543 plate appearances and a 9-5 record with a 2.97 ERA in 133.1 innings on the mound, Babe Ruth turned in a season for the ages with the Boston Red Sox in 1919.
As his popularity and the popularity of the sport in general continued to grow, Ruth looked to cash in, as Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated explained:
Ruth held out in spring training in 1919, ultimately landing a three-year contract worth $10,000. He threatened a hold out again after the 1919 season, saying he was worth twice the salary he had agreed to before that season. [Red Sox owner Harry] Frazee, still in debt from his purchase of the Red Sox three years earlier, responded by selling Ruth to the Yankees on Jan. 3, 1920, for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan secured by a mortgage on Fenway Park.
The Chicago White Sox offered up "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and $60,000 while the Red Sox were shopping Ruth, but Frazee went with the Yankees, who offered the full $100,000 he was seeking. With that, a rivalry was born.
"Between 1920 and 1964, the Yankees won 29 American League pennants and 20 World Series. The Red Sox won one pennant and no World Series titles," Corcoran wrote.
Ruth was a part of seven pennants and four World Series titles during his 15 seasons with the Yankees, as they emerged as a dominant force in the AL almost immediately following the trade.
The "Curse of the Bambino" was finally put to rest in 2004, but it has defined this rivalry.
Notable Regular-Season Rivalry Moments
1941 AL MVP vote
In a vote that is still debated to this day, Joe DiMaggio edged out Ted Williams for AL MVP honors in 1941. DiMaggio authored his record 56-game hitting streak and finished the year with a .357/.440/.643 line that included 43 doubles, 30 home runs and 125 RBI for the eventual World Series-winning Yankees. Meanwhile, Williams became the last player to hit .400 in a season with a .406/.553/.735 line, but he had to settle for runner-up.
1949 season-ending series
With the Red Sox clinging to a one-game lead with two to play, they headed to Yankee Stadium for a two-game set to close out the regular season. Needing just one win to clinch the pennant, the Red Sox lost 5-4 and 5-3 in front of crowds of 69,551 and 68,055, and the Yankees claimed their 16th AL pennant.
Oct. 1, 1961: Roger Maris hits No. 61 vs. Red Sox
On the final day of the 1961 regular season, Yankees slugger Roger Maris broke the single-season home run record when he launched No. 61 off Red Sox rookie Tracy Stallard. It came with some controversy, as it was the first year where the schedule was expanded from 154 to 162 games, but it was a historic moment in the rivalry nonetheless.
The "Boston Massacre" in 1978
The Red Sox closed out the month of August with an 84-48 record in 1978, good for a seven-game lead over the Yankees in the standings. Things went south in September, though, epitomized by a four-game drubbing at the hands of the Yankees that pulled the two teams even in the standings. The media dubbed the series the "Boston Massacre," as the Yankees outscored the Red Sox a whopping 42-9 over the four games.
Oct. 2, 1978: Bucky "Bleeping" Dent
Things remained tied atop the standings at the conclusion of the 1978 regular season, setting up a one-game playoff to determine the AL pennant winner. The Red Sox carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning, when light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent launched a three-run homer to left field off Boston starter Mike Torrez. The Yankees went on to win the game 5-4, capturing the pennant and making Dent the unlikeliest of heroes in the rivalry.
Sept. 10, 1999: Pedro Martinez strikes out 17 vs. Yankees
In one of the most dominant single-game performances of his Hall of Fame career, Pedro Martinez struck out 17 in a complete-game one-hitter against the Yankees. Martinez was 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 213.1 innings in 1999 en route to the Cy Young Award, while the Yankees won 98 games and a second straight title. It was Martinez at his very best against a team that was nothing short of dominant.
July 24, 2004: Alex Rodriguez vs. Jason Varitek
There have been a number of notable brawls over the years in this series—such as when Lou Piniella and Carlton Fisk exchanged blows in 1976 after a collision at home plate—but the first one that comes to mind for most is when Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek socked Alex Rodriguez during a game in 2004.
Whether or not you buy into the idea that a single moment can turn the tide of a season, the Red Sox went on to win that game with three runs off closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth and then went an MLB-best 45-20 the rest of the way.
Postseason Rivalry History
1999 ALCS: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1
The Yankees captured the AL East title with 98 wins during the 1999 regular season and then skated past the Texas Rangers with a three-game sweep to advance to the AL Championship Series and a first-ever postseason matchup with the Red Sox.
The Red Sox had won 94 games during the regular season and came back from down 2-0 in their ALDS matchup with the Cleveland Indians to win three straight and advance to the ALCS.
Game 1 went 10 innings, and Bernie Williams led off the bottom of the 10th for the Yankees with a walk-off home run against Red Sox reliever Rod Beck. The Yankees then took a two-game lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 2, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
The Red Sox exploded for 13 runs in Game 3 to get on the board in the series, but the Yankees won the next two to close out the series en route to what would be another World Series title.
2003 ALCS: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
After splitting the first two games of the 2003 ALCS, Game 3 provided the highly anticipated matchup of aces Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
Clemens went up and in on Manny Ramirez after Martinez had hit Karim Garcia in the back the previous inning, and the benches cleared after Ramirez charged the mound.
The resulting brawl provided one of the oddest moments in baseball history when 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer charged at Martinez and wound up thrown to the ground.
The series seesawed back and forth from there and wound up coming down to a winner-take-all Game 7 to decide the AL pennant.
The Red Sox struck for three runs in the second inning and chased Clemens in the fourth, and they led 5-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning.
With Martinez already at 100 pitches, Red Sox manager Grady Little left him in the game to pitch the eighth, and he promptly allowed an RBI single to Williams and a two-run double to Jorge Posada before finally being lifted with things all knotted up at 5-5.
The game ended up going to the bottom of the 11th, when Aaron Boone launched the first pitch he saw from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in his second inning of work for a walk-off, pennant-clinching home run.
2004 ALCS: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3
The Yankees jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead in the 2004 ALCS, setting up one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history.
"They are down, 3-0, after last night's 19-8 rout, and, in this sport, that is an official death sentence. Soon it will be over, and we will spend another dreary winter lamenting this and lamenting that," Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe wrote after the Game 3 shellacking.
The Yankees carried a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, but then the entire series shifted. Dave Roberts came up with a huge steal of second as a pinch runner in the ninth, and Bill Mueller drove him in for the tying run off closer Mariano Rivera.
Things were still knotted up in the 12th inning when David Ortiz delivered a two-run, walk-off home run to buy the Red Sox another day.
Game 5 again went to extra innings after the Red Sox plated two in the bottom of the eighth, and Ortiz was the hero again when he laced an RBI single in a 10-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the 14th inning to score Johnny Damon. The game lasted five hours and 49 minutes.
Curt Schilling took his turn as the hero in Game 6, as he turned in what would be known as the "Bloody Sock Game" after having a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle sutured in place so he could make the start.
Schilling allowed four hits and one earned run in seven innings of work, and a four-run fourth inning that included a three-run homer from Mark Bellhorn stood up in a 4-2 victory.
That set up a decisive Game 7, and it was all Red Sox from the start. They jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings and went on to win 10-3 as the first team in MLB history to come from behind 3-0 in a playoff series.
Ortiz won ALCS MVP honors with a .387/.457/.742 line that included three home runs and 11 RBI, and he cemented his place as one of the best clutch hitters of all time.
The Present and Future of the Rivalry
The 2014 season marked the first time since 1993—prior to league expansion and the inception of the wild card—that both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees missed the postseason.
The Yankees made it into the Wild Card Game last season but fell to the Houston Astros 3-0, while the Red Sox slipped to 78-84 and last place in the AL East.
Suffice it to say, this rivalry has slipped from relevance since those exciting ALCS meetings in 2003 and 2004.
The future is bright, though.
The Red Sox have a terrific young core of position players in place, led by a trio of 2016 All-Stars in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., as the next wave of talent is ready to step in for guys like Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.
There's plenty more young talent on the way too, with a farm system that earned the No. 3 spot in our post-draft rankings—elite prospects Yoan Moncada and Anderson Espinoza lead the way.
Sorting out the pitching staff remains a priority, but the Red Sox have money to spend and young talent to deal on the trade market. There's no reason to think they won't be able to regularly contend going forward.
As for the Yankees, the organization has finally committed to cultivating in-house talent as opposed to simply breaking the bank in free agency.
Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran are set to come off the books this coming offseason, with Rodriguez and CC Sabathia reaching free agency the following winter.
That leaves them with just over $100 million left on the books for 2018 and lines them up for a run at Bryce Harper and some of the other big names slated to be part of that free-agent class.
They have also slowly but surely built up a solid farm system, which earned the No. 13 spot in our post-draft rankings. Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez headline the system, and there's a wealth of high-ceiling talent in the lower levels of the minors.
Boston has a better chance at contending for a playoff spot this season and the next, but five years from now, all signs indicate that the Red Sox and Yankees will once again be among the most dangerous teams in the American League.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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