Coming off the Yankees vs. Red Sox opening series of 2015, a Red Sox fan and Yankee fan ponder the state of the rivalry.
Nathan Graziano, Boston Red Sox
In his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young wrote that “Rock & Roll will never die,” and I suspect—although I can’t speak for Yankee fans—he needs to add another item to his list of the immortal: professional sports’ greatest rivalry.
This concept occurred to me on Opening Day. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a revelation, seeing it is something I’ve known for years, I might call it a reaffirmation.
The Red Sox looked fabulous on Opening Day, beating a lowly Phillies 8-0. All of my anxieties concerning the 2015 club were temporarily assuaged—and I stress “temporarily” after they dropped the second game of the series with their newly-minted, $20 million arm Rick Porcello taking the loss.
But on Opening Day, Buchholz (gulp) looked sharp, albeit against a line-up that couldn’t hit water if they all jumped out of boat. Additionally, Hanley Ramirez jacked two (including a salami), Pedey was turning on fastballs like he did circa 2010, and Mookie Betts is looking more and more like the next big thing.
However, the Red Sox success didn’t make me nearly as happy as seeing the Yankees drop their first game to Toronto. Therein lay the reaffirmation: I will always loath the Yankees more than I love the Red Sox. In this sense, echoing The Godfather of Grunge, The Rivalry will never die.
Recently, there has been a buzz throughout baseball that The Rivalry is already dead. Last year, for example, was the first time since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995 that neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox were in the postseason, and neither team this season has a particularly dominant line-up. Therefore, baseball followers have theorized that the embittered rivalry between Boston and New York is effectively over, ruined by mediocrity.
Not for this Red Sox fan.
I will admit that the intensity of The Rivalry leading up to end of the apocryphal “Curse” has been mitigated, although I know numerous Red Sox fans who still keep framed pictures of Varitek feeding A-Rod a face full of catcher’s mitt. We call that nostalgia in New England.
In 2004, The Rivalry reached its zenith with the Red Sox coming back from a three-game deficit in the ALCS, capping off one of the greatest comebacks in professional sports’ history, and afterwards, I’ll admit, the desire to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, which once burned with the force of a thousand suns, cooled a bit.
But this doesn’t mean that I don’t still get worked up each time the Red Sox face-off against their nemeses from the Bronx. If you can’t muster a few beer-breathed obscenities, screamed in the vicinity of the television when the Red Sox are playing the Yankees, you’re not much of a fan, at least in my estimation.
Ticket sales at Fenway Park are further evidence that The Rivalry is still alive. If you’re trying to find tickets to a Yankee game—unless you’re a season-ticket holder—you either need to buy them early, know someone important, or pay up the corn-hole.
So with the Sox heading to the Bronx for the weekend before returning to Boston for the home opener, it’s time to get charged up for another season of trading punches with the Pinstripes.
Hey, hey, my, my, here’s some catcher’s mitt for you to chew, New York.
Michael Kasdan, NY Yankees
Well “Hey hey. My my.”
What have we here?
There have been some great “I believe speeches,” and I do believe one is called for here. Because that’s what you do when you have contradictory feelings and both sides are true.
I believe in baseball. In the grassy center field expanse of Yankee Stadium. In Lou Gehrig considering himself the luckiest man in the world. In single-digit numbers in pinstripes. In Yankee baseball. In Jeter and Bernie and Paulie “Hothead” O’Neill. In Mo. In Andy, In Jorge. In David Wells and Charlie Hayes squeezing his glove on the final out and leaping for joy. And before them, in the perfect line-up of my youth, with Rickey Henderson leading it off, and Willie Randolph in the two-hole, and Donnie Baseball hitting 3rd, and then big Dave Winfield and on and on and on. And in Dave Righetti closing games out. I even believed in Jay Buhner. I believe in forgetting the lean years, whether it be of Ken Phelps and Andy Hawkins and John Candaleria or Mike Pagliarulo and Wayne Tolleson. But also not forgetting.
And even though I know the game is rigged to favor the big spenders and the Yankees are among the biggest of big market teams, I also believe in tradition and pride and winning on the biggest stages.
And I believe in the grungy t-shirt salesmen outside the old Yankee Stadium. In “Boston Sucks.” In “Got Rings?” And I believe that shirt was way more fun when the Red Sox didn’t have any. And I believe I viscerally hated Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez and Nomar. And yet as I got older, I also admired them, but didn’t want to say it.
But now, years, removed from Pedro vs. Zimmer and bleeping Bucky Dent (!) and Aaron Boone’s blast, in an era where the quintessential Red Sox Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens won World Series for the Yankees, and Boggs rode a horse around the outfield grass, and Jacoby Ellsbury hits lead-off and wears the interlocking NY, does the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox still come to the same hateful boil?
For me the answer is unreservedly yes, but with an asterisk. Or two.
I have never and will never want to see the Red Sox lose more than the Yankees win. I think that is a losers mentality that perhaps my good friend Nate has after years of being a frustrated Red Sox fan. But I would love to see the Red Sox and their Buchholz led pitching staff and lineup of scrappy up-and-coming hitters all fall flat on their face.
To me, it is still the greatest rivalry in sports. Because of its history. And those memories that are passed down to our kids. Every time they play, no matter that its Mookie Betts and Mashiro Tanaka and not Jim Rice and Reggie Jackson, it conjures all that up. That will never change.
Nonetheless, now that I am grown man (or at least someone who impersonates a grown man on a daily basis), I am not despondent on days when the Yankees lose to the Red Sox. Oh sure, I’ll get into it with Sawx fans and band together with my Yankees brethren – whether to cheer and to commiserate – but I no longer live or die on the result of a baseball game.
All that said, there is no game I would rather see than Yankees vs. Red Sox. It’s still where heroes are made.
And so this past weekend I was still up on Saturday night, watching an April baseball game through 15 innings, and standing up when Texeira answered the Red Sox HR with one of his own. I just didn’t make it to the 19th inning; I slept, woke up, and checked the next morning. They had lost. And I still went on to have a great day.
And the next day they won. Big.
And I’ll be there watching the next time.
Photo Credit: AP/Paul J. Bereswill
This article was co-written with Good Men Project, Sr. Sports Writer (and resident Yankee fan), Michael Kasdan