Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Resumption of Baseball's Greatest Rivalry...

Credit:  Bain News Service/Library of Congress

As the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox get set to begin the latest chapter in their long, intense rivalry, I thought I’d look back.  The first official game pitting the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox occurred on April 14, 1913 at Fenway Park in Boston.  The Yankees organization began play in the American League in 1901 but they were known as the Baltimore Orioles (no relation).  After two years, the team ceased operations and was purchased by Frank Farrell and Bill Devery.  The new owners moved the franchise to New York, and gave the team the nickname of the Highlanders.  Although they would affectionately become known as the Yankees in subsequent years, the name was not officially changed until 1913.    

Similarly, the Red Sox went through several  name changes from the time of their inception (also in 1901).  They were known as the Boston Red Stockings and the Boston Americans before the name was changed to the Red Sox following the 1907 season.

So, although the two organizations have duked it out since 1901, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, by those names, didn’t officially begin until 1913.  

Sadly, the Boston won the first Yankees-Red Sox game, 2-1, behind the four-hit pitching of Smoky Joe Wood.  He struck out nine batters while pitching a complete game (but didn't they all back then).  The Yankees starter, Ray Caldwell, also went the distance, giving up eight hits and two runs.  The Red Sox scored the winning two runs on a double by left fielder Duffy Lewis.

For the inaugural game, the Yankees lineup featured the following players:

  • Bert Daniels, RF
  • Harry Wolter, CF
  • Roy Hartzell, 3B
  • Birdie Cree, LF
  • Hal Chase, 2B
  • Dutch Sterrett, 1B
  • Jeff Sweeney, C
  • Ralph Young, SS
  • Ray Caldwell, P

Of the names, Hal Chase is the one that stands out to me.  “Prince Hal” was primarily a first baseman and is credited with being the first star of the Highlanders/Yankees.  Babe Ruth considered him to be the best first baseman ever, but that was obviously before the days of Lou Gehrig.  Despite his excellent reputation as a baseball player (he was a smooth fielder), his name was tied with corruption for alleged involvement in gambling on baseball games and suspicious play in order to throw games.  Chase would be traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 1, 1913 for Babe Borton and Rollie Zeider.



It’s a sad tale in the long, storied history of the Yankees franchise.  As late sportswriter Fred Lieb said in describing Chase, “What a waste of skill and artistry.  He could think and move like a flash. Nature fitted him out to be a superstar.  But alas!  As Jim Price (then sports editor for The New York Press) told me in 1911, ‘He was born with a corkscrew brain’”.  It’s unfortunate that Chase went down that path.  He could have ensured a place in Cooperstown with his play, but his actions prevented entry to the Hall of Fame.  He was remorseful in later years, but no one really knows how many games were lost because of his deceit. 

New York would win the next day (April 15, 1913) against the Red Sox, 3-2, behind the pitching of Ray Keating for their first Yankees victory in the passionate rivalry.    

The Yankees had entered the 1913 season as a team with promise.  They were led by well known player/manager Frank Chance, but for various reasons and probably most importantly the games thrown by Chase, the Yankees finished seventh in the American League with a 57-94 record.  They escaped the cellar by one game over the St Louis Browns.  Chance would later manage the Red Sox for a single season in 1923. 

If we go back to the first ever game between the two franchises, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Americans, 10-6, on April 26, 1901.  In 1901, Boston was a two-team city.  The National League team was known as the Boston Beaneaters.  I am sure that all of us have coined various nicknames on Boston over the years, but it would be hard to take any team seriously called the “Beaneaters”.  I guess I wouldn’t want to follow them.

Since those early games, the Yankees have compiled a 1169-973 against the Red Sox.  Their biggest victory occurred on June 19, 2000 when the Yankees pounded the Red Sox, 22-1 (scoring 16 runs in the final two innings, capped with a three run homer by Scott Brosius).  Currently, the Yankees have a three game winning streak against the Red Sox, thanks to a three-game sweep late last September.

In the all-important category, the Yankees lead the Red Sox in World Series championships, 27-7.

For the three game series in Boston, the pitching match-ups will be:

  • Today:  Luis Severino (1-1) versus AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (1-2)
  • Wednesday:  Masahiro Tanaka (2-1) versus Boston ace Chris Sale (1-1)
  • Thursday:  CC Sabathia (2-1) versus Drew Pomeranz (1-1)

The only ex-Yankee we will see this series is former Yankees fourth outfielder Chris Young.  The former BoSox players on the Yankees roster are reliever Tommy Layne center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  Austin Romine's dad, Kevin, is a former Red Sox outfielder.  

Of all the Yankees rivalries, there’s no doubt I enjoy Yankees-Red Sox the most.  It’s funny… I hate them the most, yet I prefer them over the Baltimore Orioles (modern version), Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays.  I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense.  The Red Sox are a team that I love to hate, but my respect for the team and the organization has always been strong.  When the Yankees win by beating good Red Sox teams, it makes winning that much sweeter.  Somehow, when the Yankees are winning  and the Red Sox are not, it’s just not the same.  One of my favorite quotes is ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’. 



Have a great Tuesday!  Let’s get this three game series started right!  Sevy, dominate the night!

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