The most famous rivalry in sports is back, and as competitive as ever as the comeback-happy Boston Red Sox (8-1) get set to host the underperforming favorites in the New York Yankees (5-5) for the first time this season. The three-game series marks the first meeting for the teams since they each acquired one of the leagues prized sluggers, with the Yankees’ trading for Giancarlo Stanton and the Red Sox waiting until March to sign J.D. Martinez. With both teams looking like World Series contenders once again this year, let’s look at the storied history between two of the most iconic organizations in baseball.
The Ruth Trade (1919)
The trade of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in the 1919-1920 offseason is probably the most famous sports trade ever, a move that essentially turned the once-powerhouse Red Sox into a financial front for the theater district and changed the landscape of baseball for arguably the next century. This is the birthplace of the rivalry, the initial wound in what would be a near-century of death-by-a-thousand-cuts for the Red Sox faithful. For the Yankees, the purchase of Ruth for $125,000 in the 1919 offseason turned them into immediate baseball royalty. The “Murderers Row” Yankees of the 1920s and 30s, led by Ruth and Lou Gehrig, won four World Series titled and turned “The House That Ruth Built” into a living museum of sports history, as the Yankees became the benchmark by which all other sports legacies are measured. How did the Red Sox take it? Well, for a while…not great.
Varitek Tells A-Rod To Stuff It (2004)
Alright, so maybe this moment isn’t as packed full of history as the last one, but damn is it a fun one! There have been plenty of great brawls in Red Sox – Yankees history, from this one to this one to this one, but the Red Sox captain trying to fit his whole mitt down Alex Rodriguez‘s throat after the slugger already got plunked by Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo has to take the cake. The grizzly catcher of the Bambino-cursed Sox adding injury to insult against the pretty-boy perennial MVP of the Yankees’ seemingly never-ending dynasty summed up everything the rivalry’s about. It was a hilariously great sports moment and a perfect preview of how intensely the two teams would clash that October.
Bucky “****ing” Dent (1978)
He had hit 4 home run all season entering the AL East tie-breaker game between the Red Sox and Yankees. In fact, he had hit 22 home runs in the first 2,927 plate appearances of his career. He was a shortstop batting dead last in the order. So then it just makes total logical sense that he would crush a three-run homer in the 9th inning to vault the Yankees into the playoffs, and then go on to hit a ridiculous .417 in the World Series to take championship MVP honors. Dent would play in New York for a few more seasons after making himself a household name in New York and a very different kind of household name in Boston, but no moment in his career would live up to one that turned his name into a Boston swear.
Aaron Boone Ends Game 7 (2003)
Long before he was the Yankees newest manager, Aaron Boone was a mid-season acquisition sent from Cincinnati to the Yankees in exchange for Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning, two guys who likely won’t be the manager of the Yankees anytime soon. With an impressive combination of strength and speed, and a recent All-Star nod under his belt for the first time, Boone joined the Yankees as a low-cost difference maker. Spoiler alert: he made a difference. With the Red Sox and Yankees knotted up at three games apiece in the 2003 American League Championship Series, Boone stepped into a tie-game in the bottom of the 11th to face the Red Sox’ knuckleballing super-utility legend, Tim Wakefield. It was his first at-bat of the day after coming in as a pinch-runner, and it took him only one pitch to leave a lasting mark on baseball lore: a moonshot to the left field stands that sent the Yankees to their sixth World Series in eight years.
The Sox Complete the Comeback (2004)
The 2004 Red Sox were, as we’ve already highlighted, a scrappy bunch. But no team had ever been scrappy enough to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the postseason. Whether it’s the Dave Roberts steal against Mariano Rivera with three outs remaining in game 4, or Ortiz’s walk-off home run three innings later, the sheer number of clutch moments required to crawl back from that kind of series deficit (not to mention giving up 19 runs in the previous game) seems innumerable. Schilling’s “bloody sock” dominance in game 6 helped solidify him as a postseason legend, and Johnny Damon’s grand slam in game 7 solidified him as a Red Sox for life…alright, just kidding there. But it did launch the Sox into the World Series, where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals and won their first World Series since the days of Ruth.