The rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox is the granddaddy of all sports rivalries in the United States. The two teams have competed in MLB’s American League for over 100 seasons. When these two teams play, they are generally nationally televised games with considerable interest, especially when both franchises have high expectations. Yankees and Red Sox games are some of the most-watched MLB games each season. Off the field, the rivalry has led to violence between fans and garnered significant attention from politicians and athletes in other sports.
Here’s a brief introduction to the bitter rivalry:
History of Yankees vs. Red Sox Rivalry
In 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, which was followed by an 86-year period in which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. This led to the superstition known as the “Curse of the Bambino,” which haunted the Red Sox throughout the years. From 1920 through 2003, the Yankees won 26 World Series championships and 39 pennants, compared to only four pennants for the Red Sox. Every year that the Red Sox made the World Series, they lost 4–3, leaving them with no World Series titles. Out of those 84 years, the Yankees bested the Red Sox in the standings 66 times.
The rivalry grew in 1941 when Ted Williams batted .406 for Boston, becoming the last player to bat over .400 in a season. Despite Williams’ accomplishment, the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio took the MVP award that season. In 1948, former Yankees manager Joe McCarthy feuded with Yankees ownership and came out of retirement to join the Red Sox as their manager. The Red Sox eliminated the Yankees in the final series of the year to tie Cleveland for the pennant. The situation forced the first-ever one-game playoff in AL history, which the Indians won.
In 1952, Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall and Yankees second baseman Billy Martin exchanged insults before a game and ended up fighting under the stands. In 1978, the Red Sox were favorites for the World Series. They led the Yankees by 14 games in July. New York turned their season around just as the Red Sox started to collapse. By early September, the Yankees had cut their deficit to just four games, just in time for a four-game series at Fenway Park. The Yankees won all four games by a combined score of 42–9 in a series that became nationally known as the “Boston Massacre.”
Through the 1980’s and early 1990’s, neither team won a World Series title. During this time period, the two historic franchises were seldom great at the same time. This all changed after the strike of the early 1990s. The Yankees won the 1996 World Series and then went on to have one of the best seasons in baseball history in 1998.
In 1999, the Yankees and Red Sox faced each other for the first time in the ALCS. The Red Sox were back in the ALCS for the first time since 1990, while the Yankees were the defending WS champs. The Yankees won the series and returned to the World Series, where they won back-to-back titles.
The 2003 ALCS may be the climax of the rivalry. In Game 3, Pedro Martínez hit Yankees batter Karim García, prompting an argument between the two players which ended with both teams clearing the benches, although no punches being thrown. Later in the inning, a pitch from Yankees starter Roger Clemens to Manny Ramírez was inside and a brawl ensued. Yankees coach Don Zimmer, who had previously managed the Red Sox, charged at Martínez, who grabbed Zimmer by the head and swung him to the ground. In the ninth inning, García and Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson fought with a Fenway Park groundskeeper in the bullpen. The Yankees went on to win the series.
Since that time, both teams have been constants in the AL playoff picture. The teams regularly fight for supremacy in the AL East, but tension between the two teams appeared to have eased through the years until 2017. In 2017, a brawl erupted between both benches after Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin charged Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly for throwing at him twice in response to Austin’s slide at second base earlier in the game.. The Red Sox won the ALDS series with the Yankees, and just like in the April brawl, this series fueled the hatred between the two fan bases.
Head to Head Comparison of Yankees vs. Red Sox
These two long-time franchises have met a total of 2,257 times on the playing field. The Yankees are 1,202-1,018-14 all time against the Red Sox. New York also holds the advantage in the postseason, winning 12 games to Boston’s 11. However, the Red Sox do have the longest winning streak in this series. They won 17 games in a row from 1911-1912. The longest winning streak for the Yankees was in 1936, and then again in 1952-1953 when they won 12 straight.
The Yankees have taken advantage of their friendly confines in New York. At Yankee Stadium, New York is 647-455-7 all time against the Red Sox. Comparatively, the Red Sox are just 563-555-7 while protecting Fenway Park. The home field advantage in the playoffs does not really exist between these two teams, as the Yankees are just 6-6 at home while they are 6-5 at Boston.
Until 2014, the post season had featured one or both of these teams since the creation of the wild card format and Division Series. New York and Boston have faced each other in the AL Championship Series three times with the Yankees winning in 1999 and 2003 and Boston winning in 2004. The two teams have also met once in the AL Division Series (ALDS), in 2018, with Boston winning 3-1. The series included a 16-1 Red Sox win in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, which was the most lopsided postseason loss for the Yankees in their history.
During the 2018 World Series in Boston, the Red Sox fans in attendance started chanting “Yankees Suck” as the Red Sox finished a game. The victorious Red Sox players sang Frank Sinatra’s cover of “New York, New York” in celebration in the locker room after clinching the title. The rivalry seems to be heating up once more.
In May 2018, MLB announced that the teams would play a two-game series during the 2019 season at London Stadium. The series is the first year of a two-year deal to play regular season games at the venue. The MLB London Series will be the first time that the two sides have played each other in regular season play outside of either New York or Boston.