Five greatest Yankees-Red Sox finishes of all-time
Posted: Friday August 18, 2006 11:28AM; Updated: Tuesday August 22, 2006 7:20AM
Johnny Pesky and Don Zimmer have gone through their fair share of big Red Sox-Yankees showdowns.
Baseball's version of the Hatfields and McCoys is back in full-effect this weekend as the Yankees enter the unfriendly confines of Fenway Park for a critical five-game series against the Red Sox. The Yanks and Sox are currently enjoying the longest sustained stretch of competitive balance in their storied history -- for the past eight years they have finished first and second respectively in the AL East. The Yankees have won three World Series and five pennants in that time, and the Sox, of course, finally knocked off New York in 2004, winning a World Series of their own.
It may come as a shock to many Red Sox and Yankee fans that there are many objective baseball observers outside of the East Coast who have had a hard time always considering this much of a rivalry. This is the so-called rivalry that was described by historian Richard Johnson to be like that of the hammer and the nail. The Yankees have 26 world championships to Boston's six. The fact of the matter is the Yankees and Sox have had periods of intense competitiveness surrounded by years of inequality and indifference. In the teens, in the '50s, in the late '80s and early '90s, the "rivalry" lacked juice.
For the past decade, though, it has lived up to the hype while somehow still managing to be overhyped. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is simply the closest thing major league baseball has to the kind of hot-blooded fanaticism that you find in ACC hoops or SEC football.
Overall, New York and Boston have finished first and second 18 times since 1903. As the two teams come down the stretch neck-and-neck again this year, let's take a look at the five greatest Yankee-Red Sox finishes.
The Yankees were built to win from the get-go. Ban Johnson, president of the American League, desperately wanted to have the flagship team of his league located in the place where it would be most profitable -- New York. Boston had won the first ever World Series in 1903, but in the offseason Johnson arranged for surprise 20-game winner, Long Tom Hughes, to go to the Yankees for an aging starter, Jesse Tannehill (who would go on to have two good seasons for the Sox). The Yankees got another good starter, Jack Powell, from the St. Louis Browns and were armed with the best pitching staff in the league.
But the season was marked by the dominance of Jack Chesbro, the Yankees' 30-year-old ace. According to historian Glenn Stout, "No pitcher -- not Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Joe Wood, Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax or Roger Clemens -- has ever had an influence on a team and on a pennant race equal to the impact of Jack Chesbro in 1904. And none ever will." Chesbro started 51 games and won a record 41 decisions with a 1.82 ERA in a staggering 454 innings.
The season came down to a five-game series between the Yanks and Sox -- one in New York followed by two doubleheaders in Boston. Chesbro won the first game in New York, got pounded the next day in Boston, and then lost a heart-breaker, finally cracking after 450 innings pitched as the Sox beat the Yankees for the pennant of the last day of the season. Boston went on to win championships in 1912, '15, '16 and, of course, 1918. The Yankees, meanwhile, would not sniff the postseason again until Boston started trading all of its good players to the Bronx in the early '20s.