Like many notable encounters, this one was accidental—a simple, unexpected meeting of...well, rear ends. Really, it was perfect. How many times over the years had they crossed paths and thought of growling, Kiss my ass? And here they were, Dwight Evans and Willie Randolph, posterior to posterior on one of their old battlegrounds, Yankee Stadium.
This took place last Friday, roughly two hours before the first-place Boston Red Sox and the second-place New York Yankees, baseball's greatest rivals, were to meet for the ninth of the 19 games that their fans are being blessed with this season. Randolph, the Yankees' third base coach and their former six-time All-Star second baseman, was standing on the pitcher's mound, gathering the balls left scattered from his team's batting practice session. Evans, the Red Sox hitting coach and their former three-time All-Star rightfielder, was strolling toward the hill to begin tossing BP to his club. As he was chatting with Red Sox infielder Carlos Baerga, Evans accidentally backed into Randolph, who was bent over at the waist. The two men turned around, and for an instant their eyes met. Then they spoke.
Evans: "Hey, Willie, how's it going?"
Randolph: "Pretty good...pretty good."
And that was that. As Randolph jogged toward the home clubhouse, he was stopped by a reporter who had witnessed the scene. Randolph shook his head and sighed. "Man," he said, embarrassed that there'd been a witness to the friendly exchange. "You saw that?"
From 1976 through '88, when Evans and Randolph were principals in the great rivalry at the same time, the two teams detested each other. It wasn't just that the clubs were routinely clawing for American League East supremacy. (Over those 13 seasons, the two combined for six division titles and five World Series appearances.) No, members of each team had a genuine dislike for the other. "It was hatred, no question," says Randolph. "I'm sure they thought we all had attitudes, and we felt the same way about them. There was no talking before games, no hanging out by the batting cage. Just snarling."
As Randolph was speaking, a familiar scene unfolded nearby that curdled his old-school blood. Two Yankees jogged alongside a couple of Red Sox, chatting like long-lost brothers. And in the outfield a gaggle of Boston pitchers exchanged pleasantries with their New York counterparts. There was laughter with backslaps and—egads!—handshakes, the byproducts of free agency run amok. "I guess it's O.K. for me to say 'Hi' to Dwight because he's a coach now," says Randolph. "But as a player I wouldn't even look at him. Nowadays you see Red Sox and Yankees running in the outfield, hugging each other. That bothers me, but what can I do? Nothing's the same anymore. Everything's changed."
For the low, low price of $10, you, too, can own what has become one of Boston's most popular fashion staples. On the front of the blue T-shirt BOSTON is written in large red letters. On the back there is a number 21, with two words stenciled above the digits: CLEMENS SUCKS.
Hating the Yankees—and their ageless righthander, Roger Clemens—is still big business in Beantown, where two weeks ago vendors encircled Fenway Park like ants around a soggy apple during a four-game series against New York. In addition to anti-Rocket wear, one could purchase YANKEES SUCK bumper stickers ($3), YANKEES SUCK pins ($5) and YANKEES SUCK caps ($12). The latest fashion statement was a tank top that called into question Derek Jeter's sexuality. Those went for $15, and they flew out of cardboard boxes. It was a warm Friday evening, and as the Red Sox scurried around their undersized clubhouse before the game, they were routinely stopped by reporters and offered the opportunity to express their contempt for the visiting team and, in particular, that night's opposing pitcher, Clemens. There was no venom to be found.