The image above really should include North and Central Jersey. But it gets the Bristol Line (as I call it, cutting through the Connecticut hometown of ESPN, and also Yale base New Haven) pretty much right. It also gives an interesting indication: While, road-wise, the eastern tip of Long Island, Montauk Point, is closer to Midtown Manhattan and Yankee Stadium, in terms of as-the-crow-flies distance, which includes radio and TV signals, it's actually closer to Boston's Downtown Crossing and Fenway Park.
December 26, 2002, Fenway Park. The Yankees sign Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, and new Sox president Larry Lucchino, in a fit of petulance, calls the Yankees "the Evil Empire."
Oh, really? Putting aside the question of which team is actually more evil... The term "Evil Empire" had been used by President Ronald Reagan -- who knew more about baseball than he did about economics or foreign affairs -- to describe the Soviet Union. Excuse me, Larry, but how do you square the image of the heavily capitalist Yankees with Communism and its prohibition of private property?
Some Yankee Fans, however, connect the word "Empire" with the villains of the Star Wars film franchise, including one fan who made a T-shirt with Darth Vader's helmet, saying, "May the Curse be with you."
October 11, 2003, Fenway Park. Game 3 of the ALCS, and another Roger vs. Pedro matchup. Pedro hits Karim Garcia in the head, on purpose. Not the first time he's hit a Yankee on purpose, nor will it be the last, but it is easily the most notorious.
Yelling back and forth. Jorge Posada, himself a former Pedro victim, yells in Spanish so that Pedro has no problem understanding. Pedro points at his head, then at Jorge. Message: "I'm going to hit you in the head." Making such a threat is a crime.
Later in the game, Clemens pitches to Manny Ramirez, and the pitch is head-high... but over the plate, and clearly not intended to hit Manny. (As we've seen, if Roger Clemens wanted to hit a batter, that batter got hit.) Manny points at Clemens and walks toward him, still holding the bat. The benches clear again, and Yankee coach Don Zimmer -- manager of the Sox in 1978, but also a former player who nearly died from a beaning in Triple-A ball in 1953 -- runs toward Pedro.
Pedro Martinez, age 32, grabs Don Zimmer, age 72, by the head, and throws him to the ground. Attempted murder, if the jurisdiction is New York. In Boston, Zimmer ends up forced to apologize, with Pedro getting a $50,000 fine -- pocket change, with what the Sox are paying him. Refresh my memory: Did we have to apologize to Japan for putting Pearl Harbor in the way of our Pacific Coast?
When things finally settle down, Clemens finishes his strikeout of Manny. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The next day, Game 4 is rained out, giving everyone a 24-hour cooling-off period, which was really for the best.
English soccer fans like to refer to their rivals as "The Scum," and their rivals' fans as "Scummers." As far as I'm concerned, this was the day the Red Sox stopped being mere arch-rivals, and truly became The Scum. They can take their "Evil Empire" talk and shove it up their own evil asses.
October 16, 2003, Yankee Stadium. It comes down to a Game 7. David Ortiz hits 2 home runs (cough-steroids-cough), and the Sox lead 5-2 in the bottom of the 8th. By this point, Ortiz, a.k.a. "Big Papi," has been hitting the Yanks like crazy all year. His success against the Yankees will eventually beg the question, "How many times does a guy have to get big hits off you before you plunk him?"
Ah, but there's a double standard at work: A Sox pitcher can hit a Yankee batter, and get away with it every... single... time; a Yankee pitcher can hit a Sox batter, and he gets thrown out of the game, fined and suspended. Anyway, the Sox need 5 more outs.
Derek Jeter doubles. Bernie Williams singles, Jeter scores. 5-3. Sox manager Grady Little comes out, and he has to know that Pedro has thrown too many pitches, and that the next 2 batters are Hideki Matsui, lefty, and Posada, a switch-hitter but much better from the left side than from the right; so the right thing to do is to bring in a lefthanded pitcher, probably Alan Embree (who usually pitched well against the Yankees), to pitch Matsui lefty-on-lefty and turn Posada to his weaker right side. The decision seems obvious to everyone: Sox fans, Yankee Fans, the Fox broadcast team, neutral TV viewers.
Obvious to everyone, that is, except for the man whose decision it was: Little. He leaves Pedro in. Matsui hits a ground-rule double, moving Bernie to 3rd base. 2nd & 3rd, only 1 out, and the dangerous (especially from the left side) Posada coming up. Now Little has got to take Pedro out, and bring in Embree.
But he stays in the dugout. Pedro remains on the mound, and Jorge dumps a looper into short center, scoring Bernie and Hideki. 5-5. Yet another legendary Sox choke, and The Stadium shakes with fans cheering and jumping. (And, considering Game 3, I find it very fitting that Posada got the hit that ended Pedro's night.)
Bottom of the 11th, and Tim Wakefield, who had beaten the Yanks in Games 1 and 4 of the series, and had pitched a scoreless 10th, opens the inning by throwing a 69 MPH knuckleball to Aaron Boone. Boom. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. Boone takes his place alongside Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner.
November 28, 2003, Fenway Park. Having failed to trade Nomar to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez, the Red Sox instead pull off a "reverse Tom Seaver": They trade 4 nobodies to the Arizona Diamondbacks for one of the top pitchers in the game, Curt Schilling, who had previously driven the Yankees nuts in the 2001 World Series. As a Philadelphia Phillie, Schilling had been described by general manager Lee Thomas as follows: "One day out of five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass." Schilling lives up to that reputation at his introductory press conference in Boston, by saying, "I guess I hate the Yankees now."
February 16, 2004, Yankee Stadium. With the Sox having failed to trade for A-Rod, making a very public mess of the negotiations with the Texas Rangers, the Yankees succeed, sending Alfonso Soriano to Texas for the biggest name (if not the best player) in baseball. With Jeter still at shortstop, A-Rod moves over to 3rd base.
July 1, 2004, Yankee Stadium. As wild a regular-season game as you'll ever see. The Yankees end up using everyone on their roster. The Sox use everyone on theirs except for two. One is backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. The other is Nomar, apparently injured but not on the Disabled List -- and the fact that Nomar is not sent into what is very much a key game, calendar be damned, is telling.
Once, Nomar, Jeter and A-Rod were the subjects of a debate as to who was the best shortstop in baseball. Now, Jeter is making a diving play that saves the game, A-Rod is playing 3rd base and moving to shortstop after Jeter got hurt on that play, and Nomar is sitting on the bench, leading to his being traded by the Sox within a few days.
Manny homers in the top of the 13th, but Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty double in the bottom of the 13th to win it. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. A stunning game whose re-airing on the YES Network the next morning gets relabeled from "Yankees Recap" to "Yankees Classic." (It also allowed "Flash" Flaherty to turn his one big hit in the major leagues into a broadcasting career on YES. Then again, one big hit is more than Fran Healy, a backup catcher for the Yankees who broadcast for both New York teams, ever got.)
July 24, 2004, Fenway Park. Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo -- white people should not wear cornrows, except for Bo Derek -- purposely hits A-Rod in the back. A-Rod curses Captain Cornrows out. Sox catcher and Captain Jason Varitek leaves on his mask, like the coward that he is, and pushes his catcher's mitt into A-Rod's pretty face, instigating a full-scale brawl. Refresh my memory: Which of these teams is evil? After the 1976 brawl, Bill Lee said, "The Yankees looked like a bunch of hookers swinging their purses." Well, at least they didn't hide behind protective masks.
Bill Mueller takes Mariano Rivera deep in the bottom of the 9th. Red Sox 9, Yankees 8. Mueller has often been suspected of steroid use, but has thus far been protected from such revelations.
September 19, 2004, Yankee Stadium. Yankees 11, Red Sox 1. The Yankees, the one team that seems to give Pedro trouble, beat him yet again, pounding him. In a postgame press conference, he says, "I just tip my cap, and call the Yankees my daddy."
"Who's Your Daddy?" chants will dog Pedro for the rest of his career. One fan made up a T-shirt showing Darth Vader wearing a Yankee jersey, and saying, as if to Luke Skywalker, "Pedro, I am your father!" The chant even returned when Pedro pitched for the Mets in an Interleague game in 2006, and for the Philadelphia Phillies in Games 2 and 6 of the 2009 World Series at the new Yankee Stadium.
October 20, 2004, Yankee Stadium. After a Game 4 comeback led by proven steroid user David Ortiz, and a Game 5 win also led by proven steroid user Ortiz, and a Game 6 win that featured A-Rod's slap play on admitted steroid user Arroyo in relief of suspected steroid user Curt Schilling (who had said before the series, "I'm not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 Yankee Fans shut up"), Game 7 is a diaster from the outset, as proven steroid user Ortiz homers again. Red Sox 10, Yankees 3.
The Red Sox become the first Major League Baseball team to come back from a 3-games-to-0 postseason deficit, and win the Pennant, clinching at Yankee Stadium, a house of pain for them for so long. They go on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, killing the Curse of the Bambino after 86 years.
Or so they thought. Now we know the truth.
April 5, 2005, Yankee Stadium. After he hit the home run that won Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, Jeter said he'd never hit a walkoff homer before, not even in Little League. He does it again in this game, off Keith Foulke. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The Yankees could have used one of these 6 months earlier.
April 14, 2005, Fenway Park. Yankee right fielder Gary Sheffield's cap is knocked off by a Red Sox fan while trying to pick up a fair ball in right field. In response, Sheffield pushes the fan. The conflict is quickly stopped by security guards. The fan was ejected from the game for interfering with play and is eventually stripped of his season tickets. Red Sox 8, Yankees 5. Still, the Sox fans once again prove that they, not the Yankees or their fans, are the evil ones.
August 18, 19, 20 & 21, 2006, Fenway Park. The Yankees complete a 5-game sweep at the little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square. The scores are 12-4, 14-11, 13-5, 8-5 and 2-1. The Yankees have moved from 1 1/2 games ahead of the Sox to 6 1/2 games ahead, effectively killing the Division race with 6 weeks to go.
I was in Boston on the 20th, for the 4th game, although my chances of getting into Fenway were slim and none, and I had to watch from elsewhere in Scum Town. Then again, I'd rather have watched from outside Fenway and won than watched from inside and lost. You should have heard Sox fans, not to mention the WEEI radio hosts, talk: They were in a daze, acting as though what happened in October 2004 had never happened. (And, based on what we now know, it really didn't.)
April 22, 2007, Fenway Park. Manny, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Varitek hit four consecutive home runs off Yankee pitcher Chase Wright, powering a comeback from a three-run deficit and completing a three game sweep of the Yankees at Fenway Park for the first time since 1990. Red Sox 7, Yankees 6.
While the Yankees do get the Wild Card in this season, they never recover enough from this beating to take the Division title. The Sox win the World Series again, although this can also been deemed illegitimate. Manny is later proven a steroid user, and the other 3 have also been suspected.
February 29, 2008, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida. At the spring-training complex soon to be renamed for his father, Yankee senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner responds to the popularity of the Sox in The New York Times newspaper's Play magazine:
'Red Sox Nation?' What a bunch of bullshit that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America, and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.
Not "restore order to the universe." "Restore the universe to order." It will take 2 more seasons.
July 30, 2009, Fenway Park. Exactly 10 years to the day after the 13-3 demolition I saw at Fenway, it is revealed that both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez failed steroid tests in the 2003 season. With Papi and Manny the 2 biggest reasons the Sox won the 2004 and 2007 World Series, those titles are now revealed to be completely illegitimate. The Curse of the Bambino still lives. 1918 * Forever.
August 7, 2009, Yankee Stadium II, Bronx. A-Rod ends a 0-0 standstill after 15 innings with a two-run home run off Junichi Tazawa. Two days later, former Sox hero Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back homers to give the Yanks a come-from-behind 3-2 win and a sweep.
September 27, 2009, Yankee Stadium II. Yankees 4, Red Sox 2. The Yankees complete a three-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 4-2 victory, clinching their first AL East title since 2006. The Yankees came back to tie the season series against the Red Sox 9-9, after starting with an 0-8 record against them, and go on to win their 27th World Championship -- slaying their own dragons (real, imagined, or steroid-induced), and in Hank's words, restoring the universe to order.
May 17, 2010, Yankee Stadium II. Marcus Thames breaks a bottom of the 9th slugfest deadlock with a walkoff homer off Jonathan Papelbon. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.
As of August 15, 2013, the Yankees have hit 215 walkoff home runs in their history, counting the postseason. 28 of these, including the postseason walkoffs by Bernie Williams in 1999 and Aaron Boone in 2003, have been against the Red Sox.
September 28, 2011, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. As late as September 1, a date on which they completed a 2-out-of-3 series win over the Yankees, the Sox were in first place in the AL East. But the Sox go into a tailspin, the Yankees take advantage, and on this date, the Sox lose to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3, while the Yankees lose to the Rays. As a result, with the Yankees having already clinched the AL East, the Sox blow the Wild Card to the Rays.
Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein will soon be fired. Once again, it is the Yankees who are regarded as champions, and the Red Sox who are regarded as chokers. As God intended it.
April 20, 2012, Fenway Park. The Sox celebrate the ballpark's 100th Anniversary -- the first Major League Baseball stadium to reach a centennial -- by playing on the exact anniversary and playing the exact same opponent. But they didn't get the same result, as the Yankees hit 5 home runs: 2 by Nick Swisher, and 1 each by Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and 1 by Alex Rodriguez, as Sox fans chanted, "Steroids!" while cheering David Ortiz. Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.
April 21, 2012, Fenway Park. The Yankees came from 9-0 down to beat the Sox 15-9, including 7 runs in the 7th inning and 7 more in the 8th. Swisher homers again, and Mark Teixeira hits home runs from each side of the plate. The next day, the series finale was rained out, and postponed until July, but the Yankees ended up winning it then anyway.
July 7, 2012, Fenway Park. Sox lead 5-3. Boone Logan comes in to relieve Phil Hughes with 1 out in the 6th, man on 2nd. Flyout, back-to-back walks, strikeout. End of that threat, but Girardi should have realized that, having already walked 2 batters, Logan shouldn't be kept in the game.
He leaves Logan in to start the 7th, and he allows a double. Girardi brings in Cory Wade, who turns that leadoff double (totally Logan's fault) into 4 runs (all of them partly Logan's fault). Sox lead 9-4 instead of 5-4. Yanks manage to make it 9-5, meaning if Logan doesn't allow that double, it's no worse than 5-5.
And this is against The Scum. Granted, the Sox were awful in 2012, but you still want to beat them, and the Yanks were still in a Division title race. This was Game 21 in Logan's Litany of Losing, which now stretches to 32 games.
However, having Bobby Valentine as manager turns out to be a disaster for the Sox, as they go 69-93, their worst season since 1965. The Yankees win the Division, but the postseason turns out to be a disaster.
April 1, 2013, Yankee Stadium II. The Yankees open the season at home, but lose 8-2 to the Sox. CC Sabathia has nothing, and gives up 4 runs in the 2nd inning.
May 31, 2013, Yankee Stadium II. The teams play each other for the first time since the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15. "Boston Strong" signs are everywhere, and, for once, the fans of the two legendary rivals are united. Behind the pitching of Sabathia and an RBI double by Vernon Wells, the Yankees win, 4-1.
August 16, 2013, Fenway Park. The Sox lead the AL East by 2 games over the Tampa Bay Rays, and 8 1/2 over the Yankees. The Yankees need to sweep this 3-game series.
Play ball, and...
BEAT THE SCUM!