Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yankees vs. Red Sox: The Defining Moments, Part I: 1903-1952

In commemoration of the start of another Yankees-Red Sox series tonight, I reprint a series of posts from April 2010.

May 7, 1903, Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston. For the first time, the New York and Boston franchises of the American League play each other. The result is a 6-2 win for the Boston Americans (a.k.a. the Boston Pilgrims, the Boston Puritans, or, for their owner, Charles Somers, the Boston Somersets) over the New York Highlanders (a.k.a. the New York Hilltoppers, the New York Americans, or, for manager-pitcher Clark Griffith, the New York Griffins).


The New York team's name was awfully long, and tough to fit into a newspaper headline. But George M. Cohan's musical Little Johnny Jones would debut on Broadway in 1904, and its signature song (along with "Give My Regards to Broadway"), "Yankee Doodle Dandy," would become the Theodore Roosevelt era's equivalent of a Number 1 hit. Since the Highlanders were in the American League, it was an easy jump from "Americans" to "Yankees," which could fit in a headline -- and could be further shortened to "Yanks." In 1907, the Boston team would adopt the name formerly used by the city's National League team, Red Stockings, but shorten it to Red Sox.  This was also done in Chicago: The NL team we know as the Cubs started out as the White Stockings, and the AL team became the White Sox.


May 8, 1903, Huntington Avenue Grounds. The Highlanders win the 2nd game between them, 6-1.
 June 1, 1903, Hilltop Park, Manhattan. For the first time, they play each other in New York. Boston also wins this one, 8-2, and will sweep a 3-game series. The Highlanders will finish 4th, while the Sox-to-be will win the Pennant, and then win the first-ever World Series by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.


October 10, 1904, Hilltop Park. The first great race between the franchises ends in a doubleheader. The Highlanders of Clark Griffith, Jack Chesbro and Willie Keeler need to sweep to win the AL Pennant against the defending World Champions, led by third baseman-manager Jimmy Collins and pitcher Cy Young.

Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that season, likely to forever remain a record from the 60 feet, 6 inches pitching distance. But he's more remembered for the first game of this twinbill, which he lost, when his wild pitch allowed the winning run to score in the 9th. Red Sox 3, Yankees 2.

The NL Champion New York Giants, already terrified of the prospect of losing New York to the Highlanders, had announced that they would not play the AL Champs. This is the only time the World Series has ever been forfeited, although the Red Sox are not allowed to officially call themselves "1904 World Champions." (Which would give them 9 World Championships, not 8 -- 3 of which, of course, are illegitimate.)

April 20, 1912, Fenway Park, Boston. The Back Bay ballyard officially opens. Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of 3 U.S. Senators, one of whom went on to become President, throws out the ceremonial first ball.  The game goes 11 innings, and the home team wins. Red Sox 7, Yankees 6. The Yanks go on to lose 102 games and finish last, something they've done only twice since. The Red Sox go on to win the World Series.
 June 24, 1914, Polo Grounds, New York.  Roy Hartzell is not remembered as a Yankee hero today, but the 3rd baseman and outfielder batted .296 with 91 RBIs in 1911. On this date, he did something only done twice before in a Yankee uniform: He hit what would now be called a walkoff home run. He hit it off Red Sox starter Hugh Bedient, giving the Yankees a 3-2 victory.  Previously, Willie Keeler had done it against the Washington Senators in 1905, and Frank LaPorte against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1906.


I was able to find a list of all Yankee walkoff home runs, but not a corresponding list for the Red Sox. You would think that someone, somewhere, would have, at the very least, compiled a list of Sox walkoff homers just against the Yankees.  If there is such a list somewhere, let me know in the Comments section.


May 6, 1915, Polo Grounds.  The Yankees beat the Red Sox in 13 innings, 4-3.  The losing pitcher was a rookie from Baltimore.  But that rookie did hit his first major league home run, having previously had 8 at-bats this season and 10 the year before.  The Yankee who gave it up was named Jack Warhop.  The Boston rookie? George "Babe" Ruth.


Wrote Damon Runyon, the great sportswriter whose writings on New York City street life would one day form the basis for the musical Guys and Dolls"Fanning this Ruth is not as easy as the name and the occupation might indicate. In the third inning, Ruth knocked the slant out of one of Jack Warhop's underhanded subterfuges, and put the baseball in the right field stands for a home run. Ruth was discovered by Jack Dunn in a Baltimore school a year ago where he had not attained his left-handed majority, and was adopted and adapted by Jack for use of the Orioles. He is now quite a demon pitcher and demon hitter when he connects."


November 2, 1916, Fenway Park.  Joseph Lannin sells the Red Sox to Harry Frazee. Frazee owned the Red Sox from 1916 to 1923. He liked baseball, but he loved musical theater, and he owned the Longacre Theater in New York. His office was in the same 42nd Street building as the Yankees' offices. (Most teams did not have their offices in their ballparks until decades later.) This would be very significant in the next few years.

July 29, 1919, Times Square, New York.  Frazee trades pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees for $40,000 and 2 players you don't need to remember, as they never did much for either club. There was a hell of a to-do about this, as Mays had jumped the Sox and was suspended, and, at the time, the rules said you couldn't trade a suspended player.

This trade pretty much split the American League: Frazee, Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, and Chicago White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey were on one side; on the other were AL founder and President Ban Johnson and the owners of the other 5 clubs. The National Commission, which oversaw baseball in those days, ruled in favor of Frazee and Ruppert, and Mays became the first major player to go from Frazee's Sox to Ruppert's Yanks. There would be more.

December 26, 1919, Times Square. As a result of the Mays contretemps, Frazee, Ruppert, and Comiskey could pretty much now only make deals with each other, as the other 5 AL owners wanted nothing to do with them. (They were the Shibe brothers and Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, Clark Griffith of the Washington Senators, Frank Navin and Walter Briggs of the Detroit Tigers, Phil Ball of the St. Louis Browns, and Sunny Jim Dunn of the Cleveland Indians.)

Due to circumstances that Frazee should have been able to control, but didn't, he had to get rid of the biggest power hitter in the game, Babe Ruth. So he sold the Babe to the Yankees, mainly because Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert was willing to pay $125,000 for Ruth's contract; while the other possibility, the White Sox, were run by Charlie Comiskey, a notorious cheapstake. (His parsimony led to a problem with that year's World Series.)

So if you're a Red Sox fan, don't blame Frazee for what happened: He didn't have much choice, unless he wanted the press and the public to think Ruth was running the team. From 1918 to the present... Yankees 27, Red Sox 0. Without cheating, anyway.

December 15, 1920, Times Square. Another big trade that helped the Yanks and hurt the Sox. Ruppert sent 4 players, including the decent Del Pratt and Muddy Ruel, to Boston, and perhaps gave up too soon on both of them. But in return, he got 4 players, notably Wally Schang and Waite Hoyt. Had there been an All-Star Game at the time, Schang would have been the AL catcher just about every season from 1914 (with the A's) until 1924.

Hoyt, only 21 at the time of the trade and a native New Yorker (a graduate of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn), hadn't done much for the Sox, who gave up him way too soon. He became a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Yankees.  Later, he became a beloved broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds.

This would have been a much better trade for the Sox if they'd kept Ruel, but in 1923, in one of his last deals, Frazee traded him to Griffith's Senators, and he was the catcher on the Senators' first 2 Pennants, 1924 and '25. Pratt at least gave the Sox .300 averages and 188 RBIs in his first 2 seasons with them, so it wasn't a total loss. But this was a bonehead trade for Boston.

June 29, 1921, Polo Grounds. Roger Peckinpaugh -- a decent infielder but not known as much of a hitter -- homers in the bottom of the 10th, to give the Yankees a 5-3 win. The winning pitcher: A former Red Sock named Carl Mays. The losing pitcher for Boston: A future Yankee named Bullet Joe Bush.

April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium, Bronx. The first game in the big ballpark, and depending on whose figures you believe, there were anywhere from 58,000 to 74,218 (with enough people kept outside to push it to 100,000 had there been enough seats) on hand. Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York threw out the first ball, and John Philip Sousa conducted the U.S. Marine Band in playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Babe Ruth said, "Some ball yard," and, "I'd give a year of my life to hit the first home run here." He only lived to be 53, but he did hit the first homer in the house. Bob Shawkey outdueled Howard Ehmke, and while Shawkey was brought back to throw out the first ball when The Stadium reopened after its 1973-76 renovation, look up the 1929 World Series to find a nice story about Ehmke. Yankees 4, Red Sox 1.

The Yanks go on to beat the Giants, to win their first World Series. Of their 25 players, 11 had been members of the Sox' last World Championship in 1918, including starting pitchers Waite Hoyt, Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones. It was trading away the pitching, much more than Ruth, that should have earned Frazee the ire of Boston fans.

August 2, 1923, Fenway Park.  On the same day that President Warren G. Harding dies, Frazee sells the Red Sox to Bob Quinn. Frazee's musical No, No, Nanette would open on Broadway 2 years later, and the Ruth sale had nothing to do with it -- although it may have helped finance a nonmusical play upon which it was based.

Frazee died in 1929 from nephritis, or Bright's disease, a kidney disorder that was fatal within 5 years of diagnosis then, but is treatable today. Nonetheless, he remains the most hated man ever associated with Boston sports. And not fairly.

May 6, 1930, Fenway Park. Can't blame this one on Frazee, a year dead and 7 years gone: The Sox trade pitcher Charles "Red" Ruffing to the Yankees for Cedric Durst and $50,000. Ruffing was 39-96 for some bad Boston teams; he would go 231-124 for the Yankees, that win total topped in a Yankee uniform, so far, only by Whitey Ford with 236.  (Andy Pettitte got close, with 219.)

How good was Durst? He batted .245 for the Sox the rest of the season, and he never appeared in the majors again. This wasn't about Durst: This was about the cash, as the Great Depression was underway, and the Sox did not have a rich owner. That would change within 3 years.

February 25, 1933, Fenway Park. Quinn sells the Sox to Tom Yawkey, the son of a former part-owner of the Detroit Tigers, who had recently turned 30, allowing him to inherit a lumber mill fortune that, proportionately speaking, made him richer then than George Steinbrenner would ever be.

Told by Tiger legend Ty Cobb -- William and Tom Yawkey were two of Cobb's few real friends -- that the Tigers were not for sale, but that the Red Sox might be, Yawkey jumped. For the next 43 years, he would do exactly what Steinbrenner would be criticized for: Trying to buy a championship. He failed. The Sox would win 3 Pennants while he was alive and running them, and a 4th while his widow owned them, but would lose the World Series in the deciding Game 7 all 4 times.

April 14, 1933, Yankee Stadium. Ruffing, a very good hitter for a pitcher, hits a walkoff home run, a grand slam, and the Yankees win, 6-2. This is the first walkoff homer hit by a Yankee pitcher.

September 8, 1937, Yankee Stadium. Lou Gehrig hits a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, and the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 9-6. It is the 3rd and last walkoff home run of Gehrig's career.  Babe Ruth had 11, and Joe DiMaggio 4, but neither ever did it against the Sox.

April 20, 1939, Yankee Stadium. Opening Day, and while one legend, Lou Gehrig, is fading, another debuts. Ted Williams strikes out against Red Ruffing in his first two major league at-bats. But in his third, he strokes a double, and "Teddy Ballgame" is underway.

From 1938 to 1949, the Red Sox would finish 2nd to the Yankees 6 times, and would finish 3rd an additional 3 times in the 1950s. But only twice did they finish ahead of the Yankees in any season from 1919 to 1965: 1946 and 1948.  In spite of Ted's debut, the Yankees win, 2-0, and go on to win the World Series.

April 23, 1941, Yankee Stadium. Rookie Phil Rizzuto -- not exactly a musclebound slugger -- hits his first major league home run, taking Charlie Wagner deep in the bottom of the 11th inning. It was the first of only 38 big-league round-trippers for the Scooter, and none of the 37 to come was a walkoff. I wonder if he yelled, "Holy cow!"

July 2, 1941, Yankee Stadium. Joe DiMaggio beats the Sox, and the 95-degree heat, and hits a home run to extend his hitting streak to a record 45 games. Yankees 8, Red Sox 4. Williams goes on to hit .406, the last man to hit over .400 (or even over .390 in a full season), but DiMaggio's streak reaches 56 games, he leads the Yankees to win the World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he, rather than Williams, deservedly wins the AL's Most Valuable Player award.

August 12, 1942, Yankee Stadium. Charlie Keller clobbers a Mike Ryba pitch for a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th, giving the Yankees an 8-4 win.

August 10, 1946, Yankee Stadium. Aaron Robinson is not especially remembered, but someone had to be the Yankee catcher between Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.  He took Clem Dreiswerd deep in the bottom of the 9th to win, 7-5.

However, several Yankees, including Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich and Phil Rizzuto, hadn't found their batting stroke just yet, after returning from World War II. And Charlie Keller hurt his back, curtailing what could have been a Hall of Fame career. The result was that the Yankees never seriously challenged for the Pennant, and the Sox won a Boston sports record 104 games.

However, they lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, although the Cards were a much more experienced team, having been in 3 of the previous 4 World Series, winning 2 of them, including a 1942 win and a 1943 loss to the Yankees.

October 3, 1948, Fenway Park. The Sox beat the Yankees, 10-5, clinching at least a tie for the AL Pennant, and knocking the Yanks out, in the 154th and final game of the regular season. (The AL adopted the current 162-game schedule after it expanded in 1961; the National League did the same the following season.)

Sox left fielder Ted Williams went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI doubles. Center fielder Dom DiMaggio went 3-for-4, including a solo home run. His Yankee brother Joe went 4-for-5 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs -- meaning that, between them, the DiMaggios went 7-for-9 with 3 extra-base hits and 4 RBIs. And brother Vince, who also reached the majors, wasn't even in this game! Although he was there, as were their parents.

Joe got a standing ovation from the Boston fans during this game, and later called it one of the biggest thrills of his life. Boston fans, showing class? It used to happen all the time.

The next day, the Sox lost a playoff for the Pennant to the Cleveland Indians, 8-3, as Tribe shortstop-and-manager Lou Boudreau hit 2 home runs to cement his place as the AL's Most Valuable Player, ahead of the Yankee Clipper and the Splendid Splinter.

April 30, 1949, Yankee Stadium. Tommy Henrich was nicknamed "Ol' Reliable" by Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen, and he lived up to that name by taking Tex Hughson downtown in the bottom of the 9th, to win, 4-3.

Five months later, Henrich would do it to Don Newcombe in Game 1 of the World Series, becoming the first MLB player to hit a walkoff homer in postseason play. He lived to the age of 96, but never really got the credit he deserved for his clutch play.

October 1, 1949, Yankee Stadium. Believe it or not, the Yankees blew a 12-game lead, and trailed the Sox by 1 game with 2 to play -- and these 2 were against the Sox at The Stadium. The Yanks hold Joe DiMaggio Day, since his brother Dom plays for the Sox and thus the whole family can attend. Joe says, "I'd like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee." (I guess he didn't have an agent back in 1934.)

The Sox, acting like more recent Red Sox teams, blow a 4-0 lead, Johnny Lindell hits an 8th-inning homer, and the race is tied. Yankees 5, Red Sox 4. In fact, in the 1901 to 1968 era of two single-division leagues, 1949 was the only season in which both leagues' races were unresolved as the final day of the regular season dawned.

October 2, 1949, Yankee Stadium. This is for the Pennant. The Yanks lead 1-0 in the 8th, when Joe McCarthy, managing the Sox after all those Pennants with the Yankees, relieves starter Ellis Kinder. Big mistake, as a Jerry Coleman double clears the loaded bases. But Vic Raschi falters a bit in the 9th, partly due to DiMaggio, sick with pneumonia, dropping an easy fly ball. Normally so good out there, Joe takes himself out of the game.

The tying runs are on, the run that could win the Pennant is at the plate, and Yogi Berra goes out to talk to Raschi. "The Springfield Rifle" angrily says, "Gimme the goddamned ball, and get the hell out of here!" Yogi does as he's told, and Raschi gets the final out. Yankees 5, Red Sox 3.

The Yanks beat the Dodgers in the World Series.  In the last 2 seasons, the Sox had won 192 games, and didn't even win a Pennant.

September 28, 1951, Yankee Stadium. The Yanks can clinch the Pennant with a win, and need just one more out. Even more, Allie Reynolds needs one more out for his 2nd no-hitter of the year. But who's at bat? Ted Williams. "The Superchief" gets "the Splendid Splinter" to hit an easy popup... which Yogi drops! Fortunately, it's in foul territory, but you don't give Ted Williams a second chance. Incredibly, Ted pops it up again, and this time, Yogi catches it. Yankees 8, Red Sox 0. The Yanks go on to beat the Giants in the World Series.

Early in the 1952 season, Ted Williams was called back into the Marine Corps for the Korean War, as he had been in World War II.  He would miss the rest of '52 and all but the last few weeks of '53, and by the time he came back the Red Sox "glory years" of 1946-51 were over, as most of the other good players had retired or been traded away.

The Yanks-Sox rivalry went dormant as a result, leading Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, born in 1953, to later remark that it had become like a conversation between Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in the film Casablanca, a script written by the grandfather and great uncle of future Sox general manager Theo Epstein:

Ugarte: "You despise me, don't you, Rick?"
Rick: "Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would."

Part II follows.

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