LONGSHOTS: The Mt. Rushmores of the Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry
by Dave Long
With the upcoming series with the Yanks at Fenway still five days away, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. If I write this now, most will see it with the Rangers series going on so it won’t be timed quite right. But if I wait until next issue, chances are many will see this after they leave town. What to do? OK — we’ll go today with the latest offering from my ongoing fascination with the “Mt. Rushmore of sports” concept, with this entry being the Mt. Rushmore of All Things Red Sox–Yankees.
The Mt. Rushmore of Greatest Fielding Plays: 1. Yaz 1967. An over-the-shoulder diving catch the day Billy Rohr pitched 8.2 of no-hit ball in his major league debut with the great Ken Coleman call, “and Yastrzemski makes a TREMONDOUS catch!!!!!. 2. Lou Piniella 1978. In the playoff game, stabbed a Jerry Remy shot to right that he’d lost in the sun, preventing Rick Burleson from going to third where he’d have tied it on a Jim Rice fly out a batter later. 3. Fred Lynn 1975. A diving, bases-loaded, rally-killing catch that took a divot the size of Rhode Island that sealed the Yanks’ fate that year. 4. Derek Jeter 2004. The famous head-first dive into the seats on a blooper that left him dazed and shaken but still holding the ball.
The Mt. Rushmore of Cliff Claven-Like Little Known Facts: 1. Williams out-hit Joe D. It’s true: he hit .417 to Joe D’s .408 during the famous 56-game streak in 1941 despite being hitless in 10 games. 2. Yaz is a New Yorker. Yup — born and bred on LI, where he once scored 60 in a high school basketball game. 3. Dick Radatz owned Mickey Mantle. By the Mick’s admission he couldn’t hit The Monster, who struck him out 75 percent of the time. 4. Williams and Casey: The only other person inducted the day Williams went in the Hall of Fame in 1966 was Casey Stengel.
The Mt. Rushmore of Cross-Over Players: 1. The Babe. He’d have won 300, maybe 350, if he’d stayed a pitcher in Boston. 2. Mike Torrez. Moving over in 1978 changed history. 3. Luis Tiant. This didn’t hurt just because the Yanks gained a 17-game-winning free agent and the Sox lost one in 1979, but he was beloved by the Nation. 4. Elston Howard in 1967. He only hit .142 in 42 games after joining them down the stretch, but his experience in countless Yankees pennant races helped them win.
The Mt. Rushmore of Excruciating Losses: 1. Aaron Boone in 2003. Many say it’s Dent in ’78, but I’ve never seen such anguish from any loss ever. I knew people who could barely talk and callers to WEEI sounded like they’d lost a family member. 2. Bucky Bleeping in 1978 — I didn’t say it wasn’t bad, just not the worst of the worst. 3. 1949 — A one-game lead with two to play at home and they lost both thanks to a great series from Joe DiMaggio. 4. The Boston Massacre in 1978. It’s four games really, but it climaxed the collapse of a 14-game lead, and the beating was so thorough it just seemed like one long game that lasted the weekend.
The Mt. Rushmore of Yankee Villains: Impossible to narrow down to four, but here goes. 1. Billy Martin. I was in the bleachers with a perfect view when he and Reggie went at it in the dugout. Few moments have been better for the Fenway faithful. 2. A-Rod. Jilting the team in ’04, the Varitek fight, slapping the ball from Arroyo’s glove and now steroids. He’s got it all. 3. Roger Clemens. Never a better moment for me than when he was so scared stiff he got knocked out of the box in a 14-4 loss to Pedro in the 1999 playoffs. 4. George Steinbrenner. I know he’s ill and it doesn’t seem right, but neither does leaving the omnipresent Yankees owner off the list after saving the rivalry from its boring 1955-to-1972 self. Toughest Omission – Thurman Munson. He and Fisk personified the acrimony of the 1970s edition.
The Mt. Rushmore of Yankees-Red Sox Fights: 1. Jason Varitek and A-Rod in 2004. Not the most vicious, but it sparked an underachieving team to its greatest glory. 2. Fisk and Munson in 1973. This was vicious. Fisk hated Munson and vice versa. It happened on a botched suicide squeeze leaving Munson one option — to run over Fisk, who tagged him in the face with the ball to make sure he knew he was out. 3. Fisk and Lou Piniella in 1976. Fisk in the middle again after a play at the plate. But Sweet Lou was an afterthought after burly Yankees back-up Otto Velez took on half the team like King Kong at the Empire State Building warding off the planes. Plus Mickey Rivers was sucker-punching guys from outside the pile and Bill Lee separated his shoulder at the bottom of the pile. 4. Rico Petrocelli and Joe Pepitone. A wild slugfest after a play at second base broken up by a cop on the field who happened to be Rico’s brother.
The Mt. Rushmore of Exhilarating Wins: 1. Game 4 in 2004 vs. Yanks. Dave Roberts steals, Bill Mueller knocks him in to tie it and Papi homers to win it as they got off the deck after a humiliating Game Three loss to start the greatest comeback ever. 2. Game 6 in 2004 vs. Yanks. Curt Schilling’s The bloody sock game is baseball’s Willis Reed moment. 3. Game 5 in 2004 vs. Yanks. Papi wins it again. 4. Game Seven 2004 vs. NY. The clincher being fourth best is weird, but it was a blow-out and a near foregone conclusion after overcoming so much already. All four in the same series? Hey, there ain’t that many and all felt pretty good, didn’t they?
The Mt. Rushmore of Craziest Fan Things in The Rivalry: 1. The Pedro–Zimmer fight. A surreal and out-of-control day. 2. Chucking Cherry Bombs at Mickey Rivers in 1976. This followed his sucker-punching Bill Lee during a brawl a week earlier. 3. Jackson–Martin Dugout Fight in 1977 – Fenway loved that one. 4. Bill Weidacher waves over Mike Torrez. At a 2006 party in Boston the local real estate mogul asks the big righty if he’s ready to admit he messed up by not taking extra warm-up tosses when Dent went back to get a new bat in ’78. To which Torrez looks at me and asked, “Who is this [blanking] guy”?
If I’ve left some out, or you have better choices or some of your own categories, send them along and I’ll run them the next time the Yanks and Sox get together.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.