New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox Rivalry Has Been Defined By Two Players for Every Generation

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Yankees- Red Sox Rivalry Has Been Defined By Two Players for Every Generation

Cano-Pedroia
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New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox. The phrase evokes images of Hall of Fame players, bench-clearing brawls and some of the greatest games of all-time.

Because the Red Sox basically have the AL East wrapped up there was some question as to whether the current series between the Yanks and Sox really means anything. The fact that Boston can spoil New York's hopes of a wild card berth makes the answer a resounding yes. But even if there was absolutely nothing at stake the series would still be World War III to the fans.

If the Yankees could only win 18 games in a season, Yankee fans would want all 18 of those wins to be against the Red Sox, and vice versa.

The rivalry goes back for a century. From the Curse of the Bambino to Bucky F*****g Dent, to the dynasty years of the late 1990s, Red Sox fans endured 86 years of torture. They experienced heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss while their most hated foe enjoyed the most successful era of any team in professional sports.

Yet in just one year they evened the scorecard. Thanks to a single week in October of 2004, everyone in Beantown could die in peace.

Naturally, both teams have had good years and bad years. They’ve had unimaginable highs and cataclysmic lows. There have been collapses and comebacks, moments of never-say-die and I wish I were dead. Yet no matter where each team is on this spectrum the rivalry has never petered.

What is more, no matter where each team has finished at the end of the year, there has been a trend in leadership. Every generation there have been two players – one on the Yankees, one on the Red Sox – who play the same position and help define the rivalry.

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Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams

Number 9
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We begin with two of the greatest outfielders ever to play the game – Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

Joltin’ Joe led the Yankees on a run of Championships that is unmatched in sports history – nine World Series titles from 1936-52. He was an All-Star in every season of his 16-year career and was named league MVP three times in 1939, ‘41 and ‘47.

Williams is arguably the greatest hitter of all-time. Teddy Ballgame joins Rogers Hornsby as the only two players in history to win the Triple Crown twice, and his .344 career batting average is the highest of anyone in the 500 home run club. He won six batting titles and two MVPs in 1946 and ‘49.

DiMaggio and Williams also own two of the most unbreakable records in the game. In 1941, the Yankee Clipper recorded a hit in 56 consecutive games. The closest anyone has come to breaking it was Pete Rose in 1978, who hit safely in 44 straight games. Safe to say, this record is untouchable.

The same year as DiMaggio’s streak, the Splendid Splinter batted .406 – the last man to bat .400 in a season.

There is some debate as to which record is more unbreakable. The argument will just have to continue as neither is leaving the record books anytime soon.

They are both Hall of Famers and legends among the baseball community. Still, some may argue the most admirable seasons of their careers were from 1943-45. Their stats for those three years read, “Did not play in Major Leagues (Military Service)”.

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Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski

Mick and Yaz
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Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski’s careers did not overlap as perfectly as the others on this list. The Mick’s career was winding down in the mid to late ‘60s when Yaz was coming into his prime. Nevertheless, these two outfielders were the undisputed leaders of their respective teams during baseball’s Golden Age.

Mantle won the Triple Crown Award in 1956. Yaz won it in 1967.

Both were voted MVP in the 1960s – Mantle in ’62 (he also won it in ’56 and ’57), Yaz in ’67.

The biggest difference is in World Series titles, as Mantle won seven championships while Yastrzemski didn’t win any – but that’s not because he didn’t play well enough. In that magical year of 1967, Yaz batted .400 and hit three home runs in the Fall Classic, but it wasn’t enough to beat Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Despite the lopsided postseason success, both men are Hall of Famers and two of the greatest players of all-time.

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Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk

Captain and Pudge
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The trend continues at catcher with Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk.

Both won Rookie of the Year – Munson in 1970, Fisk ‘72.

Fisk went on to a Hall of Fame career behind the dish, an 11 time all-Star and Gold Glove winner. Though Pudge never won a championship, his walk off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is one of the most iconic moments of the game. The image of him waving his arms left to right, willing the ball to stay fair is immortal in baseball lore.

Munson was well on his way to Cooperstown, but his career was tragically cut short when he died in a plane crash in 1979. Before his death the Captain was voted to seven All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, and two World Series titles in addition to being named the 1976 American League MVP.

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Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra

Jeet and No-mah
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Both the Yankees and Red Sox had down years in the early 90s, but that changed quickly thanks to a couple of shortstops.

Derek Jeter won Rookie of the Year with the Yankees in 1996. Nomar Garciaparra won it with the Red Sox in 1997.

In 1998, Garciaparra finished second in MVP voting behind Juan Gonzalez. Jeter finished third.

NO-mah went on to win consecutive batting titles and finished his career with six All-Star selections (five with Boston). The Red Sox traded him before their World Series victory in 2004, but he was a crucial piece towards building a championship team and remains a fan favorite.

His career can’t compare to Jeter’s, but honestly, there aren’t many which can. With five World Series rings, 3,000 hits and counting, among innumerable other honors and awards, Captain Clutch is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

But both were sensational in the late 90s and helped revitalize the rivalry as the Yankees and Red Sox returned to prominence.

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Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia

Cano Pedroia
Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The latest installment of the rivalry has shifted one spot in the infield. It features Robinson Cano for the Yanks and Dustin Pedroia for the Sox. Both play second base. Both hit third in the batting order. Both are the best player on their respective teams.

It’s unbelievable how much their careers have matched up:

Both have won a World Series – Pedroia in 2007, Cano in 2009.

Both have two Gold Glove Awards.

Cano finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting for the American League in 2005. Pedroia won the award in 2007.

Cano has five All-Star selections. Pedroia’s got four.

Pedroia won the American League MVP in 2008. Though Cano has never received this honor, he has finished in the top six in voting three years in a row. And the way his career is going he could win one very soon.

Cano also has the advantage in Silver Slugger awards with four to Pedroia’s one.

Basically, every year these two guys win every award a second baseman can win. The only question is who wins what.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has been going strong for almost a century. And with guys like Cano and Pedroia, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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