A-Rod Deal Stokes Boston-New York Rivalry

Article excerpt

New York is gloating. The Yankees have landed the best player in baseball, Alex Rodriguez, already tagged "The New Sultan." Newspapers are filled with "A-Stories." Rodriguez T-shirts went on sale only a New York minute after his arrival in the Bronx to try on his pinstripes.

But in Boston, a front-page headline in the Globe may have summed up the mood, "Say it ain't so."

Rarely has a baseball trade encapsulated more than a sport, but the stakes here are greater than next year's pennant race and even greater than the two teams' historic rivalry, built on a trade made more than 80 years ago for a man named Ruth.

For fans in Boston and New York, the A-Rod acquisition is a metaphor for the interplay of two cities that, since the days of Adams and Hamilton, have contended like jealous brothers for East Coast bragging rights.

"It's sort of mythic in its proportions," says Bruce Johnson, a sports economist at Centre College. "The rivalry has even gotten bigger."

Most fans in these cities can tick off the watershed moments in the rivalry like a chronicle of family history. The 1920 trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, which many say began a curse that, since 1915, has prevented the Sox from winning a World Series. Bucky Dent's jarring and climactic 1978 home run in Fenway Park that ended Boston's best chance at a Series berth in decades.

And, most recently, a 2003 baseball season in which the teams faced off 26 times, more than any two clubs in the history of the game. The season was punctuated by a seven-game playoff series so heated that an octogenarian coach for the Yankees sought to pummel the Sox all-star pitcher, Pedro Martinez, during a a game 3 brawl.

Once again, the Yankees took the series, and the Red Sox were left waiting for another year.

The one constant in these memories: the Red Sox lose, the Yankees win. In Boston, feelings toward the Bronx Bombers are easily encapsulated by classic labels: The bigger brother, the school-yard bully, the aggressive colleague at work who nabs the new client before everyone else grabs their morning danish.

"There's the weight of all those decades of not winning. They really can't banish it from their psyche," says Mr. Schechter. "It's like some relative did something horrible 85 years ago and the whole family can't live it down."

Like a younger brother, the Red Sox have recently strived like never before to catch up to their New York neighbors. During the off season, the team acquired Curt Schilling, one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. It signed the hard-throwing South Dakotan Keith Foulke as a reliever, and a few savvy veterans to fill weak spots in the line up. …

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