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
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
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. …