I began watching baseball in 1973 and simply followed my lineage in adopting the Yankees as my team. Flirting with first place that briefly year, three Bobby Murcer homeruns deposited not far from where I was seated as an 9 year old was the extend of it, and I didn’t take kindly to the Baltimore Orioles’ Eastern Division Crown. 1974 officially introduced me to the Yankee-Red Sox, and I was on the hate train with everyone else. But down the road, I have never been able to understand the disdain Yankee fans have for their rival to the north.
No matter, the Yankees found themselves seven games out to the sox in August, and I would become accustomed to another tradition – a Red Sox collapse. Switching Bobby Murcer to right, the Yankees charged back with the steady play of Elliot Maddox in center and the starting pitching of Doc Medich and Pat Dobson, while the Sparky Lyle, Dick Tidrow and Tippy Martinez closed the door in the bullpen.
The Yankees managed to take a two game lead during September, but ultimately succumbed to the Orioles again. Even so, I knew where to level my hate, and when the Red Sox put off the emerging Yankee Dynasty in 1975, it only festered.
Still, Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk in game six – I took note. This was baseball history on full display.
I forgot that soon enough, though. Under an epic photo of Lou Piniella going shoulder first into Carlton Fisk, the cover of Sports Illustrated read, “The Speeding Yanks run into the Sputtering Red Sox,” and a new Yankee dynasty was ignited. I was locked in.
The Yankees would run away with the division and fall just the same to the Reds in the World Series. At this point, aware of 1918, the rivalry to me was a dead heat nonetheless. Another August collapse by the Red Sox in 1977, and the Yankees would go one up in my historical context. But a 14 game July lead in 1978, drew the Red Sox even – if not ahead - and my hatred reached its apex.
The next three months proved to be the most exciting I’ve ever had as a fan and will never be duplicated. I’m also not ashamed to say that Oct 2, 1978 was the greatest day of my life, and what a lesson in never giving up.
This is where my transformation began, and my bewilderment at Yankee fans who hate the Red Sox. The day after Craig Nettles squeezed the life out of Yaz’s towering pop fly, I saw a picture of the Red Sox patron saint in the paper.
He was looking up under the black glare below his eyes and trying desperately to fight back the tears. All I could think was how could any fan of baseball hate Carl Yastrzemski.
Then you go down the lineup.
Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Luis Tiant, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans. Don Zimmer. Don F..in Zimmer Yankee fans. They are all baseball history incarnate.
Then I rethought the game, and how it mirrored the season. The Red Sox jump out to a lead, the Yankees storm back, and like the 8 game winning streak the Red Sox put together to force the playoff, destiny awaited.
Man on second and third, two out, Gossage on the mound, Yaz at the plate and a single wins the pennant. Could history ask for anything more?
How do you hate? The same goes for the storied park and the fans who have filled it since 1918 - no matter the heartbreak. At the same time, prior to 2004, when exactly did the Red Sox break our hearts?
So this left me a Red Sox fan – provided that the Yankees weren’t in it, and I was all in when the ball rolled between Buckner’s legs.
1918 now actually burdened me. But not more than the Yankees’ own 18 year drought from preeminence. 4 World Series wins in 5 years, and I felt good enough to openly dream of ending lifetimes of misery for the Red Sox.
Grady Little’s failure to remove Pedro in game 7 infuriated me, and I felt deeply for Red Sox fans. So much so that when the Red Sox completed their 4 game sweep the next year, I jumped in the air with joy.
Now, no one has to go as far as me, but after three World Series wins since 2004, Yankee fans actually have a reason to hate the Red Sox. On the other hand, for everyone before that, I have no idea what you’re thinking.