Why Yankees-Red Sox Postseason Baseball Is Sports’ Best Drama
On the rare occasion the rivals meet in October, multiply the tension filling either Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium during a July game by approximately 150,000.
Boston - September 25: New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) celebrates his Grand Slam in the eighth inning. The Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees on September 24, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston on Sept. 25, 2021. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
I never saw the ball actually land. By the time the majestic moonshot off the bat of Aaron Boone was deposited somewhere down the left-field line, on an October Friday morning in the south Bronx, in the bottom of the 11th inning of the seventh game of the most physically and emotionally draining baseball series ever (imagine what it must’ve been like for the players?) I jumped into the arms of some guy sitting a row behind me in the right-field bleachers of Yankee Stadium. I didn’t know him, and I never caught his name.
He was a big dude, maybe had me by 50-75 pounds so he handled the contact like a pro. Delirious from the improbable, emphatic ending to 3:56 of nail-biting postseason baseball I was blessed enough to witness, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m just thankful the big guy didn’t drop me as the entire Stadium exploded into madness.
We hugged, grinned like two robbers who just pulled off the heist of a lifetime, high-fived, and looked at each other with expressions akin to, “HOLY! SHIT! DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?!?” Then I searched for my friend Steve amid the hysteria. He was sitting a row or two away. We couldn’t get tickets to Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS together, but we had purchased separate ones in Section 39 two weeks prior just in case the series went the distance. We didn’t care where our seats were, we just wanted to be in the building. And when it was all over, like thousands of others that night, we didn’t leave the Stadium until well after 2 a.m., having belted out about 13 straight versions of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
When we emptied out of the Stadium and onto River Ave., it was a sea of humanity. Nobody wanted to leave the area. Everybody wanted to keep the party going with “Let’s Go Yankees” chants drowning out the occasional shout of “Fuck Boston” spewing from the over-served bros who just couldn’t help themselves. Steve and I ducked into one of the bodegas on 161st St., bought a couple of Macanudos and hightailed it up the hill to the tiny park across from the Bronx Courthouse. We slowly smoked our victory cigars, still buzzing from the wave of energy Boone blessed us with. It was almost 4 a.m. by the time we left the Bronx. I didn’t get to bed until sunrise.
A year later, it was a completely different story when the Red Sox got their revenge in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS at the old Stadium. Boston fans took over the Bronx, celebrating the most epic comeback in postseason history that shut Yankees fans the fuck up for the next five seasons. I’m so glad I wasn’t there for that one—it was excruciating enough watching it on TV up at college in Connecticut. But I write all of the above to relate that there is nothing in sports like a do-or-die Yankees-Red Sox postseason game and the reactions they elicit in baseball fans are unlike another. That’s because few rivalries in sports stir up the kinds of emotions, or deliver the grade A drama, or create history like the two bitter rivals almost always do when everything’s on the line.
We’re lucky enough to witness yet another chapter Tuesday when Boston and New York meet in Fenway Park in the AL Wild Card Game. Red Sox and Yankees fans know that there is no roller coaster in the world like the ride you take when these two teams meet in October. The ebbs and flows of the game will be exhausting in the best kind of way and the sick combination of joy and pride you feel after watching your hated rival get eliminated is a mischievously marvelous sensation. If you’re on the wrong side, you wake up feeling like you’re headed to a funeral.
It’s baseball at its visceral best.
If you’re not the biggest hardball fan, which we know most of the Complex Sports audience isn’t, please hear us out on why you should care about tonight’s unusual, yet awesome showdown. There are legit reasons why you should be glued to your TV for first pitch at 8:08 p.m. ET on ESPN—three of them, to be precise—so if baseball’s a hard sell, on an evening with no major football and only NBA preseason games to offer up a sports distraction, I laid out precisely why you shouldn’t miss a single pitch.
The Star Power
The 2003 and 2004 series featured a stupid amount of star power in the form of future Hall of Famers—as well as ones that deserve to get in if you ignore allegations of steroid use, positive PED tests, or a truly putrid taste in politics—in both dugouts. Derek Jeter, Mike Mussina, Mariana Rivera, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, Martinez, and Ramirez all suited up in ‘03. Curt Schilling and his bloody sock were there for the Red Sox in 2004 while the Yankees replaced Boone with Alex Rodriguez and added Gary Sheffield to the outfield.
Fast forward 17 years and while the current rosters of the Yankees and Red Sox don’t quite feature as many legendary names as above, this game will still have a number of premier players who you should be familiar with.
We’ll start with the modern-day Bash Brothers of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton who carried the Yankees’ offense down the stretch of the season. Combining for 74 home runs on the season—many mammoth shots—those two can blow open any game with one swing. Stanton did it multiple times during the Yankees’ sweep of the Red Sox two weekends ago. So do not miss their at-bats. Meanwhile, on the mound, Gerrit Cole, the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history who will likely finish in the top 3 of AL Cy Young voting this season, gets the start for the Yankees. New York’s paying him $36 million a season not to just get them to October, but deliver a dynamite performance on the biggest stage.
As for the Red Sox, Nathan Eovaldi gets the start for Boston and after an awesome season he’ll likely finish in the top 5 AL Cy Young voting. The left side of the Boston infield is arguably one of the best in baseball with the young lefty Rafael Devers, who’s big hit Sunday helped secure home-field advantage for the Sox tonight, manning third while Xander Boegarts, a two-time World Series champ with the Red Sox who is easily one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, forever scares the shit out of opposing pitchers. The Yankees catch a break with the dangerous JD Martinez unable to play tonight after he injured his ankle in the regular-season finale Sunday.
Pulling the strings from the dugout, Yankees manager Aaron Boone will try to out-maneuver his counterpart Alex Cora, widely considered to be among savviest leaders in baseball.