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Friday Five: Yankees-Red Sox rivalry two-timers
We did "Yankee/Mets (or "Met/Yankees") last month, and with the Yankees taking on the Red Sox starting tonight, I can't think of a better time to examine those who made an impact with both teams in the historic rivalry.
It's a fundamentally different list than our previous one, for this reason: The people on the Yankee/Met (or Met/Yankee) list are beloved or at least admired by both fan bases. But I'm not sure it's possible to be beloved by both Yankees and Red Sox fans. The very fact that you played for both clubs, it appears, reflects some sort of moral failing.
Let's look at who makes the cut this week:
1. BABE RUTH
Who else is gonna top this list, Ramiro Mendoza?
This rivalry starts, of course, with The Babe, who began his big-league career with the Red Sox and was sold to the Yankees after the 1919 season. He wound up being pretty good for the Yankees, and furthermore, his departure from the Sawx cast a curse upon the franchise that it didn't break until 2004.
Or, it could be that Red Sox ownership most of those years was cheap, incompetent and racist. Either that or the curse. I'm not sure.
Regardless, everything that occurs between the Yankees and Red Sox is viewed through the prism of The Babe. Justifiably so.
2. ROGER CLEMENS
Interestingly, at this point, my sense is that The Rocket is reviled by both fan bases. By Red Sox Nation because he put together another 11 years after he left Boston, and because everyone thinks he used illegal PEDs to attain that post-Boston greatness.
And by Yankees fans because, well...I guess because he (successfully, so far) fought the allegations in The Mitchell Report, and because of the perception that his success in pinstripes resulted from illegal PEDS. When the Yankees closed out Yankee Stadium in 2008, they didn't include Clemens highlights.
I've defended Clemens here numerous times; he even was my number one over-hated player earlier this season. I get it. He was arrogant, abrasive and, in many ways, a diva. The way he bullied himself from the Blue Jays to the Yankees, invoking a secret clause to which Toronto had agreed, was particularly distasteful.
That's who he was. That's why, while he enjoyed those final years in Houston, he missed the big stage of the rivalry and returned to the Yankees in 2007.
3. JOHNNY DAMON
Clemens at least used Toronto as a two-year cooling off period before adding the Yankees to his resume. Damon, however, jumped straight from the Red Sox to the Yankees following the 2005 season.
You could argue that Damon gave the Red Sox more offense for his four years there (2002 through 2005), but that he gave the Yankees more value for his four years there ('06 through '09) because he hurt Boston so much defensively. Once the Yankees switched him to leftfield in '07, he became less of a defensive liability.
In any case, while Yankees fans now welcome Damon back to the Bronx -- he's currently with the Rays -- Red Sox fans revile him. No one -- not Derek Jeter, not Alex Rodriguez, not Clemens -- generated the sort of hatred among Red Sox Nation that Damon did while in a Yankees uniform. When the Red Sox reached out to Damon as a free agent during the 2009-10 offseason, he decided that he couldn't go straight back from the Yankees to Boston, because he didn't want to create the sort of animosity in the Bronx that he had in Beantown.
4. JOE McCARTHY
Can you imagine if the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best), in its current form, had existed back in the 1940s? And if a manager won seven World Series titles with the Yankees and wound up managing the Red Sox less than two years after being dismissed?
McCarthy isn't the only man to manage both teams. The second-most notable such person is Ralph Houk, but he managed the Tigers in between the Yankees and Red Sox, softening the blow. Bucky Harris also did so, not doing much for either club, and notorious Bosox skipper Don Zimmer filled in for Joe Torre in 1999 while Torre dealt with prostate cancer. Those games go on Torre's record, however, so you won't see Zimmer's name in the list of Yankees managers.
McCarthy gets here because of his timeline and his accomplishments. After his immense Yankees success, he experienced heartbreak in his first two Red Sox seasons. His '48 club tied the Indians for the AL pennant, and Cleveland prevailed - at Fenway - in the first-ever one-game playoff.
His '49 team blew a one-game lead to the Yankees with two games to go. McCarthy didn't even make it through the 1950 season, getting the pink slip, and he never managed again.
5. MIKE TORREZ
I thought about putting Zimmer here, given his prominence in both team's histories, but I couldn't justify excluding Torrez, who pulled off this remarkable sequence:
-- He won the final game of the 1977 Yankees' season, that being World Series Game 6 over the Dodgers.
-- After signing with Boston as a free agent, he lost the final game of the 1978 Red Sox's season, that being the legendary, one-game playoff in which Torrez served up a three-run homer to the light-hitting Bucky Dent.
That pretty much typified the rivalry until 2004. And fittingly, I'd bet that more Yankees fans remember and appreciate Torrez for giving up the Dent homer than they do for winning the World Series clincher in '77.
-- I'll check in tonight from Fenway.