With an influx of new Yankees and Red Sox over the past few seasons, the age-old rivalry between the two teams is not as fiery as it used to be. Sure, it's an event anytime the Yankees and the Red Sox play. But the days of Pedro tipping his cap and calling the Yankees his 'Daddy' seem distant.
However, with Boston six-and-a-half games behind the Yankees, this weekend’s four-game series is a big one. The fire between the two teams may have died down, but there is still enough heat.
There is always a chance for heroes to be born and history to be made in late-season matchups between Boston and New York. No one knows that better than Bucky Dent.
Known as a slick fielder, Dent became a Yankee hero in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the American League East title on Oct. 2, 1978. Batting from the ninth slot, Dent hit a three-run homer that put the Bombers ahead in the seventh inning. The Yankees won the game 5-4 and went on to win the World Series. The Red Sox had led the division by as many as 14 and a half games in late July.
The homer made Dent’s career and made him a celebrity. He even constructed a miniature Green Monster at his baseball school in Delray Beach, Fla. The scoreboard reads 3-2 in the seventh.
“Baseball is a game of moments and that was a moment,” Dent said Thursday at an autograph signing in New York City to raise money for Little League Baseball. “It was something every kid dreams of when you’re in the backyard.”
Dent listed a few reasons why the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees is not as passionate as it was when he played. He said playing a team 19 times a year dilutes the intensity, that the wild card opens up an extra playoff slot for both teams to get in, and that players change teams so frequently there is not enough time for the animosity to grow over several seasons.
“Now you got guys like [Johnny] Damon coming to the Yankees, [Roger] Clemens coming to the Yankees, so it’s a little bit different,” Dent said. “It’s still a big rivalry, but it’s just not so intense.”
He added that Boston’s World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 also took the edge off that whole 86-year curse thing.
Despite the changes, Dent said there is still the potential to be remembered as a star in any crucial series between the two clubs. Dave Roberts’ stolen base and Curt Schilling’s bloody sock are emblems of Boston’s unprecedented comeback over New York to win the American League Championship Series in 2004.
Aaron Boone, whose 10th inning moon shot topped the Red Sox and sent the Yankees to the World Series in 2003, also became an unexpected hero in the rivalry's history.
“Aaron Boone and I were talking the other day,” Dent said.
The Red Sox can inch closer to the Yankees in the standings this weekend, but the next four games may not be the decisive contests between them. The storied foes will face each other six more times from Sept. 24-26 and in the season finale from October 1-3, which means there is plenty of time for magic to happen.
Dent said he probably would not be remembered were it not for the home run. To make sure kids growing up know about his legend, he built the mock Green Monster to mark an important time in baseball history.