86 Greatest Moments vs. Boston #19-11
#19 | The Brawl | 5/20/1976
In a moment that epitomized the hostilities between the Yanks and Sox in the 1970s, the rivals engaged in a vicious brawl at Yankee Stadium that effectively ended the career of one of Boston’s best pitchers. Bill “Spaceman” Lee was known as much for his gritty pitching as for his sharp tongue. After a fight at Fenway in August of 1973, Lee said that the Yankees fought “like a bunch of hookers swinging their purses,” a comment Mickey Rivers and Graig Nettles would not forget.
Heading into a weekend matchup at the Stadium, the Sox’ first since its renovation, the Yanks led the division while the Sox were 6 games back in 5th place. The Yanks, leading 1-0 in the 6th with Lee on the mound, recorded 2 quick outs before Lou Piniella and Graig Nettles reached on singles. Otto Velez followed with a 3rd straight single, setting up a memorable confrontation at home plate. Piniella, attempting to score from 2nd, charged around 3rd base. As he barreled down the line, Sox right-fielder Dwight Evans fired a one-hopper to Carlton Fisk who had time to plant himself in Piniella’s path. Piniella hit Fisk in the head with an elbow and proceeded to run him over. Fisk held onto the ball, but was not content with the out and began slugging Piniella. Chaos instantly broke out as the benches cleared and the pitchers raced in from the bullpen.
As the melee unfolded Rivers and Nettles had one thought on their minds: ‘Where is Bill Lee?’ Lee had Velez wrapped up when Rivers slugged him and Nettles ran him over, driving the pitcher’s right shoulder and elbow into the ground. When order appeared to be restored, Lee instigated Nettles by spewing a stream of vitriol his way, which Nettles silenced by slugging Lee in the face. When the dust cleared Lee had suffered a torn capsule and a ligament tear in his throwing shoulder. Lee did not return to the Sox until mid-July and pitched 7 or more innings just twice the rest of the season, finishing with a 5-7 record. Lee claimed that after the fight he lost 10 miles off of his fastball, which resulted in his winning just 44 games over the final 6 years of his career.
After the game neither side had settled down. Nettles said to the press, “I’d like to know, does he look like he’s been hit with a purse?” Lee called manager Billy Martin a “Nazi.” Martin responded by sending Lee a dead mackerel with a note telling him to stick it in his purse. The Yanks would go on to win the divison by 10 games while the Sox, 1 year removed from the World Series, finished 16 games out in 4th place. Check out footage of the fight here.
#18 | Failed Hex | 4/13/2008
Gino Castignoli lived behind enemy lines. The Bronx resident was a die-hard Red Sox fan, so much so that he decided to bring an Ortiz jersey to work, only not as a fashion statement. Castignoli was a construction worker helping to erect the new Yankee Stadium and, in an effort to put a curse on the new ballpark, buried the jersey beneath some wet concrete. When the Yankees were given a tip about the deed, instead of laughing it off they decided to jackhammer through two and a half feet of concrete to extract a David Ortiz jersey from the rubble, adding a strange chapter to the rivalry.
#17 | A Brawl for the Pennant | 10/11/2003
In the 4th inning of a game 3 ALCS matchup at Fenway, one of the most bizarre moments in the rivalry’s history ensued. After Hideki Matsui gave New York a 3-2 lead on a ground-rule double, Pedro Martinez hit Karim Garcia in the back on the very next pitch. With tensions already at a boiling point, Alfonso Soriano grounded into a double play and Garcia, already out at 2nd, slid past the bag and into 2nd baseman Todd Walker. Walker, unhappy with what he deemed an unsafe play, began jawing with the Yankee right-fielder and the benches cleared, but for the moment a brawl was averted.
However, as Roger Clemens stepped onto the mound in the bottom half of the frame, he threw an inside pitch to Manny Ramirez, nowhere near hitting him, but Ramirez charged the mound anyway, unleashing a melee. In the most memorable moment from the fight, 73-year-old Yankee bench coach, Don Zimmer, charged Martinez, who side-stepped the septuagenarian and threw him to the ground. While hostilities frothed around the infield, Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson and Sox groundskeeper Paul Williams got into a scuffle in the bullpen.
When order was finally restored, Clemens struck out Ramirez. The Yanks would win the game, 4-3, to take a 2-1 edge in the series.
#16 | Almost Perfect | 9/2/2001
In one of the greatest pitching duels in the rivalry’s history, David Cone matched Mike Mussina through 8 scoreless innings, the only difference being Mussina was pitching a perfect game. Cone was faring nearly as well, yielding just 4 hits over that span, but in the 9th New York finally broke through, giving Moose a chance to be perfect for a day. Tino Martinez singled to start the inning and Derek Jeter reached on a 1-out error by Lou Merloni, just the 4th time a Yankee runner had reached scoring position. Enrique Wilson finally came through for the Bombers, drilling a double to right field to give the Yanks a 1-0 edge.
Mussina stood on the mound 3 outs from a baseball milestone and quickly retired Troy O’Leary on a groundout and Merloni on a strikeout. Against Carl Everett, Mussina got ahead in the count, 1-2, but Everett singled on the next pitch to break up Mussina’s bid for perfection. Not only was the perfect game gone, but the victory was not assured as Trot Nixon came to the plate as the winning run. Mussina induced an 8-pitch groundout to complete his gem and give the Yanks a sweep in a series in which they scored just 6 runs.
#15 | Reynold’s 2nd No-No | 9/28/1951
The Yanks entered a 5-game series against Boston at the Stadium, leading the AL pennant race by 2.5 games over Cleveland. The Yanks would sweep the series by a combined score of 29-4, shutting out the Sox 3 times, but the highlight of the series was Allie Reynold’s 2nd no-hitter of the season. “Superchief” allowed just 4 walks in the game, baffling the Sox over 9 innings. The Yanks had no such problems. Hank Bauer‘s RBI single in the 1st was all the offense they would need, but the Bombers chipped in 7 more runs in the 8-0 victory.
#14 | Pinstripes | 4/11/1912
1912 was a year of transition for the New York franchise. Still officially known as the Highlanders, they were now commonly being referred to as the Yankees. It was also their last season at Hilltop Park before moving to the Polo Grounds, and it was the first time pinstripes appeared on their uniform. On opening day of the 1912 season their uniforms were accented with black pinstripes, a look that would give them the most distinctive uniform in professional sports. They would actually abandon the stripes for the next 2 seasons, but by 1915 they were back for good. The uniforms have remained largely unchanged, save for the “NY” logo being removed from the jersey from 1917-1935.
#13 | Jeter’s Catch | 7/1/2004
In a thrilling 13-inning battle at Yankee Stadium, the rivals traded big plays in front of 55,265. New York struck first with a 2-run home run in the 2nd off the bat of Tony Clark, adding to the lead with a solo shot by Jorge Posada in the 5th. Manny Ramirez would cut the lead to 3-2 with a 2-run homer in the 6th and Pokey Reese would later tie it in the 7th on a ground-rule double. The classic moved to the 12th where Derek Jeter added another signature play to his growing list of highlights.
With Cesar Crespo on 3rd and Johnny Damon on 2nd, Trot Nixon hit an opposite field, 2-out flair that looked destined to give the Sox the lead, but Jeter, always in the right place at the right time, ran from his post at shortstop into shallow left field to snare the ball. His momentum continued to take him forward and he could not prevent himself from running into the stands. When the Captain finally emerged from a sea of people, his face was bloodied and bruised but the ball was secured in the webbing of his glove.
In the 13th inning the Sox took the lead on a leadoff homer by Ramirez, but Curt Leskanic was unable to deny the Yanks in the playoff atmosphere, despite recording 2 quick outs. Ruben Sierra singled to begin the rally and Miguel Cairo followed with a double to right that knotted the game. John Flaherty cemented the game as one of the Yankees’ great wins vs. the Sox with a single to left that plated Cairo for a 5-4 win. Check out Jeter’s catch here.
#12 | Righetti’s Fireworks | 7/4/1983
In a July 4th matchup at Yankee Stadium, Dave Righetti tossed the 7th no-hitter in franchise history, and 3rd against the Sox, to lead New York to a 4-0 win. “Rags” yielded 4 walks, but struck out 9 in a dominant performance. Don Baylor‘s 6th inning homer and Steve Kemp‘s 2-0ut, 8th inning single powered the offense.
#11 | Mantle Nips Williams | 9/30/1956
On the final day of the regular season, Mickey Mantle won the batting title over Ted Williams, .353 to .345 to give him the American League Triple Crown, a feat not accomplished since Teddy Ballgame did it in 1947. The Mick led the AL in home runs (52), RBIs (130), and batting average to give him the crown.