After watching the Yankees play the Red Sox yesterday I wrote that you could feel the intensity of the rivalry through the television set. The players felt it too. You could see that on the field. Who takes a meaningless spring training game this seriously? According to the Daily News:
"I know I've never seen anything like it," said Curt Schilling, the newly acquired Red Sox pitching ace. "It's Boston and New York and it's different from anything else. I've only been here three weeks and I know it."
...Alex Rodriguez, destined to become a flashpoint of sorts for fans on both sides, considering his pedigree before he even stepped into pinstripes, perhaps said it best: "It was as intense a spring training game a I've ever been in."
Yet, in its bizarre way, this game epitomized the best that baseball offers. How can you over-hype a game, even in spring training, if it took a century to create the passions that envelope generations of fans on both sides?
The electricity is sparked mostly by the Sox fans' obsession with beating the Yankees. It has always been as much a part of the culture as their Boston accent, but not like this.
The focus of that obsession now, of course, is Alex Rodriguez. People who cover the Red Sox say the home folks seemed to take losing A-Rod harder than they did Aaron Boone's climactic home run last October, if you can imagine that.
"Sox fans have come to expect losing to the Yankees on the ballfield," one Boston writer said yesterday. "The A-Rod thing cut deeper because in December they were all so sure he was coming. The outcry when the Yankees got him was unlike anything I've ever seen."
The rivalry is also very real for the front offices of both teams. Witness the incident in the parking lot yesterday. Gordon Edes reports:
Emotions came to a boiling point in a stadium parking area, where Yankees publicist Rick Cerrone and a longtime Sox security guard, Dave McHugh, a retired postman from Portland, Maine, had a run-in.
"Do you know who I am?" shouted Cerrone, contending that McHugh had pushed him. "I'm with the American League champion New York Yankees, and you're a typical Boston Red Sox employee."
McHugh said he was merely trying to pass through a crowd of reporters in order to allow some Yankee players who had driven down from Tampa to leave, and that he'd put his hand out, said "excuse me," and gave Cerrone a small push when Cerrone inadvertently backed into him. Part of the problem was that Reggie Jackson's older brother, Ja Mz, had a car that was blocking that of Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. A call was placed to the Hall of Famer in the clubhouse, and he quickly got in touch with his bro. "You better get out there," he said. "You're starting a war out there."
Fraternization in vivid daylight: Nomar Garciaparra, wearing a bright-red warm-up shirt, meandered over to the batting cage and began hugging Yankees — Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Ruben Sierra, Derek Jeter.
He even found Alex Rodriguez taking grounders at third base and hugged him, too.
"Nomah," one fan shouted in horrified Boston patois. "Don't do that!"
...As might be expected, the fans were not touched by gestures of solidarity among colleagues who have not seen each other since around midnight on Oct. 16.
Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar playfully called the exhibition, Game 8 in the Boston clubhouse. According to the Boston Globe:
Reporter: ``Is it hard for you to hate the Yankees having grown up there?''
Manny: ``Not really, man. This is just a game, man. Everybody is so mad at the Yankees because they win all the time. They're the best team out there. We're just trying to go out there and compete.''
Again, the pleasantries will subside during the regular season. Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Curt Schilling, Prince Pedro, Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton and probably a few others will all talk some sort of trash during the summer. But whatever they say will be tame compared with the heckles, taunts and chants we'll hear from the crazies in the stands. Excuse me if I already feel enervated.