Saturday, May 14

America's greatest sporting rivalry

One of the greatest rivalries in American baseball is that between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Its origins lie in the sale of the Red Sox' star player to the Yankees in December 1919; a man who went on to become one of baseball’s record breaking legends. That man was Babe Ruth. He played just six seasons with the Red Sox before joining the Yankees. At the time of his transfer he’d just broken the single-season home run record, hitting 29 home runs, while Red Six had won baseball's World Series the previous year.

Babe Ruth's departure hit the Red Sox hard.  For the next two decades the team struggled to break away from a soul-destroying losing streak. In fact, it wasn’t until 2004, and again in 2007, that the team successfully won a World Series. Contrast this result with that of the Yankees. The team has won 27 World Series, most recently in 2009, making it the most successful team in American baseball history.

Last night I was lucky enough to see both teams in action at Yankee Stadium. I couldn’t have picked a better date to see my first live baseball game. The weather was relatively warm and still. My host had bought tickets that looked out over home base and the entire stadium. In fact, from the moment we caught the subway from Manhattan to the Bronx-based stadium, the entire experience was straight out of Hollywood.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. More than 48,000 people had poured into the recently rebuilt Yankee Stadium to watch the Red Sox defeat the Yankees by one run. Overhead a classic advertising blimp circled the field. This was once the Goodyear blimp. However these days it’s sponsored by Direct TV, a satellite cable network. Just like in the movies, vendors wandered around the grounds offering peanuts, beer and hotdogs. Naturally I ordered a couple of beers and a dog. Delicous.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the evening were the numerous rituals that make up American baseball. These include the crowd rushing to catch and keep each home run ball, a mid-field dance by ground staff grooming the dirt diamond between innings and an ever present giant scoreboard touting head spinning graphics and endless baseball statistics. I now know that the Red Sox’ fastest pitcher can throw a ball at more than 100 miles per hour.  Who knew!

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