Why Does the Curse of the Great Bambino Matter?

One of the oldest and most intense sports rivalries in the country is that between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees baseball teams. The rivalry between the two teams started in 1920 when the Red Sox, short on change, sold their pitcher, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees. However, upon being received by the Yankees, he went on to become their leading batter in the game. Known as “the Curse of the Great Bambino,” after his sale, the Red Sox were caught in a losing streak for most of the next century, broken in 2004 with their first World Series cup in 84 years. With this year’s baseball season already in full swing and the Yankees and Red Sox bitterness as strong as ever, fans on both sides began flocking out earlier this year in full team regalia. Indignation runs rampant at the victory or loss of either team. But does this rivalry actually affect social politics between people of the two cities?

Yes and no. It’s not the baseball rivalry alone that causes friction between the two cities, though it’s undeniable that the city rivalry affects the way New Yorkers and Bostonians interact. The two cities have been rivals since the beginning of their existences, when they were still New Amsterdam and a little settlement on the Shawmut Peninsula. New York and Boston to this day are constantly at odds, whether about their hockey, basketball, and football teams, the quality of their food, or the unpolluted state of their streets. As blogger Tom Johansmeyer, who has lived for a significant portion of his life in both cities, explains, “each [city is] claiming superiority of the Northeast.” Sports, pizza, and cleanliness are just excuses to duke it out for that title. Baseball is simply the most tangible evidence of supremacy over the other city with the longest running history.

It is fair to say Bostonians and New Yorkers alike take it too far. The baseball rivalry alone has sparked arguments ending in various acts of violence throughout recent years. In Connecticut in 2010, an argument over the teams resulted in the arrest of a Yankees fan after he stabbed a Red Sox fan. In 2004 a girl named Victoria Snelgrove was crushed to death by a riot of Red Sox fans celebrating the breaking of the Curse. In October of 2007, presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani stated that he would root for the Sox in the upcoming World Series because he cared more about the American League. The next day, newspapers such as The New York Daily News accused him of being a “traitor.” A construction worker at Yankee stadium got in trouble for burying a David Ortiz (the Red Sox’s first baseman) jersey in the stadium in an effort to curse the team.

Obviously it’s not endless hate between the two cities, either. New Yorkers and Bostonians are able to maintain civil friendships, but the contest between Beantown and the Big Apple is unending and it’s easy to spark a debate even among friends over which city has the best subway system, schools, politics. You name it. City dwellers can interact safely with one another like normal people (most of the time). In fact, many successful friendships exist between people from the two cities, though things likely get heated during baseball season between those households.

The two port cities, it seems, will always be at odds, but they don’t revile one another. And, yes, the rivalry is pervasive in both cities’ cultures, but it doesn’t dominate the way people interact with one another, except when it comes to offering up a seat on the subway.

By Allyson Larcom


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