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Dodgers and Red Sox: A Rivalry in the Making?

October 21st, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox are two of the half-dozen most prominent Major League Baseball teams. In theory, then, they should be rivals of some sort. Perhaps bitter rivals.

But they are not. And have not been for a century. A time frame that does much to explain why they enter the 2018 World Series on Tuesday as polite and respectful opponents.

The Red Sox were one of the leading lights of the American League on its debut in 1901. The Sox won the first World Series, in 1903, and added four more championships in the next 15 years —  1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918, the latter three when a certain left-handed pitcher with a (largely ignored) knack for hitting, Babe Ruth, was playing for them.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Robins club, which traced its antecedents well back into the 19th century (and became the Dodgers a few years later), provided the opposition for the 1916 World Series, losing to the  Red Sox in five games.

If that defeat stung Brooklyn fans, it did not last — because soon enough they would be supporting a team that was mostly awful for two decades, and did not get around to winning a World Series until 1955.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees ahead of the 1920 season, and pretty much disappeared from view for the rest of the century, perhaps punishment for dealing Ruth.

The Red Sox continued in the American League while the Dodgers labored in the National, and even the resurgence of the Red Sox, with three championships since 2004, did nothing to foster a rivalry with the Dodgers because the latter were stuck in a period, from 1988 through 2016, in which they failed to progress as far as the World Series.

Now, finally, the teams meet with the Commissioner’s Trophy at stake, and this could get heated — if the basketball teams from Boston and Los Angeles are any indication. The NBA clubs were bitter rivals from the 1960s and into the 1990s, and fans of a certain age have not forgotten.

It would be easy to suppose that baseball, as a business, is happy to have the Dodgers and Red Sox finally get down to business, 102 years after their one and only World Series meeting. Hard-core fans of just about any MLB club can appreciate the seemingly strange gap in big games — or any games at all — between these two franchises.

Baseball has 30 clubs now, compared to the 16 that competed through the 195os, and any particular two-club matchup is harder to bring off.

The Dodgers and Red Sox, however, may each have a leg up on most of their competitors because the two of them are wealthy clubs with enormous revenues emerging from their equally enormous fans bases, and an embrace of modern statistical analysis that seems to be tipping success toward the modern-thinking.

I predicted on this blog that the Red Sox would be here, after their 108-victory regular season, but I thought the Dodgers would go out against the Milwaukee Brewers, whom the Dodgers finished in Game 7 last night/early this morning (in France).

The last time the clubs met in the World Series, only a handful of people currently inhabiting the planet were alive.

Casey Stengel, a future Yankees and Mets manager, might be the most recognizable name, from the 1916 Dodgers, followed by Hall of Fame outfielder Zack Wheat; Hall of Fame pitcher Charles “Chief” Bender and Fred Merkle (of Merkle’s boner fame). And, from the Red Sox, pitcher Carl Mays, who threw the pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920 and Ruth — who threw a 14-inning complete game in a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 2.

Anyway, the Dodgers and Red Sox, together again 102 years after a rivalry that didn’t take hold.

Instead, the Dodgers spent a lot of time demonizing the Giants, and the Red Sox developed a thing with the Yankees so encompassing it sometimes feels like it is the only rivalry that matters.

Let us see if we can develop something new.

 

 

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