Major League Baseball rivalries
Rivalries in Major League Baseball, like in other sports, have occurred between many teams and cities. Rivalries have arisen for many different reasons, the primary ones include geographic proximity, familiarity with opponents, violence, and cultural, linguistic, or national pride.
Interleague rivalries can be inconsistently scheduled during the regular season and generally tend to be based on geographic proximity and previous World Series matchups. An exception to this inconsistent scheduling is the eleven pairs of teams which meet six times a year during interleague play.
- 1 Background
- 2 American League
- 3 National League
- 3.1 National League Central
- 3.2 National League West
- 3.3 National League East
- 4 Interleague
- 5 Historical
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In the "Original 16" era (1901–60), there were eight teams in each league and teams in each league played each other 22 times a season. With the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) and Los Angeles Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) entering play as expansion teams in 1961, MLB increased the total number of games American League teams played to 162, which meant teams would play each other 18 times a season. The National League did not implement this until the following year when the New York Mets and Houston Colt 45's (now the Houston Astros) entered play.
In 1969, with the San Diego Padres, Seattle Pilots, Kansas City Royals, and Montreal Expos entering play as expansion teams, MLB split both leagues into two divisions with six teams each. Teams played a total of 90 intra-divisional games, playing teams within the division 18 times each and 72 inter-divisional games, playing each team in the other division 12 times. However, in 1977, the addition of the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays reduced the number of intra-divisional games American League teams played to 78, as each team would play each team within the division 13 times. However, they still played each team in the other division 12 times, but the total number of inter-divisional games increased to 84. The National League did not institute this until 1993, when the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies entered play.
In 1994, MLB split each league into three divisions, but kept the 1993 format in scheduling. In 1997, with the MLB adopting interleague play, the schedules were changed. The schedule for interleague play comprises 84 three-game series, namely six series (18 games) for each of fourteen AL teams and as many as six for each of 16 NL teams.
MLB changed its scheduling format in 2001, further intensifying division matchups throughout the league. The new "unbalanced schedule" allowed for additional games in each season between divisional rivals, replacing additional series with teams outside the division. Due to the change, division rivals now played each other 17 or more times each season. The scheduling drew criticism both when it was enacted and after the fact, with some analysts even positing that the unbalanced schedule hurt intra-divisional play.
American League East
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
The Yankees–Red Sox rivalry is one of the oldest, most famous and fiercest rivalries in sports. For more than 100 years, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been intense rivals.
The rivalry is often a heated subject of conversation in the Northeastern United States. Since the inception of the wild card team and an added Division Series, the AL East rivals have squared off in the American League Championship Series three times, with the Yankees winning in 1999 and 2003 and the Sox winning in 2004. In addition, the teams have twice met in the last regular-season series of a season to decide the league title, in 1904 (when the Red Sox won) and 1949 (when the Yankees won).
The teams also finished tied for first in 1978, when the Yankees won a high-profile one-game playoff for the division title. The 1978 division race is memorable for the Red Sox having held a 14-game lead over the Yankees more than halfway through the season. Similarly, the 2004 ALCS is famous for the Yankees leading 3–0 and ultimately losing a best-of-7 series. The Red Sox comeback is the only time in baseball history to date that a team has come back from a 3–0 deficit to win a series.
The rivalry is often termed the "greatest rivalry in all of sports." Games between the two teams often generate a great deal of interest and get extensive media coverage, including being broadcast on national television. In the stands it is very common for Yankees fans and Red Sox fans to taunt each other and more than occasionally get into fistfights, so security at both Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park is heavy when either team comes to town.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
While not as nationally famous as some rivalries, the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays also have a rivalry that has been the focus of some memorable incidents:
- August 29, 2000, when the Devil Rays' (as they were then known) Gerald Williams was hit by a pitch thrown by the Red Sox' Pedro Martinez. Williams charged the mound and landed a right hook on Martinez, prompting both benches to clear (before the end of the game, multiple Rays hitters had been ejected).
- September 29, 2000: Rays closer Roberto Hernandez struck out the Red Sox' Trot Nixon and sarcastically waved goodbye to the Red Sox team as the Rays celebrated on the mound.
- May 5, 2002: Nixon throws his bat at Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe, who had hit the Sox' Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand earlier in the game. Red Sox pitcher Frank Castillo retaliated, and was suspended for five games (as was Nixon, for four). Rupe got away with a fine.
- April 24, 2005: The third game of a Rays/Red Sox series saw Bronson Arroyo hit Aubrey Huff, prompting Rays starter Lance Carter to throw at Manny Ramirez. Ramirez proceeded to hit a home run off Carter, who then drilled David Ortiz, causing a melee in which six players were ejected.
- March 27, 2006: Red Sox' Julian Tavarez is suspended for 10 games following a brawl at the plate against Joey Gathright.
- June 5, 2008: James Shields of the Rays throws at the Sox' Coco Crisp (in retaliation for an earlier play in which Crisp had slid hard into Akinori Iwamura at second base). Crisp charges the mound and brawls with Shields, prompting both benches to clear.
- May 25, 2012: In apparent retaliation for Dustin Pedroia being hit by a pitch, his Sox teammate Franklin Morales hits the Rays' Luke Scott. Benches clear, but no punches were thrown (although the Rays' B.J. Upton later exchanges harsh words with a Sox fan in the Fenway Park stands). 
- June 10, 2013: Matt Joyce of the Rays hits a home run off of the Red Sox' John Lackey. In Joyce's next at-bat, he almost hits another home run, but is eventually thrown out at first base, whereupon Lackey has some choice words for Joyce as the two teams walk off the field. Lackey subsequently hits Joyce with a pitch, prompting a bench-clearing brawl. The acrimony even spilled over onto Twitter, where the two teams regularly traded barbs. 
American League Central
Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago White Sox
The rivalry is between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. This is similar as it is a Chicago–Detroit battle like the Blackhawks–Red Wings rivalry of the NHL, Bears–Lions rivalry of the NFL, and the Bulls–Pistons rivalry of NBA. According to Yahoo! Sports, each of these teams are getting bigger and are becoming the best in the MLB.
American League West
Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers
The Lone Star Series (also, Silver Boot Series) is a Major League Baseball rivalry featuring Texas' two major league franchises, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. It is an outgrowth of the "natural rivalry" established by MLB as part of interleague play as the Rangers are a member of the American League and the Astros were a member of the National League until 2012.
During interleague play, the winner of the 6-game series was awarded the Silver Boot. A 30-inch (760 mm) tall display of a size-15 cowboy boot cast in silver, complete with a custom, handmade spur. If the series was split (3-to-3), the winner was the club which scored the most runs over the course of the series.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals–Cubs rivalry refers to games between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. The Cubs lead the series 1,091–1,044 through 2010, while the Cardinals lead in National League pennants with 18 against the Cubs' 16. However, the Cardinals have a clear edge when it comes to World Series successes, having won 11 championships to the Cubs' 2. Cardinals-Cubs games see numerous visiting fans in either St. Louis' Busch Stadium or Chicago's Wrigley Field. When the National League split into two, and then three divisions, the Cardinals and Cubs remained together. They had 3 pennant races in 1930, 1935, and 1945.
Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers–Cubs rivalry (also known as the I-94 rivalry due to two ballparks being 83.3 miles from each other off Interstate 94) refers to games between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Before the Brewers moved to the National League in 1998, the Brewers had a rivalry against the American League Central's team, the Chicago White Sox.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
It began in the late 19th century when both clubs were based in New York City, with the Dodgers playing in Brooklyn and the Giants playing at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan. After the 1957 season, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley decided to move the team to Los Angeles for financial reasons, among others. Along the way, he managed to convince Giants owner Horace Stoneham (who was considering moving his team to Minnesota) to preserve the rivalry by bringing his team to California as well. New York baseball fans were stunned and heartbroken by the move. Given that the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have long been competitors in economic, cultural, and political arenas, the new venue in California became fertile ground for its transplantation.
Each team's ability to have endured for over a century while leaping across an entire continent, as well as the rivalry's growth from a cross-city to a cross-state engagement, have led to the rivalry being considered one of the greatest in sports history.
Unlike many other historic baseball match-ups in which one team remains dominant for most of their history, the Dodgers–Giants rivalry has exhibited a persistent balance in the respective successes of the two teams. While the Giants have more wins, National League pennants and World Series titles in franchise history, the Dodgers have won the National League West eleven times compared to the Giants' eight. The 2012 World Series was the Giants' second championship since moving to California, while the Dodgers' last title came in the 1988 World Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
While the nascent Diamondbacks had, since the team's inception in 1998, not found themselves with any serious rivalries for most of their existence, 2011 saw the birth of a fast brewing rivalry with the Dodgers. This can be traced to a fall game where Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo threw at the Diamondbacks' Gerardo Parra, who took exception to it - and later hit a home run off Kuo, sparking harsh words from the Dodgers (particularly Clayton Kershaw, who screamed at Parra all the way to home plate). Kershaw, in turn, hit Parra with a pitch the following night; in their next game together in May of 2012, the Dbacks' Ian Kennedy retaliated. However the rivalry hit a fever pitch in June of 2013, when Kennedy hit the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, prompting Zack Greinke to retaliate by hitting Miguel Montero. However, Kennedy then proceeded to hit Greinke himself, and a furious bench-clearing brawl began. Later that fall, the Dodgers clinched the NL West title - at Chase Field, the home of the Diamondbacks. Dodger players jumped into the pool at the Diamondbacks' home ballpark, but no brawls occurred (the opposing players and fans had all left).
National League East
New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies
The Mets–Phillies rivalry of Major League Baseball is said to be among the "hottest" in the National League. The two National League East divisional rivals have met each other recently in playoff, division, and Wild Card races.
Early discussions about interleague play
Interleague or interconference matchups have long been the norm in other professional sports leagues such as the National Football League. Regular season interleague play was discussed for baseball's major leagues as early as the 1930s. In December 1956, Major League owners considered a proposal by Cleveland general manager and minority-owner Hank Greenberg to implement limited interleague play beginning in 1958.
Under Greenberg's proposal, each team would continue to play 154-games in the season, 126 of which would be within the league, and 28 against the eight clubs. The interleague games would all be played during a period immediately following the All-Star Game. Notably, under Greenberg's proposal, all results would count in regular season game standings and league statistics. While this proposal was not adopted, the current system shares many elements. Bill Veeck predicted in 1963 that Major League Baseball would someday have Interleague play. The concept did not take hold until the 1990s (at least in part as an effort to renew the public's interest in MLB following the 1994 players' strike).
First Interleague games
MLB's first regular season interleague game took place on June 12, 1997, when the Texas Rangers hosted the San Francisco Giants at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. There were four interleague games on the schedule that night, but the other three were played on the West Coast, so the Giants–Rangers matchup started a few hours earlier than the others. Texas' Darren Oliver threw the game's first pitch and San Francisco outfielder Glenallen Hill was the first designated hitter used in a regular-season game by a National League team. San Francisco's Stan Javier hit the first home run in interleague play, and the Giants won the game 4–3.
For the first five seasons of Interleague Play, each division played against the same division from the other league (NL East vs. AL East, NL Central vs. AL Central and NL West vs. AL West), typically scheduled to alternate between home and away in consecutive years. However, in 2002, a new format to Interleague Play was instituted where teams play Interleague games against various divisions. Matchups which had been of particular interest prior to this format—mainly geographic rivals—were preserved. This is expected to be the continuing format of the interleague schedule. Corresponding divisions however, were skipped once when this rotation began, but were put back in the rotation in 2006.
From 2002-12, all interleague games were played prior to the All-Star Game. Most games were played in June, though May games have been scheduled since 2005. Among the 224 interleague pairs of teams, 11 played six games every year, which were scheduled in two three-game series "home and home," or one at each home ballpark. Five of these matches feature two teams in the same city or in neighboring cities, where they wholly or partly share territorial rights. Six are regional matches at greater distance, four of which are in the same state.
Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants
The Bay Bridge Series is the name of the games played between—and rivalry of—the Oakland Athletics of the AL and San Francisco Giants of the NL. The series takes its name from the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge which links the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Although competitive, the regional rivalry between the A's and Giants is considered a friendly one with mostly mutual companionship between the fans, as opposed to Cubs–White Sox, or Mets–Yankees games where animosity runs high. While many fans have a very strong dislike for the other team, some others actually like both. Bay Area baseball fans tend to disagree with each other on this topic.
The series is also occasionally referred to as the "BART Series" for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system that links Oakland to San Francisco. However, the name "BART Series" has never been popular beyond a small selection of history books and national broadcasters and has fallen out of favor. Bay Area locals almost exclusively refer to the rivalry as the "Bay Bridge Series".
Originally, the term described a series of exhibition games played between the two clubs after the conclusion of spring training, immediately prior to the start of the regular season. It was first used to refer to the 1989 World Series in which the Athletics won their most recent championship and the first time both teams had met since they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, it also refers to games played between the teams during the regular season since the commencement of interleague play in 1997. Through May 22, 2011, the A's have won 42 games, and the Giants have won 41.
Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox
The Cubs–White Sox rivalry (also known as the BP Crosstown Cup, Crosstown Classic, The Windy City Showdown, Red Line Series, City Series, Crosstown Series, Crosstown Cup or Crosstown Showdown) refers to the rivalry between two Major League Baseball teams that play their home games in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs of the NL play their home games at Wrigley Field located on the city's North side, while the Chicago White Sox of the AL play their home games at U.S. Cellular Field on the city's South side. The terms "North Siders" and "South Siders" are synonymous with the respective teams and their fans, setting up an enduring rivalry. The Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line runs north-south through Chicago's neighborhoods, stopping at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field.
Notably this rivalry actually predates the Interleague Play Era, with the only postseason meeting occurring in the 1906 World Series. It was the first World Series between teams from the same city. The White Sox won the series 4 games to 2, over the highly favored Cubs who had won a record 116 games during the regular season. The rivalry continued through of exhibition games, culminating in the Crosstown Classic from 1985-1995, in which the White Sox were undefeated at 10-0-2. The White Sox currently lead the regular season series 49-44. There have been eight series sweeps since interleague play began: five by the Cubs in 1998, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013, and three by the White Sox in 1999, 2008 and 2012.
New York Mets vs. New York Yankees
The Mets–Yankees rivalry is the latest incarnation of the Subway Series, the competition between New York City's Major League Baseball teams, the AL Yankees and NL Mets. Until Interleague play started, the two teams had only met in exhibition games. Since the inception of interleague play the teams have met in every season since 1997 and faced off in the 2000 World Series.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals
Known as the Battle of the Beltways (after Washington's I-495 and Baltimore's I-695, the two teams first met in 2006 one year after the Nationals' relocation from Montreal to Washington. Much of this rivalry is dominated by off-the field issues. Baltimore owner Peter Angelos publicly opposed relocating the Expos to Washington, which he believed was a part of his territorial rights after the departure of the second incarnation of the Washington Senators in 1971. There are also controversies surrounding the value of the Nationals' television rights and their coverage on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets
The rivalry between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves of the National League existed during the late 1990s and early 2000s. It has since cooled as of 2001.
New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers–Yankees rivalry is one of the most well-known rivalries in Major League Baseball. The two teams have met 11 times in the World Series, more times than any other pair of teams from the American and National Leagues. The initial significance was embodied in the two teams' proximity in New York City, when the Dodgers initially played in Brooklyn. After the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, the rivalry retained its significance as the two teams represented the dominant cities on each coast of the United States, and since the 1980s, the two largest cities in the United States.
New York Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants
The rivalry between the New York Giants and New York Yankees was intense as both teams not only inhabited New York City but also, for a time, the same ballpark. During that era the opportunities for them to meet could only have been in a World Series. Both teams kicked off the first Subway Series between the NL and AL in 1921.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds
The Dodgers–Reds rivalry was one of the most intense during the 1970s and '80s. They often competed for the NL West division title. From 1970–90, they had eleven 1-2 finishes in the standings, with seven of them being within 5½ games or fewer. Both teams also played in numerous championships during this span, combining to win 10 NL Pennants and 5 World Series titles from 1970–1990. Reds manager Sparky Anderson once said, "I don't think there's a rivalry like ours in either league. The Giants are supposed to be the Dodgers' natural rivals, but I don't think the feeling is there anymore. It's not there the way it is with us and the Dodgers." The rivalry ended when division realignment moved the Reds to the NL Central. However, they did face one another in the 1995 NLDS.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates was considered by some to be one of the best rivalries in the NL. The rivalry started when the Pittsburgh Pirates entered play in 1887, four years after the Phillies.
The Phillies and Pirates remained together after the National League split into two divisions in 1969. During the period of two-division play (1969–1993), the two National League East division rivals won the two highest numbers of division championships, the Pirates 9, the Phillies 6; together, the two teams' 15 championships accounted for more than half of the 25 NL East championships during that span.
However, after the Pirates moved to the National League Central in 1994, the rivalry ended. The teams have since faced each other only in two series per year and the rivalry has effectively died in the years since the Pirates moved out of the NL East.
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