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
- 2.1 American League East
- 2.2 American League Central
- 2.3 American League West
- 2.4 Interdivisional
- 3 National League
- 3.1 National League Central
- 3.2 National League West
- 3.3 National League East
- 4 Interleague
- 4.1 Background
- 4.2 Oakland Athletics vs. San Francisco Giants
- 4.3 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- 4.4 Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox
- 4.5 New York Mets vs. New York Yankees
- 4.6 Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals
- 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 Red Sox–Yankees rivalry is one of the oldest, most famous and fiercest rivalries in American 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 matchups, the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays also have a rivalry that has been the focus of some memorable incidents:
- August 29, 2000. The Devil Rays' (as they were then known) Gerald Williams is hit by a pitch thrown by the Red Sox' Pedro Martinez. Williams charges the mound and lands a right hook on Martinez, and the benches clear (by the end of the game, multiple Rays hitters had been ejected).
- September 29, 2000: Rays closer Roberto Hernandez strikes out the Red Sox' Trot Nixon, eliminating the Sox from playoff contention; Hernandez sarcastically waves goodbye to the Red Sox team as the Rays celebrate 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 dove into the ensuing melee, 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; Rays starter Lance Carter retaliates by throwing 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, and both benches clear.
- May 25, 2012: Dustin Pedroia is hit by a pitch thrown by the Rays' Burke Badenhop; Franklin Morales retaliates by hitting 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.
- July 29, 2013: Umpire Jerry Meals incorrectly ruled Daniel Nava of the Red Sox out at home plate in the eighth inning against the Rays which would have tied the game. The Rays eventually held on for a 2-1 victory. Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected for arguing the call, in which Meals later admitted was incorrect.
- May 25, 2014: Yunel Escobar, who had just doubled home two runs to give the Rays an 8-3 lead, takes third base on defensive indifference. Red Sox catcher David Ross, in the Boston dugout, proceeds to trade barbs with Escobar; Escobar retaliates and is then shoved by Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes, a former Ray, and the benches clear. Gomes, Escobar and Sean Rodriguez are all ejected.
- May 30, 2014: In the first inning, David Price hits David Ortiz with a pitch; manager John Farrell comes out to argue and is quickly ejected. Three innings later, Price drills Mike Carp but is not ejected, and both benches clear. Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who had taken over for Farrell, is ejected, replaced by third base coach Brian Butterfield. In the top of the sixth inning, Sox reliever Brandon Workman throws behind Evan Longoria and is immediately ejected, as was Butterfield.
- July 27, 2014: David Ortiz hits a home run in the 3rd inning at Tropicana Field, unleashing a bat flip towards the Red Sox dugout in the process. Rays pitchers David Price and Chris Archer take exception to Ortiz' actions, accusing him of showboating and thinking that he is "bigger than the game of baseball." Ortiz retorts that Archer is "not the right guy to be saying that" and defends his own actions, saying that "It's pretty much what I do."
American League Central
Chicago White Sox vs Detroit Tigers
This rivalry has recently come to true form (as in the case of 2012 when both The Sox and The Tigers were competing for the division crown) and mirrors the age-old "Chicago vs. Detroit" rivalry (Blackhawks vs Red Wings, etc.) and has become one of each team's signature rivalries in recent years. And has been cited as one the MLB's Top rivalries by Fangraphs. The rivalry has also shared its fair share of skirmishes:
- July 12, 1979: Disco Demolition Night. A twi-night doubleheader between the Tigers and Sox is interrupted by fan violence and disco records' destruction on the field at Comiskey Park; the second game of the doubleheader was forfeited, as Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to let his players take the field.
- June 20, 1980: Tigers outfielder Al Cowens (retaliating for a previous year's game in which Sox reliever Ed Farmer hit him in the jaw with a pitch) charges the mound, setting off a bench clearing brawl (and, for Cowens, a seven-game suspension).
- April 7, 1984: Jack Morris throws a no-hitter at Comiskey Park. No brawls occurred between players, although Morris constantly argued with a drunk Sox fan in the stands at Comiskey.
- April 22, 2000: Tigers starter Jeff Weaver hits Sox batter Carlos Lee; the next inning, Jim Parque plunks Dean Palmer in retaliation. Palmer then throws his helmet at Parque and charges the mound. It is often cited as one baseball's ugliest fights and led to 16 players, coaches and managers getting suspended (and Robert Fick getting a beer shower from disgruntled Sox fans). The White Sox fans started their "Detroit Sucks" chants at that game and the two teams and fans haven't liked each other since.
- Spring 2005: Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, incensed at Magglio Ordonez' departure from his team, trades barbs with Ordonez over contract negotiations; Ordonez subsequently refers to Guillen as "his enemy" and receives an obscenity-laced tirade in response.
- July 11, 2013: Sox starter Chris Sale, after a Miguel Cabrera homer, throws at Prince Fielder. Later, the White Sox took the lead after Josh Phegley hits a grand slam off of Anibal Sanchez; Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen retaliates by throwing behind Alexei Ramirez, leading to the benches clearing and Tigers manager Jim Leyland getting ejected.
- September 24, 2014: With Chris Sale on the mound for the White Sox, he struck out Victor Martinez in the third to end the inning, then pointed his cap in the direction of center field. In the sixth inning, again facing Martinez, Sale promptly plunked Detroit's designated hitter with a fastball, leading to both benches and bullpens clearing before order was restored. Martinez later alleged that he was told by former teammate Avisail Garcia during the scrum that Sale believed Martinez had someone stealing signs in center field. Sale and White Sox manager Robin Ventura flatly denied this, but Sale's actions in the dugout following the plunking fueled the theory, as he was seen mimicking binoculars with his hands. This led to several Tigers later returning the gesture, including Ian Kinsler, immediately after he hit a double to drive in the go-ahead run later in the game. The managers heated things up further after the game, with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus calling Sale's actions "weak" and accusing him of purposefully hitting the Tigers' star hitter and putting him at risk of injury in the heat of a pennant race. White Sox manager Robin Ventura denied all such allegations, saying that Ausmus should worry about his own team and retorting that Sale is not "weak". Then, on the last day of the regular season, with the division title on the line for the Tigers, and with the Royals facing the White Sox and seeking to match the Tigers win-loss record, Ventura rested star players Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez with undisclosed injuries, fueling speculation by Detroit sports writer Tony Paul that this may have been a measure of retribution for "Binocular-gate".
Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins
This rivalry is often considered possibly the best in AL Central and both teams have considered this their signature and biggest rival for over a decade now. The amount of history that has been crammed into the rivalry over the past 15 years is incredible, during the team's AL Central dominance, they combined for 9 out of 10 division championships in the 2000s (White Sox with 3 and Twins with 6), and even more hatred was added to it when the first year in awhile that the White Sox beat the Twins out for first (2005), the White Sox won the world series with former Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski (who had received boos from Twins fans when he was in a White Sox uniform before), the two teams played in an extremely close 163rd game for the fate of the division in 2008 that ended in a White Sox victory of 1-0 and an AL Central Championship, White Sox fans often draw hate from all the times The Twins knocked them out of first or playoff contention as well (2002, 2004, 2010, etc.), it has been cited as one of the Top 7 rivalries in baseball history and both fans consider it their biggest rival and there have been famous times when White Sox players have called out Twins players after the Twins stole the division from them late in the season, one of the most famous is in 2003, after The Twins took the division by 7 games and White Sox closer outed the Twins by saying "I honestly don't think the Twins can play at the level they did last year. They had a lot of the, quote, 'baseball bounces' last year. They had an awful lot of those happen. I'm not taking away from their talent, because they had a lot of talented players, but they had every single bounce go their way. It was almost like they never had any bad luck. They only had good luck. ... Unless they have some deal with the devil up there, I don't see that happening again." and especially after former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen gave the team the famous "Piranhas" nickname in 2010, after some team-to-team heckling during the 2010 division race. Although both teams as of late have dropped in performance, they still find each other as rivals and both have added large amounts of new prospects, gearing for the return of the rivalry. Also it was once even stated in a court case that both team's were arch rivals (however, this was done jokingly)
Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians
The Tigers-Indians spawns from a number of factors, both teams were part of the old AL East before moving to the AL Central and are both geographically near each other and is sometimes point to as the MLB's outlet to the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, the rivalry has had its up and downs but, during the 2013 division race, the Indians fans started chanting "Detroit's bankrupt". This rivalry is sometimes considered a replacement of the old Blue Jays-Tigers rivalry, the fans have a hatred for each other and is one of baseball's promising new rivalries. The rivalry has had its physical moents as well, on September 19, 2008, Tigers batter Gary Sheffield and Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona engaged in a brawl.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland A's
The AL version of Dodgers vs. Giants. These two teams continue to battle for AL West Supremacy. Mostly dates back to 2002 when the A's 20 game winning streak overshadowed the Angels 18-2 run at the same time. The Angels actually went on to win the World Series that year over the San Francisco Giants.
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.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox
The rivalry between the Red Sox and Angels has developed in heated matchups in regular season and many playoff situations that regularly included fights, late inning rallies, and bad relations. The Red Sox and Angels rivalry dates back to Angels MLB franchise founder Gene Autry making a bet with former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey that Autry's new expansion team would win more games than Yawkey's Red Sox. In 1964 Angels pitcher Bob Lee suffered a season-ending injury of a broken hand after trying to punch a Red Sox fan, which ultimately cost him an ERA title. In 1965 the first of many fights between the two clubs occurred when pitchers Dean Chance and Dave Morehead exchanged hit batters which caused a small 50 man free for all on the field that resulted in the bullpen fence at Dodger stadium being broken down and the riot squad being called. On August 17, 1967 Red Sox all-star outfielder Tony Conigliaro was beaned in the eye by a Jack Hamilton fastball, resulting in vision problems that caused him to miss the final month and a half of that Red Sox pennant winning season as well as the entire next season, and ultimately led to his early retirement.
National League Central
Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Reds-Cardinals rivalry refers to games between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. Although these two teams have never met in the playoffs, their close competition for the NL pennant is what sparked the animosity between teams. The Cardinals lead the series 1200-1105. The Reds longest win streak is 23 games while the Cardinals longest is only 18 games. On August 10, 2010, the Reds and Cardinals fought in a bench clearing brawl after an altercation between Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina resulting in the suspension of three players.
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. The only post season meetings between the two teams happened in the World Series of the nineteenth century when the Cardinals, then known as the Browns, were part of the American Association. The teams tied in 1885 and St. Louis won in 1886.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers-Cardinals rivalry (also known as the Beer rivalry due to both cities association in beer production (Busch and Miller respectively)) refers to games between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. The two teams have met twice in the postseason. First in the 1982 World Series when the Brewers were still apart of the American League. The Cardinals won the series 4-3. The two teams then met again in the 2011 NLCS. This series was also won by the Cardinals, by a mark of 4-2. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series, while the Brewers are still in search of their first. The rivalry was brought alive once the Brewers joined the National League Central with Brewers fans still having fond memories of their team's defeat in their lone World Series appearance against the Cardinals. The rivalry has taken on greater significance in recent years, with the Brewers being contenders for the division crown much later on in the year. As compared to the first ten years of their placement in the NL Central.
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 twelve 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 2012, the D-Backs' Ian Kennedy retaliated. However the rivalry hit a fever pitch in June 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. After the game, Dodger players jumped into the pool at the Diamondbacks' home ballpark; no brawls occurred (the opposing players and fans had all left), but many Arizona players and supporters, even Senator John McCain, (to which Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson shot back that the one-time presidential candidate "knows a thing or two about coming in second") expressed extreme displeasure at this "arrogant, immature" display.
National League East
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies
While the rivalry of the Atlanta Braves with the Philadelphia Phillies lacks the history and passion of Phillies' rivalry with the Mets, it was the more prominent rivalry from 2010 onward, as the Mets faded from contention. Beginning with the 1993 season and onward into the five-team NL East, the two teams have reigned almost exclusively as NL East champions, the exceptions being in 2006, when the Mets won the division, and in 2012, when the Washington Nationals won. (No division titles were awarded in 1994 due to the player's strike). Overall, the Braves and the Phillies are tied for the most National League East division titles, having won 11 times each since 1969, with the Braves holding it for eleven consecutive years from 1995 through 2005 and the Phillies winning the division from 2007 to 2011. Of note, the September 2011 collapse of the Atlanta Braves, who had once held a commanding lead in the Wild Card Race, was completed in a loss to the Phillies, already in secure possession of the NL East division championship.
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals
A rivalry between the Braves and 2012 NL East Champion Washington Nationals truly heated up during the 2013 season. During an August game between the two in Washington during the Braves' 14-game winning streak, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch thrown by Braves then-rookie pitcher Julio Teheran after Harper had hit a home run on his previous at-bat. This caused a benches-clearing scuffle between the two sides that was eventually stopped. The Braves ended up winning the game after Craig Kimbrel struck out Harper in the 9th inning. Later on that August, the Nats and Braves met again in Atlanta for a 3-game series. Atlanta won the first game of the series after a Justin Upton walk-off home run, which led to Upton getting hit by a pitch thrown by Nats ace Stephen Strasburg in his first at-bat of the next game. In the second inning of that second game, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons went up to bat to face Strasburg. Strasburg threw 3 pitches behind Andrelton which led to Strasburg getting ejected without argument. The Nationals ended up winning that game in 14 innings after an Adam LaRoche home run. The Braves ended up winning the National League East that season for their first division title since 2005.[importance?] 2014 started much the same, with the Braves winning seven of the first eight games between the teams and remaining in first place for most of the first half, but the teams would go in opposite directions after the All-Star Game: having been tied for the division lead as late as July 20, a simultaneous Washington surge (they would finish with the best record in the National League) and Atlanta collapse (they would finish under .500) would turn the "race" into a rout, and the Nationals would clinch the NL East title on the Braves' home field.
Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets
The Braves–Mets rivalry was at its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as both teams competed for postseason berths and, most notably, met in the 1999 NLCS.
New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies
The Mets–Phillies rivalry of Major League Baseball had been among the "hottest" in the National League, particularly in the mid- to late-2000s. The two National League East divisional rivals competed heavily in playoff, division, and Wild Card races, and the geographic proximity of the fanbases intensified their matchups.
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.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The term Freeway Series refers to a series of baseball games played between Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the American League and Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League. The series takes its name from the massive freeway system in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, the home of both teams; one could travel from one team's stadium to the other simply by traveling along Interstate 5. The Freeway series is extremely popular in Los Angeles and normally sells out their games due to the close proximity of both teams and their fans.
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 Beltway Series (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.
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.
Kansas City Royals vs. New York Yankees
During the late 1970s and early to mid 1980s, there was a major rivalry between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees, and was considered one of the greatest postseason rivalries in MLB history. The 2 teams were considered the best in the entire American League, and met 4 times in the ALCS, from 1976 to 1980. The first 2 championships between the 2 teams ended in 5 games, with the 1976 edition ending on a memorable Chris Chambliss walk-off homerun in the 9th inning. The 1977 edition would end on yet another Yankees comeback, battling down 2 games to 1 and rallying in the final 2 innings in Kansas City, down 1-3, and winning 5-3, and going on to win the 1977 World Series. However, in 1980, the roles would be reversed, with Kansas City sweeping New York, though would fall to the Philadelphia in the World Series.
Perhaps the most infamous moment between the 2 teams though, was the Pine Tar Incident, in which George Brett blasted a 2 run home run in a game between the 2 teams on July 24, 1983 in Yankee Stadium. Yankees skipper Billy Martin protested the home run, noticing a large amount of pine tar on Brett's bat. The umpires agreed with Martin, ruling the amount of pine tar exceeded what was allowed, and therefore Brett was called out. The Royals protested this decision, and AL president at the time Lee MacPhail agreed, and restarted the game after Brett's home run on August 18, with the Royals holding on to a 5-4 lead.
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