Century-old rivalry more heated than ever

Cleared benches and head-hunting in a Yankees/Red Sox game is not even news anymore.

As Sunday’s game proved, violence between the two teams is not only not surprising, but expected.

The 11-4 blowout gave the Red Sox the advantage in the overall season series, winning 10 of 18 games against New York. The game also revitalized the head-hunting contest that has been going on all year between the two teams.

After a season-long series of one-run games and bean balls between the teams, the infamous rivalry managed to keep up the tension and violence in their final regular-season competition.

In the eighth inning, Boston’s Pedro Astacio threw a pitch behind Kenny Lofton in a blatant attempt to hit him. They were both given warnings.

However, Yankee reliever Brad Halsey came back in the bottom of the inning and whistled a pitch right under the chin of Dave Roberts. In a sight all too familiar, the benches cleared and both Joe Torre and Halsey were ejected from the game. The only thing missing from the scene were some left-hooks.

The New York Yankees are up three and a half games in the American League East with just six games left and the Boston Red Sox are six and a half games up in the American League wild-card race with only seven games left to play. Yet the 100-year-old rivalry still boiled over this weekend despite the fact that the outcome of the series has no concrete effect on either team’s position in the post-season.

It’s proof that the history between the teams runs deeper than numbers of any kind.

The violence between the two teams can be traced further back than most living fans can even try to remember, but has really escalated in the past 30 years and even more so in the last 10.

Some feel the 1973 brawl was the beginning of a barely restrained hatred between the two teams. Yankee captain Thurman Munson barreled through Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk in an attempt to score on a suicide squeeze.

The slide immediately transformed into tangled punches and the beginning of a long line of bruises, chin music and bloody noses for Boston and New York.

Baseball historian Glenn Stout looked back on that particularly bloody incident and said, “The rivalry between the two teams that had been dormant for more than 20 years started smoldering again.”

Fast-forward to the 2003 American League Championship Series and you’d be hard-pressed to prove him wrong. Even the most avid of Yankee haters would love to erase the image of Pedro Martinez tossing 72-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground in the bench-clearing brawl during Game 3.

The benches emptied after Martinez hit Karim Garcia with a pitch and the brawl reached its peak when Zimmer charged Martinez who grabbed him by the head and threw him to the ground.

Even more recently, a pitch that nailed Alex Rodriguez on the elbow on July 24 began one of the more violent fights in recent history. Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and A-Rod tossed words back and forth down the first-base line before Varitek finally punched A-Rod in the face and the teams spilled out of their dugouts.

Yankee starter Tanyon Sturtze was thrown to the ground by Gabe Kapler where fellow Red Sox David Ortiz and Nixon also ganged up on Sturtze, who continued to pitch despite a few bloody cuts. Five players were ejected from the game.

If this much regular-season drama has ensued between the long-time rivals, it’s difficult to imagine what will happen when there’s actually a title on the line.

If the Yankees and Red Sox do face-off again in the American League Championship Series come October, the team that will move on to the World Series is anything but certain. But if history has proven anything, pitches will sail dangerously up and in and the diamond will flood with players looking to get even yet again.