The 15 best (and weirdest) Yanks-Red Sox moments

100+ years of baseball's best rivalry is filled with unbelievable occurrences

October 4th, 2021

Any matchup between the archrival Yankees and Red Sox is typically a must-see ballgame, but it rises to an entirely different level when the clubs meet in a winner-take-all postseason showdown.

That will be the case on Tuesday, when New York and Boston will square off at 8 p.m. ET in the American League Wild Card Game at Fenway Park. It marks the third time the AL East powerhouses have met in a do-or-die postseason game, with the previous two coming in back-to-back years in 2003 and '04. The Yankees won Game 7 of the '03 AL Championship Series (more on that below), while the Red Sox got their revenge in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS.

Those are far from the only classic matchups between these teams, though. From unforgettable highlights to strange, breathtaking events, there is no shortage of noteworthy moments in this rivalry that dates back more than 100 years. In fact, all one has to do is take a look at their most recent meeting on Sept. 26 when the Red Sox took the lead following a pair of dropped fly balls in the seventh inning, only for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to key a decisive four-run rally in the eighth inning.

Here's a look back at the best and weirdest moments in baseball's most storied rivalry -- a list that may need updating following Tuesday's showdown.

1. Bucky Dent's homer
Oct. 2, 1978

The 1978 AL East tiebreaker game provided one of the most iconic moments in the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry: Bucky Dent's home run. Boston and New York had ended the regular season tied atop the division, forcing a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the AL East champion. The Yankees trailed 2-0 entering the top of the seventh inning, and that's when it happened -- the light-hitting Dent belted a go-ahead three-run homer over the Green Monster. The Yanks held on for a 5-4 win, and Dent's name went down in history (in New York) and infamy (in Boston).

2. Dave Roberts' steal
Oct. 17, 2004
The Red Sox were down three games to none in the 2004 ALCS, a deficit no team had ever come back from in postseason history. They were trailing, 4-3, in the ninth inning of Game 4, three outs away from being swept at home, on the verge of another painful loss to their bitter rivals. They were facing Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time. And then the magic started. Kevin Millar led off the ninth with a walk, and Roberts pinch-ran. Then he stole second, diving in safely just ahead of the tag. That put him in position to score the tying run on Bill Mueller's subsequent single, and suddenly the Sox had new life. They won that game and the next three to take the series, then won the World Series to shatter the Curse of the Bambino.

3. Aaron Boone's home run
Oct. 16, 2003

Twenty-five years after Dent's homer, Boone provided one that might have been even bigger. The Yankees and Red Sox had gone into extra innings in the winner-take-all Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, after the Bronx Bombers staged a shocking three-run rally against Pedro Martinez to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth at Yankee Stadium. With the two rivals deadlocked at 5, Boone stepped in against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to lead off the bottom of the 11th. On the first pitch he saw, Boone launched one of the most dramatic home runs in Yankees history, a walk-off shot deep down the left-field line to send the Yankees to the World Series.

4. Curt Schilling's bloody sock, A-Rod's glove slap
Oct. 19, 2004

Schilling was one of the most dominant postseason pitchers of all time -- he was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his 19 career playoff starts and was the Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series… against the Yankees. But Schilling was a D-back then. His most famous postseason moment was with the Red Sox. In Game 6 of that memorable 2004 ALCS, Schilling was pitching through a right ankle injury that necessitated a temporary surgical procedure to stabilize his tendon before the game. As Schilling pitched, blood seeped through his sock, creating one of the most enduring images of the Boston-New York rivalry. Schilling gutted his way through seven innings of one-run baseball to beat the Yankees and force the series to a deciding Game 7.

The Yankees' mounting frustration also produced perhaps the most bizarre baserunning play in recent history. New York had narrowed Boston's lead to two runs in the eighth inning and had Derek Jeter on first when Rodriguez hit a dribbler down the first-base line. When Arroyo picked up the ball, Rodriguez slapped it out of his glove and into shallow right field, allowing Jeter to score and Rodriguez to advance to second. Red Sox manager Terry Francona protested the play, and the umpires conferred and called Rodriguez out for interference. The Yankee Stadium crowd hurled objects onto the field in frustration, but the rally was quashed nonetheless.

5. Mike Mussina's near-perfect game
Sept. 2, 2001

The Yankees were already six games up on the Red Sox in 2001 when they opened a three-game series in Boston as August turned to September. That series put the nail in the Red Sox's coffin, as the Yankees swept them in their own park to open up a nine-game division lead. Mussina capped the sweep with brilliancy in the finale. He was one pitch away from perfection -- Moose had retired the first 26 batters he faced and had two outs and two strikes on Carl Everett in the ninth inning before Everett lined a single to left field. Mussina didn't get the perfect game, but he did deliver one of the most dominant pitching performances of the rivalry.

6. Varitek vs. A-Rod
July 24, 2004

In a late-July game at Fenway in 2004, Red Sox starter plunked Alex Rodriguez on the left arm. As A-Rod walked toward first, he started to exchange words with Arroyo, then catcher Jason Varitek, who had followed Rodriguez up the line. A-Rod and Varitek got into a shoving match, inciting a benches-clearing brawl between the two teams. That game ended with Mueller hitting a walk-off homer against Rivera… and that was of course only the beginning of the theatrics between the Red Sox and Yankees that season.

7. The Curse of the Bambino
Dec. 26, 1919

Baseball would never be the same after Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 right after Christmas Day in 1919. As a Yankee, the Babe slugged the sport into the live-ball era, crushing 659 of his 714 career homers with New York, including 54 in his very first season in pinstripes. Ruth led the Yankees to four World Series championships and became a legend of the game, arguably the greatest player of all time. The Red Sox, meanwhile, did not win another World Series for more than eight decades after they sold their superstar player.

8. Big Papi's legend begins
Oct. 17, 2004

David Ortiz -- a larger-than-life figure in the sport, a potential Hall of Famer and a postseason legend -- built his legacy on his what he did in this rivalry. It all began in the 2004 ALCS. In the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 4, Ortiz launched a walk-off home run over the right-field wall at Fenway to complete Boston's rally against New York, give the Sox their first win of the series and put them on the road to their historic comeback.

9. Jeter dives headfirst
July 1, 2004

If it seems to you like this rivarly had _everything _in '04, you're not far off. Jeter was already beloved in the Bronx before this July evening, but this play helped him become a legend. With the Yankees and Red Sox tied at three in the top of the 12th and a Boston runner on third, Jeter sprinted full speed and hurtled himself headfirst into the seats at Yankee Stadium to corral Trot Nixon's wayward fly ball. Jeter eventually emerged from the sea of fans with his chin bloodied but the ball in hand to retire the Boston rally, sending the Bronx faithful into a frenzy. 

Manny Ramirez homered for Boston in the 13th, but the Yankees rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom half for a dramatic, walk-off victory over their rivals. Jeter's dive will likely played in New York for as long as highlight reels exist.

10. Pedro tosses Don Zimmer
Oct. 11, 2003
Roger Clemens' inside pitch to Ramirez set off a powder keg in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, setting off a series of brawls at Fenway Park. Martinez already had an intimidating reputation across the Majors, and it intensified when he grabbed a charging Zimmer, the Yankees' 72-year-old bench coach, and threw him to the ground.

The incident became the defining image of the teams' intense hatred for one another at the time, but it wasn't the only nasty encounter: Jeff Nelson, Karim Garcia and a Fenway Park groundskeeper were later charged with assault and battery after they were involved in a bullpen skirmish in the ninth inning. New York ultimately prevailed in a tight, 4-3 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

11. Yankees rally after kid runs on the field
Sept. 18, 1993

Neither team qualified for the postseason in '93, but they did provide a memorable September moment nonetheless. The Red Sox held a 3-1 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Boston pitcher Greg Harris hit Mike Gallego with a pitch to put a man on first. Mike Stanley followed with what appeared to be the game-ending flyout to left, but timeout was called after a kid ran onto the Yankee Stadium field.

Stanley, given another crack, singled to left. Wade Boggs followed with a two-strike RBI single that cut the lead to one, and Dion James followed with a walk. And then it was the Yankees' hero, Don Mattingly, who walked off the Red Sox with a two-run single through the right side. New York, much to the Red Sox's dismay, scored a most improbable win -- with a little help from the home faithful.

12. Bill Lee gets hurt in massive brawl
May 20, 1976

This was the fight may have been the turning point that changed this longtime rivalry from fierce to, at times, ugly. The eccentric Boston pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee, who had gotten the Yankees' attention with derogatory remarks in '73, became the target after Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella collided with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk to empty the benches and bullpens. Yankees center fielder Mickey Rivers punched Lee in the back of the head, and third baseman Graig Nettles followed up with a tackle that separated Lee's shoulder. Several players emerged from the fight battered and bruised, but Lee's injury was the most significant; the three-time 17-game winner was never quite the same and was traded to the Expos in December 1978.

13. Pedro twirls 17-K gem at Yankee Stadium
Sept. 10, 1999

When experts compile the best regular-season starts in history, Martinez's amazing night in the Bronx almost always makes the cut. Wrapping up one of the most dominant seasons by any pitcher (23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts), Martinez peaked with a one-hit, 17 strikeout performance in old Yankee Stadium. Chili Davis' second-inning solo homer was the only hit Martinez allowed in his complete-game gem, with the only other Yankees baserunner being Chuck Knoblauch's hit-by-pitch in the first.

Martinez got more applause that night than a Boston pitcher typically gets in the Bronx; his performance was too dominant to avoid recognition. Yankees starter David Cone, two months removed from his own perfect game, called it the best performance he had ever seen. Indeed, by Baseball-Reference's game score compendium, Martinez's 98 score is the second-highest by any Red Sox pitcher since 1908 behind Hideo Nomo's one-hitter against the Blue Jays (99 score) on May 25, 2001.

14. Wade Boggs sits, beats Don Mattingly for '86 batting title
Oct. 5, 1986

Boggs' third batting title in a span of four years (and his second of what would be four straight) came with a little controversy, as he sat out the Red Sox's final four games while nursing a torn right hamstring. That didn't sit all too well with Yankees fans, who saw their star Mattingly fall five points shy of Boggs in the batting race en route to a second-place finish in the AL MVP vote behind Clemens. Would a batting title for Mattingly have made the difference in the MVP race? Definitely or not at all, depending on whether you polled fans in New York or Boston. For what it's worth, Boggs was back in time for Game 1 of the ALCS.

15. Red Sox rough up their former ace in ALCS
Oct. 16, 1999

It didn't get any bigger than the starting matchup between Martinez and Clemens in Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS, but the Red Sox jumped all over their former Cy Young and MVP. Clemens made it through just one batter in the top of the third and ended with five earned runs on his ledger, exiting to a chorus of "Where is Roger?" chants from the gleeful Fenway crowd. Boston kept piling on, routing New York 13-1 to earn its first win of the series.

Clemens and the Red Sox tangled again on May 29, 2000, when Clemens barked at outfielder Nixon after a called strike three. Nixon got his revenge in the top of the ninth, breaking up Clemens' shutout attempt with what would be the game-winning, two-run homer in a 2-0 victory for Boston.