Major League Baseball (MLB), with its rich history dating back to 1869, has been a fertile ground for the emergence of fierce rivalries. These feuds, steeped in decades of competition, have been fueled by the players on the field and generations of fans whose devotion to their respective teams often teeters on the precipice of animosity.
Embodied in each pitch, each swing, and each game, these rivalries are more than just sports – they are battles of pride, passion, and legacy. This piece delves into the most intense and historic battles in MLB, tracing their origins and exploring the factors that have sustained their intensity over the years.
The rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox stands unparalleled, not only in the realm of baseballbut across the sporting world. It dates back to 1920 when the Red Sox sold star player Babe Ruth to the Yankees, a move that would lead to decades of dominance for the Yankees and years of frustration for the Red Sox. From that moment on, a narrative of intense competition was born, played out in memorable games, unforgettable moments, and larger-than-life personalities.
The Yankees seemed to own the rivalry for decades, capitalizing on opportunities like Bucky Dent’s go-ahead home run over the Green Monster in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker game. In 2003, Aaron Boone drove the stake even deeper into Red Sox fans’ hearts by hitting the ALCS-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th in Game 7, sending Yankees Stadium into a frenzy. From 1920 to 2003, since the Babe Ruth trade, the Yankees won 26 World Series; the Red Sox won zero. The Ruth deal became known as “The Curse of the Bambino” for Red Sox fans.
But that momentum changed in 2004. The Red Sox, seemingly on their way to another ALCS loss to the Yankees, did the impossible. They shocked the world, becoming the first team in MLB history to rally from 3 games to 0 down and win a seven-game series. They then went on to break their 86-year World Series drought the following week. Since then, the Red Sox went on to win three more world championships (2007, 2013, 2018), while the Yankees won just one (2009).
The rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants is equally steeped in history, extending back to the early 20th century when they were both based in New York. The animosity was born in 1901 when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Superbas (later Dodgers) first collided, and it has yet to show any signs of abating even after both teams migrated west to California.
Throughout their shared history, the competition has been incredibly tight, with only a minor win-loss differential. Both franchises have demonstrated their excellence by winning a combined 15 world championships (Giants-8, Dodgers-7) and 47 pennants (Giants-23, Dodgers-24). This makes them not only two of the MLB’s oldest franchises but also two of its most successful.
Since 2010, these two teams have been even more impressive. The Giants won world titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014, while the Dodgers went to the World Series in 2017 and 2018 and won it in 2020. Additionally, since 2008, only one time has the NL West winner not been the Giants or Dodgers. These two teams have affected the Arizona Diamondbacks odds, although the D’backs figure to be a player in the 2023 MLB Playoffs.
The rivalry between the Cardinals and Cubs is among the oldest and most storied in the annals of Major League Baseball. It began in earnest in 1901 when the then-Chicago Orphans faced off against the Cardinals. Despite their humble beginnings as the “Orphans,” Chicago later adopted the moniker “Cubs,” a name that would symbolize the team’s enduring spirit and tenacity.
However, the historical record seems to favor the Cardinals, who have claimed an impressive 11 World Series titles compared to the Cubs’ three. The Cubs went on a 108-year World Series drought but finally broke that by beating the Cleveland Indians in an epic seven-game series in 2016.