The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will always be rivals. Geography dictated as much well over 100 years ago, and history has only added fuel to the fire.
The faces may change, but the intensity never does. And many times, it’s actually the old faces returning in new roles that lights the spark again or adds a new wrinkle to the rivalry.
Old faces like Aaron Boone, the former infielder turned first-year Yankees manager, and Tim Wakefield, the knuckleball pitcher turned Red Sox television analyst.
The sight of those two men together, on the field at JetBlue Park before Saturday’s Yankees-Red Sox Grapefruit League game, was one of those moments that took fans back in time. To Oct. 16, 2003 to be exact.
For Yankees fans, it’s a good memory. It was Boone’s dramatic walk-off home run in the 11th inning of ALCS Game 7 that night that capped another American League pennant.
For Red Sox fans, it was despair. It was Wakefield who supplied the pitch that Boone launched deep into the New York night and tucked just inside the foul pole.
At the time, there weren’t many lower moments in franchise history. The Bill Buckner play in the 1986 World Series would be one, but the Red Sox were poised for redemption in 2003. They were poised to end a then 85-year championship drought.
Thanks to Aaron Boone, redemption would have to wait until 2004, when the Red Sox became the first team to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series to top the Yankees in the ALCS. That Red Sox team went on to finally end the drought, but 2003 never completely left the hearts and minds of Boston’s most faithful fans.
That remains true even today.
Like the teams they represented, the professional careers of Boone and Wakefield will always be connected because of that historic moment. It’s undeniable that anytime they are together now, people are going to want to see the interaction.
It doesn’t happen often. It did on Saturday.
Cordial is how everyone described the interaction. It’s not like the two men hate each other after all. It’s just a unique set of circumstances that will always lump them together and could easily make for an awkward relationship if they allowed it too. Instead, they’re professional and seemingly friendly, even as the two teams remain at odds.
Meetings will be more frequent now with both closely associated again with their respective teams. But not a handshake or hello will go by without someone, somewhere, reminding someone else what happened nearly 15 years ago.
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