Royal Rooters: Harvey Frommer - on THE RIVALRY - Royal Rooters

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Harvey Frommer - on THE RIVALRY
interview by David Laurila aka Cambridge

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 04:00 PM

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~mals/images/frommerh.jpghttp://images.amazon.com/images/P/1582617678.01._PE_PI_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg

Harvey Frommer, a noted sports journalist and historian, is the author of nearly 40 books including A Yankee History and New York City Baseball: 1947-1957. His new book (co-written with his son, Frederic) is Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry. It covers nearly a century's worth of epic battles between these age-old rivals, and features interviews with prominent New Yorkers and Bostonians from Mario Cuomo to Nomar Garciaparra. We discussed what the rivalry means from both sides -- here in the Hub and in The Evil Empire.

note: Quotations from Yankees vs Red Sox: The Great Rivalry were used in this interview with the author's permission.


RSN: Red Sox vs Yankees is arguably the greatest rivalry in sports. Why?

HF: It has lasted such a long time and had so many marvelous moments, not to mention incredible characters. And add to that the frustration of Babe Ruth going to the Yankees, and the BoSox not having won since 1918 . . .

This rivalry transcends sports - Curt Schilling

RSN: What differentiates it from other great baseball rivalries; Dodgers vs Giants, Cubs vs Cardinals, etc?

HF: They are teams so close to each other geographically, and they’ve battled through the decades. Dodgers and Giants really ended when the teams moved to California. The intensity has never been the same. Cubs and Cardinals is a midwestern kind of thing. New York/Boston is a national rivalry. More icons have played for the Red Sox and Yankees than the other teams, and this is an add to the mix.

I was with the Cardinals...and the Cubs rivalry was pretty special. But I don’t think it possesses the intensity that this one does - Joe Torre

RSN: Do you feel there was any specific year, or defining moment, when this went beyond a simple rivalry to maybe something more? Was it the fight between Fisk and Munson, or something else?

HF: Probably 1978 and Bucky Dent, but now the Aaron Boone home run has added even more.

In the 1970s it was real hatred...it was like a war. - Don Zimmer

RSN: Is this at all media driven, or does it exist on a much deeper level than that?

HF: It is definitely media driven to an extent. Our book is in its third printing. And then there are all the newspaper and magazine columns, plus the rants and raves on TV and radio. But yes, it is much deeper -- all that history between the cities, the franchises, the personalities.

It’s so intense and electric...people mark off these days on their calendar. - Mike Stanley

RSN: Fisk and Munson isn't the only time a physical altercation has taken place between these teams. Talk a little about some of them.

HF: Lots of bad blood, taunting, and name-calling has characterized the rivalry. Fights, too. Fisk vs Munson and Joe Cronin vs Jaker Powell were memorable. But for my money the best of the all -- the real one -- was Billy Martin vs Jimmy Piersall. It started with name calling and ended under the stands with punches being thrown. Billy the Kid was the winner -- he was a skinny guy, but handy with his fists. The whole fracas allegedly started when Piersall said something about the size and contours of Martins’ schnozz.

I don’t think Fisk and Munson got along that well. - Don Zimmer

RSN: There has also been a lot of animosity between the fans. Which is a more hostile environment for visiting fans -- Fenway or Yankee Stadium?

HF: It depends on the season, the time of day, the importance of the game, and who shows up. Each place has its moments -- that’s for sure.

I don’t think there are a lot of people walking around in t-shirts that say “Red Sox suck” in NY, but you see ‘em everywhere here for the Yankees. - Michael Dukakis

RSN: Lewd chants like "Yankees suck" (and much worse) have become commonplace in the Hub. Similar unpleasantries have likewise been directed at the Red Sox by New Yorkers. What is the evolution of this phenomenon?

HF: Bad taste breeds bad taste -- who is to say where it comes from. And people (not smart people) get swept up in what they think is fun.

When the game starts you can hear them yelling all kinds of stuff at Yankee players. But you hear the same stuff in the Bronx, which I think is stupid. - Rudy Giuliani

RSN: We recently invited fans from NYYfans.com to discuss "Why do Yankee fans hate the Red Sox?" One notable response was "why do dogs chase cats?" What are your thoughts on this?

HF: If there is hate -- it is mutual. I think there is more coming from Boston fans spurred by runner-up finishes and second city mentality. There’s no doubt there is a lot of passion.

“You despise me, don’t you Rick?” - “If I gave it any thought I probably would." - Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart (from Casablanca)

RSN: Last October, Red Sox fans were left trying to put into context their most recent disappointment; comparing it to other heartbreaks. How did it compare from a Yankees perspective?

HF: In recent decades (except for a couple of losses in the World Series) there generally have not been epic disappointments for fans of the Yankees -- the rich get richer. As a Yankee fan I shouldn’t try to compare 2003 from a Red Sox perspective, but from a NYY perspective all triumphs are sweet.

I’ve never believed in the curse until 2003...maybe there’s something going on here we don’t quite understand. - Rudy Giuliani

RSN: Once Aaron Boone had circled the bases, did it really matter to most Yankee fans whether or not they won the World Series?

HF: It did. It might not have mattered if the tables were reversed, and the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees.

Baseball is one of those sports where you watch the early games with interest, and you watch the later ones with passion. - Ari Fleischer

RSN: George Steinbrenner has celebrated several championships as owner of the Yankees. In your opinion, have they won because of him -- or in spite of him?

HF: Both. He puts his money where his mouth is. He sometimes puts his mouth in places that it doesn't belong -- carping on players, managers, umps; other owners. But when he is under control and letting the pros on the Yankees run things -- everything is fine.

That’s B.S. That’s how a sick person thinks. - George Steinbrenner

RSN: From an impartial perspective -- if such a thing exists -- is it bad for baseball that the Yankees always come out on top of the Red Sox? Or is it actually good for the game?

HF: It was once said that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel or General Motors. Their dominance was bad for baseball. But today, other teams (Diamondbacks, Marlins) have beaten them out and showed that they are not a baseball juggernaut. The Red Sox have to just step up. The Yankees are always hungry. They may have come out on top of the BoSox six straight years...but not on top of all of baseball.

I’d rather root for the underdog. The Yankees...ought to win every year...they buy all the great players. - Fay Vincent

RSN: Everyone is familiar with Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees in 1920. What fewer people know is that Ted Williams almost wore pinstripes -- not once, but twice. Tell us a little about that.

HF: The first time was in 1936, when Williams was in still in high school. He was offered a contract by the Yankees, but his mother refused to sign it. Then there was the story that Boston owner Tom Yawkey got to drinking one night with a Yankee owner. One drink supposedly led to another, and the two stars were traded -- verbally. Then, as the story goes, by the next morning both owners changed their minds.

What are you trying to do Joe, steal my act? - Ted Williams

RSN: The Yankees have gotten the better of a disproportionate number of deals between the two teams over the years. For some time now it has been rare to see them trade with each other at all. Do you see that reluctance driven more by one side or the other?

HF: Not really. Elston Howard; Sparky Lyle; Wade Boggs. In the 1920s and 1930s, many went from Boston to New York -- cash was always included for the Red Sox. Nowadays, I think the teams do not trade much with each other for fear that a deal might backfire.

No other club could afford to give the amount of money the Yankees have paid for Babe Ruth. And I do not mind saying that they are taking a gamble. - Harry Frazee

RSN: There have been several strange plays, and umpires calls, over the years -- most of which have gone the Yankees way. Or is that just a Red Sox fan's perspective?

HF: Probably just a Red Sox fan's perspective.

I know I was really excited. - Chuck Knoblauch

RSN: We think we know how New England would react to the Red Sox winning the World Series. How would New York react if -- no, I'd better say "when" -- that happens?

HF: Since Yankee nation is not as obsessed with Boston as Red Sox nation is with NY -- New York would take it in stride and get ready for next year. 1918, after all, belongs to Boston -- not New York.

Everybody knows God is a Yankee fan. - Mickey McDermott
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Edmund Dantes 

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 04:17 PM

Quote

RSN: Once Aaron Boone had circled the bases, did it really matter to most Yankee fans whether or not they won the World Series?

HF: It did. It might not have mattered if the tables were reversed, and the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees.
I had a lot my friends that are Yankees fans tell me they really cared about beating the Red Sox. The World Series would have been great, but losing to the Red Sox would have been worse. I.E. Losing the World Series was less important than losing to the Red Sox.

Quote

RSN: We think we know how New England would react to the Red Sox winning the World Series. How would New York react if -- no, I'd better say "when" -- that happens?

HF: Since Yankee nation is not as obsessed with Boston as Red Sox nation is with NY -- New York would take it in stride and get ready for next year. 1918, after all, belongs to Boston -- not New York.
I have never understood this sentiment that New York is not obsessed with the Red Sox. I live down in NYC, and I listen to ESPN 1050 Radio on the ride to and from work. They spend a ton of time talking about the Red Sox, and what is going on with us. Sometimes more than they spend talking about the Yankees.

This post has been edited by edmund dantes: 13 April 2004 - 04:18 PM

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 04:43 PM

Here is Harvey's book tour schedule. Please take the opportunity to attend -- it promises to be an entertaining event(s):

Thursday April 15 6PM Virgin Megastore 360 Newbury Street Boston 617.896.0950

Fri April 16, 3:30-4:30pm Boston Public Library 617-536-5400, x2339 Conf Rm. 5 & 6

Saturday April 17 10:30 am- 12:30 pm Hotel Commonwealth. Boston
***SPECIAL AUTOGRAPHING APPEARANCE BY FORMER YANKEE AND RED SOX PITCHER LUIS TIANT

Friday June 4 Borders, 100 Cambridge Side Place, Boston 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Saturday June 5 Market Bookshop Mashby Common, Mashby Mass (508) 539 6985 1-3

Thursday June 17 - Borders Books, Boston /Financial District (10 School St.) Noon -

Thursday June 17- Wordsworth Books 30 Brattle Street,Cambridge, MA 7pm 800-899-2202
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The Ghost of Todd Jones 

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 05:54 PM

great work Cambridge, I'll be picking this book up soon

edit - 18th member to be inducted into the Rooters HOF

This post has been edited by The Ghost of Todd Jones: 13 April 2004 - 05:55 PM

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 06:45 PM

I would disagree with him about Bucky Dent being where the rivalry took off.

I trace it back to the Shea Stadium years (74-75) where there were some bitter battles, but the afternoon game in 1973 where Munson tried to steal home probably is where it was rekindled.


One footnote about 1975. When the Sox swept the Yankees at Shea in late July, Steinbrenner decided to take a chance on a manager everybody told him not to.

Billy Martin
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Posted 14 April 2004 - 11:16 AM

Quote

RSN: Once Aaron Boone had circled the bases, did it really matter to most Yankee fans whether or not they won the World Series?

HF: It did. It might not have mattered if the tables were reversed, and the Red Sox had beaten the Yankees.


I also want to add that I have family members who are Yankee fans and after Game 7 I was told that it didn't matter what happened in the World Series, because beating the Sox was definitely good enough.
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Posted 14 April 2004 - 01:20 PM

Finally got a chance to read this in its entirety. Again, kudos Cambridge.

As for Mr. Frommer, the book seems a bit exploitative in the CHB "Curse of the Bambino" sense. And his myopic MFY arrogance shows through a bit on some of the Sox questions.

-MALC
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Posted 14 April 2004 - 02:27 PM

MargoAdamsLoveChild, on Apr 14 2004, 01:16 PM, said:

Finally got a chance to read this in its entirety. Again, kudos Cambridge.

As for Mr. Frommer, the book seems a bit exploitative in the CHB "Curse of the Bambino" sense. And his myopic MFY arrogance shows through a bit on some of the Sox questions.

-MALC

Good job of interviewing, as always. But ultimately an unsatisfying read. We could've gotten most of the same pat, arrogant answers from any randomly chosen Yankee fan.
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Posted 15 May 2004 - 06:55 AM

Harvey has another discussion and book signing coming up, this time at the Borders in Downtown Crossing (Boston). It's on Thursday, June 17th at 12:30.

He may root for the wrong side of the rivalry, but Harvey's new book is a must read (as is his "New York City Baseball - The Golden Age 1947-1957).
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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:13 AM

Harvey has more book signings scheduled in the area:


Thursday June 17 - Borders; Downtown Crossing (10 School Street) Boston, MA -- 12:30pm - 1:30 pm.

Thursday June 17 - Wordsworth Books; Harvard Square (30 Brattle Street) Cambridge, MA -- 7pm

Friday June 18 - Borders; (142 Prov Pl.) Providence, RI -- NOON

Friday June 18th - Books on the Square (471 Angell St.) Providence, RI -- 7 pm

Saturday, June 19 - McCoy Stadium. Pawtucket, RI. -- 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday June 19 - Borders (190 Hillside Rd) Cranston, RI -- 7:30 pm
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Posted 08 June 2004 - 09:47 AM

Great interview, Cambridge....

But I am sick of hearing Yankee voices downplaying the rivalry on their end. It's BS.. I am surrounded by NYY fans and all they talk about is the Sox and how they compare. Every single fan I know said that they were so glad they beat the sox last year, and who cared about the series, as it wouldn't be nearly as good as the ALCS...

Plus, we all trolled nyyfans and saw them all on the verge of jumping off a bridge after we took 6 of 7 and swept them at home.. Pure BS...
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Posted 12 October 2004 - 04:02 PM

This is an old interview, but I thought the timing was right to bring it back to the forefront. The rivalry lives!

Play ball!
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