The Rivalry Between Boston and New York is About More than Baseball

Most people know that Boston and New York are rivals in more ways than just sports. The rivalry between Boston and New York dates back centuries: long before the Red Sox and Yankees, before baseball, before America itself. The Sox-Yankees rivalry is only the most recent and current manifestation of an animosity that dates back to the 1600s.

So when it comes to the Sox and Yankees, the rivalry is a highly-concentrated part of a greater rivalry between two regions, and as such, it both feeds on and is fed by the fact that Massachusetts and New York have been rivals all this time.

With the Red Sox and Yankees set to play each other for the second time this season, let’s look at some of the biggest rivalry moments ever:

Puritans vs. Dutch

The Dutch settled in New York, then called New Amsterdam, in the 1620s. In contrast to the Puritan’s strictly religious city of Boston, founded in 1630, New Amsterdam was a mercantile colony with a policy of religious freedom. Many immigrants who’d been dubbed heretics by the Puritans actually sought safe haven in New Amsterdam.

As part of the rivalry between their colonizers England and The Netherlands, New England colonists invaded New Netherland territory, and eventually captured Long Island, what are now Queens and Brooklyn, and finally New Amsterdam. What would one day be New York was, for a time, under Boston’s dominion.

It’s ironic that in the past few decades of Sox-Yankees baseball, the Red Sox are the ones who’ve been dubbed ‘The Idiots,’ had crazy beards, Jesus lookalikes, and a general devil-may-care attitude in sharp contrast to the pinstripes and clean-shaven policy of the Yankees?

The Erie Canal

With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, New York quickly drew trade from Boston, until they became the giant on the eastern seaboard. Boston was so envious that it stopped referring to New York by name; Governor Levi Lincoln would only call it a “neighboring state.”

The Subway System

Having lost the battle for the sea, the two cities took the fight underground. Boston was determined to complete their subway system first, and they did. While both cities approved their plans for underground subways in 1894, Boston service began on September 1, 1897. It would take New York over seven years to respond, finally running on October 27, 1904.

Over a century later, Boston upped the ante again, giving the entire subway system cell reception. You’re still likely to lose service on almost any New York subway line.

Clam Chowder

Apparently, this aspect of the rivalry is as serious as the baseball one. Since the 1830s, New Englanders have believed that ‘chowdah’ should be creamy and devoid of tomatoes, so much so that in 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature to make it illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder.

Meanwhile, a few decades later, in the mid-1800s, Italian New Yorkers created their version of clam chowder with tomatoes.


Forbes ranked Boston and the Greater Boston area #1 in college-educated population, 44.8%, with a 32.2% increase since 2000. New York/Newark/Jersey City comes in all the way down at #10, with 37.4%.


Finally, in the 19th century, the most epic aspect of the rivalry was born. The National League was formed in 1876 and included a team called the Boston Red Stockings, who would later be renamed the Boston Braves (now of Atlanta). The Red Sox we know and love today was actually the American League version: the Boston Americans, created in 1901, renamed the Red Sox in 1908.

The New York Highlanders came along in 1903, to be the American League answer to the older, snobby National League and their New York Giants. Until the 2004 World Series, it felt like the Yankees were that awful older sibling who held their accomplishments over the Red Sox. But in truth, we were here first, and we won first.

For nearly two decades, the Boston Red Sox were the champions of baseball, winning the first-ever World Series in 1903, and again in 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918. They were also set to play the 1904 World Series, but the New York Giants refused to face them, as the more-senior National League looked down on the young American League.

After the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the Red Sox didn’t win a World Series for 86 years. In that time, the Yankees, who until 1918 had been pathetic, won 26 championships, and gleefully lorded them over Boston. In nearly nine decades of misery, there have been countless painful moments, and against the Yankees, Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone will always induce a cringe. But then, in 2004, down 3-0 in the ALCS, the Red Sox completed a comeback the likes of which had never been seen in baseball history. They won four straight to take the ALCS, and then another four to break that curse once and for all.

Since then, the rivalry has felt dormant, passive and benign. But with two young, talented teams, and last month’s brawl still fresh in everyone’s minds, this season is shaping up to be intense. It may never be what it once was, but we will always be Boston versus New York.

Photo: CBS Boston

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