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Fans Get Serious About US Pro Baseball Playoffs - 2003-10-11


A high-stakes baseball rivalry is heating up, as the Boston Red Sox face the New York Yankees in the second round of the annual post-season playoffs. The winner will advance to the World Series. Boston has not won a World Series since 1918. The Yankees have won the series 26 times. Fans of each team are taking this playoff more seriously than ever.

Julio Miranda, a Red Sox fan, says he was only shouting the name of his favorite Boston pitcher, Pedro Martinez, and waving a large Boston Red Sox towel, when he was kicked out of Yankee Stadium Thursday night.

"Pedro! Huah! Pedro! That's how it started, you know," he said.

A New York security guard came over to him early in the game and gave him a warning. "We discussed it a little bit. He (the guard) says, 'You're a little bit loud for the Yankee fans. You're gonna get killed,'" the fan said.

Emotions run high whenever the Red Sox and Yankees face off. But now that the two teams are fighting for a spot in the World Series, the competition among observers is just as intense as the competition on the field.

"It's not a regular game, when you're playing against Boston," said Robert Rosario, a Yankee fan. He grew up in the Bronx, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. He says New Yorkers just love to antagonize Boston fans.

"When you're a Yankee fan, you grow up and you have - it's not real hate, but it's like a very deep dislike for them. You only like them because they are human. Other than that you don't like them, that's it," he said.

The rivalry began many, many years ago, says Dominic Rocco, a Red Sox fan. "1918. 1918. That hurts. That hurts a lot," he said.

The year 1918 was the last time the Red Sox won a World Championship. Back then, Babe Ruth was playing for Boston, and he led the team to two championships - one in 1916 and one in 1918. Then the team traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and the Red Sox never won big again. The Red Sox's inability to win is known as "The Curse of the Bambino" - Babe Ruth's nickname.

Mr. Rosario says it's all Boston's fault. "They messed up because they had the glory when baseball really started. They messed up after 1918 by selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. And along came the glory with him. Ever since then, it just went down the toilet for them," he said.

The first two games of the best-of-seven playoff series took place in New York this week. The Red Sox won the first game, and the Yankees won the second.

Boston fans choose their outfits carefully, making sure they can be identified by their red and blue shirts, and caps bearing two red socks - the Boston logo. They are clearly visible against the sea of white and navy blue pinstripe jerseys that the New Yorkers wear.

Rooting for the underdog, and showing it, can make you a target around Yankee Stadium. "Someone across the bar threw something at me," said Mr. Rocco.

But not all rivalries are unfriendly. At a bar across the street from Yankee Stadium, a pair of friends wore the shirts of their favored teams. Eric Osattin, a Red Sox fan, believes his team has a chance this year. "There's no chance they (the Red Sox) will win. I mean they can pretend, but everyone knows they're not going to win," he said.

Sam Gutmann, a Yankee fan, disagrees. "I was going to buy him another drink, but not anymore," he said.

The two teams are playing three games in Boston through Monday. Then, the teams return to Yankee Stadium, if necessary, to decide the winner of the best of seven-game series. Whichever team wins, this is one matchup that New York and Boston fans will not forget anytime soon.

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