With all the recent talk of Nick Swisher entertaining the idea of joining the Boston Red Sox I began thinking in the opposite direction. I thought about all the Red Sox players that came to New York and thrived on that. The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry would never be the same without the players who were previously with the “other” team. As always, comparing eras is difficult and pretty much impossible. So keep an open mind during this and as always comments are welcome!
5. Johnny Damon
I felt Johnny Damon had to be top-five on this list even if someone might be more deserving statistically. Damon spent eight straight years with either the Red Sox or Yankees before being signed elsewhere. He was a major part of Red Sox history when he helped end the 86-year drought in Boston in 2004. He also put the dagger in the Yankees in 2004 with his grand slam in the ALCS. Wait, that never happened. Just a bad dream.
During his Yankees years, Damon cut his long locks and beard that he was known for in Boston. He used the short porch in New York to his benefit. In two of his four years in the Bronx, Damon hit 24 home runs which is a career-high. Though without a ring Damon’s time with the Yankees would be looked at as a failure. During the 2009 World Series Damon made a base running move that would cement him in Yankees history. After singling, then stealing second Damon took third when he noticed no one was covering the base. Damon was the go ahead run in a victory that would give the Yankees a commanding 3-1 series lead.
4. Wade Boggs
Boggs spent 16 seasons between the Yankees and Red Sox. The majority of his peak years (11) were with Boston. The Red Sox enjoyed the numbers of Boggs, but the Yankees once again were able to manufacture a ring out of a Red Sox old player. Boggs hit .338 with a .428 OBP in his time with the Red Sox. Yet Boston decided to let go of their once MVP level star because of a down season in 1992. Boggs’ batting average dropped dramatically from 1991-1992 (.332-.259).
The Yankees seized the Red Sox blunder of letting him go to small sample size. Boggs proceeded to hit above .300 in every season except for one in New York. Along with that Boggs helped the Yankees get back to the playoffs in 1995 and then eventually win the World Series in 1996. The Yankees 18-year World Series drought was over and the image that always comes to mind is Boggs riding on a police horse around Yankees Stadium.
3. Red Ruffing
This is going back a bit. Ruffing’s career began in 1924 and ended in 1947. All but one year of his career was spent on a team outside the Yankees (15 seasons) and Red Sox (7 seasons). Ruffing was traded to the Yankees after posting a 4.61 ERA in Boston. He was dealt to New York for Cedric Durst and $50,000. This summer I took a trip to Boston and of course I had to go to a game at Fenway and a take a tour of the park. Turns out early in the Red Sox history after they won their share of World Series titles, the team began selling all their good players for cash. The Yankees were always willing to pay the Red Sox in order to obtain great players. One of the interesting things I learned on that tour was that at one point the Yankees owned Fenway Park. I kinda find that fact sad.
Anyway, Ruffing with the Yankees was excellent. His ERA with the Yankees was 3.47 and he won 231 games. Ruffing likely never had the offensive production to help him get victories in Boston, but his pitching did improve as a Yankee. Ruffing won six of seven World Series that the Yankees were in during his time.
Clemens won three Cy Young Awards as a member of the Red Sox. He was also the AL MVP of the 1986 season when the Red Sox were so close of ending their World Series drought. At the end of his time with Boston, Clemens and Red Sox management weren’t getting along and he signed with Toronto before signing with the Yankees in 1999.
Despite Clemens spending 13 years in Boston, I always looked at him as a Yankee. That’s probably because he won a ring with the Yankees. Winning always helps you recognize a player and associate him with a particular team. Clemens won a Cy Young with the Yankees in 2001 with a 3.51 ERA. Clemens made his way onto number two on the list due to him being one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.
1. Babe Ruth
I don’t believe I’ll have any complaints with having Ruth at the one spot on the list. Ruth is the greatest player of all-time and created the base for the Yankees and Red Sox storied rivalry. Ruth is known for his outstanding hitting abilities, but Ruth was also a great pitcher. At the time the Red Sox had the best hitter and pitcher in the league. Ruth’s 1.75 ERA in 1916 just proves how dominant he was.
Like I said earlier, the Red Sox were always willing to give up their best players for money and the Yankees were always suitable buyers. Ruth was bought from the Red Sox for $100,000.
While with the Red Sox he changed the game with his power. Ruth led the league in home runs in back-to-back seasons with 11 and 29 home runs respectively. In 1920 with the Yankees Ruth once again led the league in home runs, but jumped to 54 home runs and then 59 in 1921. So in that four-year span he led the league in home runs. Ruth held the all-time home run record with 714 until 1974 when Hank Aaron passed him.