Yankees and Indians: Historic Rivalry Between Two Historic Teams

Wednesday’s Cleveland Indians game against the New York Yankees was not the first time I had witnessed these two teams battle it out in person. It was the third time I have seen these two teams that have a unique history between each other battle it out and it was the second time I had seen the Indians lose to the Bronx Bombers as they dropped the game 8-1.

As Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez stepped up to the plate for his first at bat, many of the Yankees fans in the stands wanted to see  him belt his 600th home run. Those cheering on the Indians did not want to see Rodriguez reach the feat in Progressive Field.

As A-Rod (as they call him), stepped into the batters box, I couldn’t help how so many games and battles on and off the field between these two teams have produced several unforgettable moments in baseball history.

The Yankees and the Indians don’t play each other often during the regular season but there is a lot of history between these two teams. Both have had multiple Hall of Famers, both have had owners who have turned things around after dark times (the late George Steinbrenner for the Yankees and the late Dick Jacobs for the Indians in the mid-90s) and were American League powerhouses in the 90s and in the “golden age” of the 40s and 50s. These matchups have produced several lasting moments between the two teams that will never be forgotten.

Starting with the 1920s, matchups between the Indians and the Yankees were big events and history was made at League Park (where the Indians first called home) when the two teams played on August 11th, 1929. On that date, Yankees slugger and baseball legend belted his 500th career home run, becoming the first ever player in Major League history to do so. This may have been one of the first historic moments that occurred between these two teams and it wasn’t the last.

Years later, League Park would become the site of another historic moment between the Indians and the Yankees as Yankees outfielder Joe Dimaggio hit in his 56th straight game on July 16th, 1941. The streak would end a night later at Cleveland Municipal Stadium (the Indians used this venue sparingly until they moved in for good after the 1946 season). Dimaggio’s hit streak has still yet to be broken but the roots and the night it ended happened between a matchup with the Indians and the Yankees.

The Indians went through what is called “The Curse of Rocky Colavito” and were among the American League’s worst teams from 1960-1993 but that did not stop the historic moments between the two teams. The late George Steinbrenner, a Clevelander, tried purchasing the Indians in the 1970s but lost out on the sale. Steinbrenner turned his interests to the New York Yankees and after successfully purchasing them, turned them into winners. Speculation of what Steinbrenner could have done had he purchased the Indians instead of the Yankees is still debated but it was the Yankees who often came out on top during the 1970s as a result of his leadership.

To Indians fans, the fact that Steinbrenner lost out on buying the Tribe has been debated as a curse itself and is another thorn in the Yankees and Indians rivalry.

Even when the Indians were not contenders, the Tribe managed to surprise and embarrass the Yankees on certain occasions. On July 8th, 2003, then Indians starter Billy Traber, who currently has a career record of 12-14, pitched a one-hit shutout against the Yankees at Progressive Field. Traber’s career with the Indians was not as bright as that night he took the mound but shutting down a lineup that included Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi (before too many steroids) and several others was impressive and embarrassing to a strong Yankees lineup.

A year later, the Indians pulled off a 22-0 victory over the Yankees, which was one of the worst defeats in the history of the Bronx Bombers. That 2004 Indians team blew more then 20 saves and were not contenders like the Yankees were.

When the Indians did contend in 2007, they managed to take down a strong Yankees team in the American League Divisional Series that was memorable for insects that many Yankees players thought gave the Indians an advantage. Midges, were infested the field during Game Two of the series, bothered many of the Yankees players including pitcher Joba Chamberlin while the Indians didn’t mind at all. Despite numerous attempts to utilize bug spray to thwart off the pests (in reality, experts claim the spray made the problem worse), the Yankees clearly lost their focus and the Indians took the momentum in the series. The Indians had no control over the midges but they ended up upsetting a Yankees team and their fans by eliminating them from the playoffs that season.

During 2009, the Indians spoiled the Yankees Opening Day at the New Yankee Stadium as they defeated the Bronx Bombers on April 16th, 2009. Then Indians pitcher Cliff Lee earned the first ever victory for a pitcher inside the park.

There is no doubt the Yankees have handed the Indians some embarrassing losses and it came when the Yankees visited the Indians during the 2010 season. The Yankees forced Indians starter Fausto Carmona out of the game by the third inning on July 28th and the Indians were forced to use third baseman Andy Marte a day later after the Indians bullpen was depleted and overused. Even though Marte struck out Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher, the fact that Marte had to pitch in the first place was a good sign the Indians were not having a good week at the office.

Even though the Indians and the Yankees are on two opposite ends of the win spectrum this season, there is no doubt there is history between the two franchises. Matchups on and off the field have produced several historic moments between the two clubs with many more yet to come.

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~ by jeffrsabo on July 31, 2010.

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