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The First Great Yankees-Red Sox Pennant Race

The First Great Yankees-Red Sox Pennant Race

Ask any Yankees fan about the best pennant races of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and they can tell you about Aaron Boone’s pennant winning home run in the 2003 ALCS, the great Yankees comeback culminating in Bucky Dent’s home run in the one game playoff in 1978, Joe DiMaggio managing to get healthy enough to knock the Red Sox out of the pennant race in 1949 or some other memory. If you ask those same fans about the worst of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, many will point to the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees won the first three games and lost the last four. Others might point to 1986 or 1975 when good Yankees teams lost the AL East title to better Red Sox teams. However, before the Curse of the Bambino, before DiMaggio and Williams, Bucky and Yaz, or Aaron Boone and Big Papi, one of the best pennant races in the history of the rivalry, albeit one that ended with the wrong team winning, occurred.

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SWISS ARMY BALLPLAYERS

SWISS ARMY BALLPLAYERS

With the current emphasis on twelve and thirteen member pitching staffs and stacked bullpens, position player versatility is at more of a premium than ever before. With three and four player benches, we’re seeing more of the “super utilitymen”; players who attain near regular status while playing multiple positions. DJ LeMahieu was signed last winter specifically for this purpose, and it worked out beyond even the most optimistic of Yankee fans’ expectations, as he turned in an MVP caliber season while playing second, third and a bit of first base. Another Yankee, Tyler Wade, has been groomed for that role in the minors, playing shortstop, second and third bases along with the outfield. His glove is ready for the role, the bat hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

The term “utility player” historically isn’t seen as a compliment, but as a player who typically wasn’t good enough to take a regular position. So, he gained value by picking up multiple positions in a backup role, scrapping to stay on a major league roster. In the 1950’s The Old Perfessor, Casey Stengel, thought outside of the box in roster utilization, and was one of the first managers to use “utility” players in more significant roles.

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