In his new book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," ESPN.com senior writer Jim Caple explains why we hate the Yankees and -- sigh -- why we also desperately need them. As Boston and New York meet for their first spring game Monday, the following excerpt (pulled from Chapters 6 and 7) describes the differences and the rivalry between Yankees fans and Red Sox fans. Copyright (c) 2005 by Jim Caple. Excerpted by permission of Plume/Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
No one enjoys filing an income tax return but at least the IRS isn't constantly phoning you at home to brag about how much money they took during the 1998 tax year. Yankees fans, however, are under the impression that no newspapers ever print the American League standings. You have as good a chance of hearing a humble Yankees fan as you do hearing a woman's voice calling into a sports talk radio show.
They are as persistent as a telemarketer working on straight commission. No matter the setting, no matter the occasion, if you sit next to Yankees fans, they'll brag about the team until your ears start bleeding.
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Yeah, yeah, I know. The Yankees won 125 games in 1998, including a four-game sweep of the Padres in the World Series, which they've won a total of 26 times. And yeah, I know, Babe Ruth still holds the American League record for most career home runs and Mickey Mantle holds the record for most home runs by a switch-hitter. And yeah, I know, there are 17 players wearing a Yankees cap in the Hall of Fame. Now, will you shut up, Father, and listen to my confession?
Heaven forbid you bring up the 2004 postseason or say something else derogatory about the Yankees. If you don't genuflect before the Yankees altar and ask permission to kiss their World Series ring, their fans want John Ashcroft to tap your phone.
Believe me, I know -- I get a lot of hate mail from Yankees fans because of my columns. I don't pay much attention to it, at least not until it builds up every month or so and I have to hire a crew to move the piles blocking my car in the garage.
What I find most interesting in the hate mail is that the vast majority of Yankees fans simply cannot fathom the possibility that anyone could hate their team unless he or she also roots for the Red Sox. It's simply beyond their capacity to imagine that there are people all over the world who hate the Yankees for their own very legitimate reasons, and not just because they live in Boston.
The thing is, though, people hate the Yankees everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Brazilian researchers recently discovered an Indian tribe in so remote a part of the Amazon that these natives had never been exposed to western society. Although I cannot absolutely, positively vouch for this, I believe the only words they were able to understand were "Jeter sucks."
Yankees fans not only think their team is the greatest in the history of sports, they consider themselves to be the most knowledgeable, the most loyal and the most supportive fans in the history of the game. They refuse to acknowledge that fans in other cities love baseball and the local team as much as they do.
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Are Yankees fans the most supportive in baseball? Sure, they've drawn staggering crowds the past couple seasons but let's look back a little further. From 1987-1994, the Minnesota Twins outdrew the Yankees, this despite the fact that New York City's population is roughly five times that of the Twin Cities. Granted, that was during a span when the Twins won two world championships and New York failed to even reach the postseason (sigh, weren't those the salad days?), but fan support for the Yankees has been lacking even when the team won championships. The Yankees went to the World Series three times from 1962-1965 and yet were outdrawn during that span by the expansion Mets, who averaged 113 losses and finished in last place each season, a combined 195½ games out of first place.
If you want the most supportive fans in baseball, go to St. Louis, where the Cardinals have outdrawn the Yankees over the past quarter century even though St. Louis' population barely matches the number of New York City's homeless.