"Rivalry" is defined by Yankees-Red Sox

It seems the Red Sox and Yankees are forever on a collision course, as they should be. Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire

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The Yankees' 26 World Series titles are more than any team in baseball, and they are headquartered in the world capital of finance, fashion and media.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have won two of the past five World Series and play in a city that is home to more than 100 colleges and universities, the Freedom Trail and the state capital of Massachusetts.

But that's certainly nowhere near enough for everyone residing in New York and Boston.

What New York and Boston baseball fans really want is for their city to be known as the capital of the baseball universe. And the only way either city can claim that mythical title is by wresting it away from the other. As a result, when the Yankees and Red Sox next renew their rivalry it will once again feel like the world is hanging in the balance. With these two teams, it always does.

"People in both cities understand the magnitude of the rivalry," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "They look forward to the games, and they get into it a lot more. The intensity is higher and there is more onus put on those games."

Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu, a former Yankee, believes the stakes of regular-season baseball are raised every time the two teams meet.

"There is so much intensity in those games," Abreu said. "I knew the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was different from the first time I played in it."

That vigor isn't confined to the playing field. The clash between the teams' fans is a big reason the rivalry has taken on such epic proportions.

"There's an intense feeling in the games, not only from a playing standpoint, but from the fans, too," Red Sox outfielder Mark Kotsay said. "You can feel the tension throughout the stadium"

At least part of that tension can be attributed to the demands that emanate from passionate fan bases -- and a scrutinizing media -- that exist in both cities.

"It's a different feel from a typical May or July series, that's for sure," Bay said. "A lot of that is because of the atmosphere at the ballpark and because of the fans."

Boston's Fenway Park sits across the Charles River from Harvard, while Yankee Stadium is but a borough removed from Columbia, so perhaps the proximity to Ivy League schools has rubbed off: The ballparks seem to boast some of the game's most intelligent baseball fans.

"The fans in both cities know the game so well," Abreu said. "It's the same in both ballparks. The Boston fans know everything about the Yankees, and the New York fans know everything about the Red Sox."

People in Boston know more than they would care to understand about the Yankees' history. They are well aware that they've spent most of the rivalry looking up at those 26 championship flags at Yankee Stadium.

And folks in New York are well schooled on modern baseball history, which the Red Sox made in 2004, when they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the Yankees, no less, in the American League Championship Series.

For the record, there have been two other postseason meetings between the two teams: In 1999, the Yankees ousted the Red Sox in the ALCS. In 2003, Aaron Boone's 11th-inning walk-off home run in Game 7 sent New York to yet another World Series and ripped out the hearts of Boston fans.