Whenever sports fans think of the word "rivalry", they immediately think Boston vs. Los Angeles, New York vs. Boston, Chicago vs. New York, Chicago vs. Detroit, Miami vs. Pretty Much Everyone else. But as this year's baseball postseason shows, it is the little-noticed rivalries that make for some of the most compelling stories.
The lights are on at Fenway Park for the MLB American League baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Massachusetts April 17, 2012. The Boston Red Sox will celebrate Fenway Park's 100th anniversary on April 20. Fenway Park hosted its first major league baseball game on April 20, 1912 and it the first major league ballpark to ever reach its 100th anniversary.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are the best teams in this year's MLB season, both wth 97-65 regular-season records, both on top of their respective leagues. As much as one would expect it to happen more often, 2013 marks only the first time since 1995 in which teams with the best regular-season records will meet in the World Series.
The year 2013 also marks the fourth meeting between the two teams in baseball's grandest stage. The Cardinals and Red Sox first met in 1946, featuring St. Louis' Stan Musial and Boston's Ted Williams, and the World Series came down to a Game 7. The Cardinals won, 4-3, after Red Sox short stop Johnny Pesky took his time before throwing to home plate, allowing Enos Slaughter to score the marginal run.
The Cardinals repeated it in 1967 when they won in seven memorable games. Led by record-holder Roger Maris, the Cardinals also featured four Hall of Famers: Bob Gibson, MVP Orlando Cepeda, who pitched three complete games in the series, Lou Brock and Steve Carlton. The Red Sox allowed seven runs in Game 7.
The Red Sox would have some semblance of revenge in 2007, when they swept the Cardinals in four games. Riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak over the New York Yankees in the ALCS, the Red Sox hit one home run each in Games One and Four and completely dominated their National League rivals. For the Red Sox, it was not just a case of sweet revenge; it also ended "The Curse of the Bambino," that infamous streak of bad luck that started when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.
With the Cardinals and Red Sox facing each other in the 2013 World Series, both teams have radically different motivations for winning. The Red Sox want to get their fourth title, their third in the post-Bambino era and want to even their all-time World Series score with the Cardinals at two championships each. In addition, a World Series title will mean much to a city that has suffered much sports-wise in the past twelve months, including a last-place finish in 2012 and the horrible bombing of the Boston Marathon in April.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, want to cement their legacy as the team of the decade with a third title to add to the ones they won in 2006 and 2011. They have also won four National League pennants in the past ten years. When the World Series begins on Thursday (Australia time), history will be rewritten and a new rivalry will emerge.
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