Major League Baseball has seen some of the greatest rivalries exist anywhere in major professional sports. Teams that have faced each other for over a hundred years and thousands of games make the sport the best there is out there. There are some rivalries though, that just go over the top and make for the best baseball every time a certain two teams play each other.
It could be because of a major fight or a pennant race that came down to the final days, but some rivalries just make for compelling theatre and excitement for fans. Some of the rivalries can be civil while others see fans fighting each other in the stands because of the pride they have in their own team.
It has led to police needing to be brought in or more security around the ballpark when those teams get together. The television ratings go through the roof when these teams get together because of the unknown element of what could possibly happen next. Here are the top 10 Major League Baseball rivalries with some teams making more than one appearance on this list.
10. Boston Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays
While the Rays are only in the 16th year of existence, the rivalry between the Red Sox and Rays is very heated, especially in an AL East that is up for grabs most years. The spark to this rivalry came in 2000 when Boston’s Pedro Martinez hit Gerald Williams with the first pitch of the game and Williams charged the mound. Williams connected on a punch and got ejected. Martinez, on the other hand, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of that game. The two teams have had many heated moments after that and with both teams being World Series contenders on a yearly basis; the rivalry will continue to stay heated.
9. New York Mets/New York Yankees
The two remaining teams in New York have played 94 times in the regular season since interleague play began in 1997 and faced each other in the 2000 World Series with the Yankees taking the series 4 games to 1. The teams competed for the “Mayor’s Trophy” for a number of years before the exhibition games were cancelled in the 1980s. Casey Stengel managed both teams and has had his numbers retired by both as well. The biggest recent spark was that the 2000 World Series when Roger Clemens threw a broken bat back at Mike Piazza. Earlier that season, Clemens had hit Piazza in the helmet causing a concussion. The pride of the Big Apple is at stake each team they play.
8. St. Louis Cardinals/Cincinnati Reds
The NL Central has been dominated by these two teams over the last decade, and in the midst of that has come some moments where they have been at each other’s throats. The moment that really sent this rivalry into the upper echelon was in 2010 when a day after Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips went on a rant against the Cardinals, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina decided to tell Phillips off when he got to the plate for the first time. An epic brawl ensued as both benches cleared and players ended up piled against the backstop, pushing and shoving. The two teams still don’t like each other and another fight is just an inside fastball away.
7. Chicago Cubs/Chicago White Sox
The Windy City has a rivalry of its own with these two teams who have faced off 94 times as well in interleague play with the White Sox leading the series 49-45. Michael Jordan was even involved in this rivalry during an exhibition game while he was trying his hand at baseball. While the fans don’t like each other, the on-field antics weren’t major until 2006 when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski plowed through Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, tagging up on a sacrifice fly. Barrett got up and punched Pierzynski in the face. The benches cleared and a brawl broke out. The two teams are rebuilding in 2014 but there is still so much pride on the line that this rivalry will always be one of the best.
6. New York Yankees/Baltimore Orioles
While these two teams have seen their rivalry die down some over the past few years, the 1998 fight that occurred between them moves this rivalry up the list. Armando Benitez hit Tino Martinez in the back and the benches emptied. Benitez was ready to fight whoever would come near him. The fight spilled into the dugout and there were suspensions everywhere. With the AL East having four teams that could win it every season, the Yankees and Orioles are always fighting for that step up on the opposition. The 2014 season is seeing a possible rekindling of the rivalry to a point where it could become one of the best again in Major League Baseball.
5. Chicago White Sox/Detroit Tigers
These two teams have had some very heated battles over the last decade that have seen fights and suspensions and a general dislike for each other. The AL Central race has been decided between the two for the past several seasons and who knows if this year will hold more of the same. One moment that will be burned into the memories for both cities’ fans would be Disco Demolition Night in 1979 where the White Sox had to forfeit the second game of the a doubleheader after a radio promotion went terribly wrong and fans stormed the field to get a piece of the action. Another epic fight could be in store for the division title or between each other sooner than later.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks
This rivalry has flared up mostly over the past three seasons with a number of fights and all-out brawls. The crowning moment would have been the Dodgers jumping in the pool at Chase Field after clinching the NL West title in 2013. This angered the Diamondbacks, but since all the players were in the locker room at the time, no fight developed from it. The two teams started the 2014 season in Australia against one another and there were people who thought that the teams might actually fight while Down Under. The teams don’t like each other one bit and with both being in the NL West race year after year, this rivalry isn’t going to cool down anytime soon.
3. Chicago Cubs/St. Louis Cardinals
Of the many rivalries on the list, this could be the most civil one out there. The two teams have played each other over 2,300 times since their first meeting in 1892. There have been many magical moments between them, including the “Sandberg Game” in 1984 where Ryne Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs off Bruce Sutter. There is the home run chase in 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as both tried to break Roger Maris’ home run record of 61 in a single season. The fans are respectful to each other but each want their own team to win each time out. It’s a friendly but spirited rivalry that will go on as long as baseball is played.
2. Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees
There aren’t many rivalries as heated as this one. The two teams have played for the American League title on three separate occasions in the last 15 years and have also met over the regular season’s final weekend with the division title on the line several times along with a one-game division tiebreaker in 1978. There have been epic fights, but the selling of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees and what happened after that made this a one-sided rivalry for many years. Boston has responded in recent years with three World Series titles since the Yankees won their last however. The two teams don’t like each other and the fans don’t like each other either. It is a perfect rivalry.
1. San Francisco Giants/Los Angeles Dodgers
The rivalry that tops this list has existed since 1890 and is one of the best around. The two teams were both based in New York for the first 70 years of the rivalry before the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles and took the Giants with them out to San Francisco. The two teams have played nearly 2,400 times with each team winning nearly the same number of games. The incident that really brought this rivalry to its peak came in 1965 when Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit Dodgers coach Johnny Roseboro in the head with a bat. The genuine dislike is there with both teams and their fans wanting blood literally and figuratively each time the two teams play.
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