Yankees vs. Giants rivalry: Oldest baseball enmity rooted in fierce hostility

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The Yankees vs. Giants rivalry will be again on display on March 30 at Yankee Stadium when both teams open their 2023 MLB campaign. It may not be as intense as the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry but it is the oldest enmity in baseball deeply entrenched in fierce resentment against one another. The roots of the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry date back to the time when the Yankees relocated to New York and the National League and the American League were into a bitter competition.

The first Subway Series of 1921 was the first mega showcase of that Yankees vs. Giants rivalry, which was carried to the 2022 offseason over the signing of Aaron Judge. Both teams are ready to cross swords and take their reignited acrimony into the 2023 Opening Day.

Yankees vs. Giants rivalry built on resentment, revenge

The seeds of the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry were sown in 1902 when the Bronx Bombers were known as the Baltimore Orioles. The San Francisco Giants were then New York Giants with a history in the city going back to 1883. When NL executive John T. Brush got a stake in the Baltimore team, he allowed for of its known faces – John McGraw, Joe McGinnity, and Roger Bresnahan — to sign with the Giants.

In 1903, Brush became the owner of the Giants. This caused resentment in the American League and its president Ban Johnson termed it an attempt to weaken his league. Seeking revenge on Brush, he moved the Orioles to New York City to capture the lucrative market, and it officially became the New York Highlanders, a name the Yankees used until 1912.

The Giants opposed the move tooth and nail and even used political influence to push back against the new team. This revenge and dislike gave birth to an aggressive Yankees vs. Giants rivalry that was expanded with cross-town derby and fight over the ballpark.

Ballpark feud added fuel to Yankees vs. Giants rivalry

The Yankees started to play at Hilltop Park and had a great 1904 season that put the Yankees in second position in the American League. Though the new team began to gain fans in New York, the Giants continued to look at it as an upstart and describe it as a minor league team igniting the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry.

Both teams shared the ballpark in 1911 and again in 1913 when the Yankees move to Polo Grounds. However, the Bombers were a junior partner there until Colonel Jacob Ruppert took over them in 1915. An owner with deep pockets and wider media coverage pushed the Yankees to field a strong team. They acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox in 1918 and their upward journey began.

The Yankees growing popularity and strength caused resentment in the Giants’ organization. This caused a nasty turn in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry and the latter sought to evict the former from Polo Grounds in 1920.

1921 and 1922 Subway Series

Babe Ruth was the progenitor of the “Curse of Bambino” in the Yankees vs. Red Sox enmity. It is he who also forced his way to ignite the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry. Ruth’s big hitting and home runs expanded the Yankees fanbase drawing more crowd into their games. Giants Manager John McGraw seething in anger plotted to trouble the Yankees with an eviction notice.

However, Ruth and his Yankees continue their exploits and win the 1921 AL Pennant to meet the NL champs and their landlords the Giants in the World Series. An injury kept Ruth away until Game 3 and the Giants won the hotly contested series 5-3. However, this, for the first time, signified the Bombers getting an equal pedestal in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry. Until then, the Giants considered them a lowly ranked league team.

In the 1922 World Series, the Yankees lost 4-0 with one tie. Each except Game 3 was decided by a very thin margin amid allegations of conspiracy and ticket sales to benefit the Giants.  

Yankees gained an upper hand

In 1923, the Yankees moved to the newly-inaugurated Yankee Stadium and their ascendancy in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry began. They beat the Giants 4-2 to win the 1923 World Series. John McGraw influenced the MLB commissioner to deny permission to the Yankees to have Lou Gehrig on the roster in the series. The Yankees win Games 4 and 5 by big margins. In Game 6, they came back from a 4–1 deficit to emerge victorious.

Babe Ruth infused new life with Yankees winning 1923 World Series.

When Yankees forced Giants to submit

In 1936 and 1937, the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry came to the fore in two consecutive World Series. Babe Ruth was no more on the team but experienced Lou Gehrig and a young Joe DiMaggio led them to big wins against the Giants.

The 1936 series went to the Yankees 4-2. Game 2 ended 18-4 in favor of the Yankees while they saw off the Giants 13-5 in Game 6 in their backyard.

It was a 4-1 win for the Yankees in 1937 without a single error. The first three games went 8-1, 8-1, and 5-1. In Game 4, the Giants made a 7-3 comeback but lost the fifth 4-2. With three World Series wins against their cross-town rivals, the Bombers showed who was the boss in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry.

Gehrig’s hit his last World Series home run against the Giants. The Giants organization presented Gehrig with gifts upon his retirement. He mentioned the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry in his famous farewell address – “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” – two years later:

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something.”

Last phase of cross-town rivalry

The 1951 World Series saw former Giants’ great Casey Stengel leading the Yankees as manager. They routed their bitter rivals 4-2. Joe DiMaggio passed the baton to legendary Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. It was the last Subway Series in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry.

The Giants won the World Series in 1954, when the Yankees lost the pennant to Cleveland despite winning 103 games. However, the dwindling fanbase, a crumbling stadium, and growing market dominance of the Yankees forced the Giants to seek a move out of New York City. In 1958, the Giants started their season in San Francisco while the Dodgers left New York for Los Angeles. The same year the Yankees won their 18th World Series title.

The 1962 World Series drama

Both teams again met in the 1962 World Series, their first after the Giants left New York. The Yankees won it 4-3 with pitcher Ralph Terry winning Game 5 and then pitching a 1–0 shutout in Game 7.

The final game headed to a dramatic conclusion when Bobby Richardson ensured the New York victory with a difficult catch of San Francisco’s McCovey. Rain prolonged the series to 13 days making it the longest not only in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry but in the history of MLB.

Yankees vs. Giants rivalry in the interleague era

After a gap of 38 years, the Yankees played the Giants in March 2000. However, it was not an official game but an exhibition game at the recently opened Pac Bell Park. The Yankees vs. Giants rivalry resumed at old Yankee Stadium with the first official game two years later on June 7, 2002. The Yankees win 2-1 despite Barry Bond’s home run. The Giants bounced back in Game 2 with a 4-3 win but the Bombers overcame them in Game 3 with a 4-2 victory.                 

DatePlaceYankees scoreGiants scoreYankees result
June 07, 2002Yankee Stadium21Win
June 08, 2002Yankee Stadium34Loss
June 09, 2002Yankee Stadium42Win
June 22, 2007San Francisco73Win
June 23, 2007San Francisco56Loss
June 24, 2007San Francisco27Loss
Sept 20, 2013Yankee Stadium12Loss
Sept 21, 2013Yankee Stadium60Win
Sept 22, 2013Yankee Stadium51Win
July 22, 2016Yankee Stadium32Win
July 23, 2016Yankee Stadium12Loss
July 24, 2016Yankee Stadium52Win
Apr 26, 2019San Francisco73Win
Apr 27, 2019San Francisco64Win
Apr 28, 2019San Francisco115Win

In June 2007, the stage for the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry was set in the Bay Area and the Giants won the three-game series 2-1. The Yankees win the first game 7-3 but capitulated 6-5 and 7-2 in the next two games. Big stars, such as Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez, were part of the Yankees team. But the Giants’ pitching department was headed by Dave Righetti, a Yankees legend.

The two teams battled again in 2013 at Yankee Stadium. It was the Giants’ first visit to the newly built home of the Yankees, who routed them 5-1 and 6-0 before losing the third game 2-1. On September 20, 2013, Alex Rodriguez hit his 24th career grand slam, making him the all-time MLB leader. The Yankees retired Mariano Rivera’s number 44 two days later and the Giants gave Rivera a custom-made Metallica guitar bearing the Yankees and Giants logos and Rivera’s number 42.

In 2016, the Yankees beat the Giants 2-1. They won first and third games 3-2 and 5-2. However, the second game went for 12 innings making it one of the longest in the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry. The Giants had the last laugh with a 2-1 score.

After three years, the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry started again in the last week of April 2019. The Yankees win the series with a scoreline of 7-3, 6-4, and 11-5.

The battle for Aaron Judge

During the 2022 off-season, the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry saw a new twist with both teams locked in a neck-to-neck competition to sign AL MVP and home-run record holder Aaron Judge. Despite the Giants’ best efforts, Judge signed a 9-year, $360 million contract with the New York Yankees. The Giants made a strong offer, but the AL MVP ultimately decided to stay with the Yankees.

A San Francisco Giants fan shows a placard saying "we want Aaron Judge" at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Oct. 2, 2022.
Bay Area News Group

Players and management in San Francisco are still feeling the effects of not signing him as their prized free agent. At the Giants’ annual fan fest, pitcher Logan Webb claimed that Judge’s decision had left the team feeling “butt-hurt.”

Trivia

  • Mel Allen worked as the announcer for both teams from 1939 to 1941. He continued at the Yankees booth until 1964.
  • Barry Bonds surpassed Ruth as the all-time home-run leader on May 28, 2006.
  • Jeter has more hits than Bonds.
  • Bonds hit 1,996 RBIs, leading Gehrig by just one.
  • Jeter shares honors with Bonds for 10 homers and 10 stolen bases for consecutive 15 seasons.

What do you think about the Yankees vs. Giants rivalry as both teams set to open the 2023 season at Yankee Stadium? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Yankees vs. Giants rivalry: Oldest baseball enmity rooted in fierce hostility

  1. “The Giants won the World Series in 1954, when the Yankees lost the ALCS to Cleveland despite winning 103 games.”

    There was an ALCS in 1954?

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