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Damn Yankees!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H04

As baseball's most storied franchise, New York is often claimed by other teams as their number one rival. Although the Boston Red Sox inarguably fill that role now, other teams have been the Bronx Bombers' rop rival through the years:

Philadelphia Athletics (1927-32): Managed by Connie Mack and led by Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Al Simmons, the Athletics finished second to the Yankees three times (1927, '28, '32) but won three pennants (1929-31) and two World Series (1929, '30). Sure, one of their second-place finishes was by 19 games -- to the 1927 Murderers' Row Yankees team of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. But the A's returned the favor in 1929, finishing 18 ahead of the Yankees. From 1934 to '69 the Athletics finished in last place 17 times and never higher than fifth.

Detroit Tigers (1934-37, 1940-47): The Yankees, managed by Joe McCarthy (until the beginning of '46) won seven World Series titles and eight pennants during this time. The only American League team to appear in more then one World Series during this span was the Tigers, led by Cochrane, this time as catcher-manager (1934-38). Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg and Hal Newhouser led the Tigers to back-to-back pennants in '34 and '35, their first World Series title in '35, and second-place finishes in '36 and '37. A couple of subpar years followed Cochrane's retirement, but Detroit reemerged to win another AL pennant and World Series in '45 behind MVP Newhouser. It was 23 years and 12 managers before their next trip to the World Series in 1968.

Cleveland Indians (1948-56): The Yankees of the 1950s put together an unprecedented run of dominance, winning 14 pennants and nine World Series from 1949 to '64. If not for the Yankees, who knows how many the Indians of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Larry Doby and Early Wynn would have won. Instead, Cleveland won two AL pennants ('48, '54), a World Series in '48 and finished second to the Yankees five times from 1951 to '56. The Indians went 41 years before they won another pennant.

Brooklyn Dodgers (1947-57) : Books have been written and songs sung about the days when New York ruled baseball and was divided by it. Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Jackie Robinson were the underdogs, the workingman's team. Brooklyn won six pennants from 1947 to '56. Each time, it faced the Yankees in the World Series. The Dodgers lost in '47, '49, '52, '53 and '56. But the one time they beat the hated Yankees -- in 1955 -- was the only one that mattered. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

Chicago White Sox (1957-59): Managed by Al Lopez and led by the Hall of Fame middle infield of Luis Aparicio and 1959 MVP Nellie Fox, the White Sox finished second in 1957 and '58 before the 1959 Go-Go Sox interrupted a string of nine consecutive Yankees pennants. The White Sox have not won a pennant since, and they have not even made it to the ALCS.

St. Louis Cardinals (1926-28, 1942-43, 1964): The team with the most titles (nine) besides the Yankees also is the only team to have faced the Yankees in more than one World Series and have a winning record (3-2). The two teams faced each other in the 1926, '28, '42, '43 and '64 World Series and the classic 1964 Series was the rubber match. Bob Gibson won Games 5 and 7, Ken Boyer hit a grand slam to win Game 4, Tim McCarver hit a 10th-inning home run to win Game 5 and after the Series Manager Johnny Keane became the only championship-winning skipper to relocate the following season to the team he defeated. He went to the Yankees in 1965 and went 82-101 in just more than a year. That season -- 1965 -- was the start of an 11-year run in which the Yankees did not win a pennant, the longest stretch until a recent 14-season drought (1982-95).

Cincinnati Reds (1976): The Reds and Yankees have played each other three times in the World Series (1939, '61, '76) and the Reds won once ('76). But it is in the "Greatest Team Ever" debate where the Yankees and Reds really go head-to-head. The Big Red Machine of the '70s won back-to-back World Series (1975, '76) and four pennants under Manager Sparky Anderson with a group of players that included Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in addition to Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey and George Foster. In baseball lore they join the Murderers' Row Yankees, the DiMaggio Yankees, the Mantle Yankees and the late '90s Yankees, among others, as teams that could be considered the best ever. But the one time this Reds team faced the Yankees, New York swept it by a combined score of 22-8.

Oakland Athletics (1972-74): In the early '70s, when the Yankees were at the lowest point in their history, the A's were winning titles (1972-74). Then free agency came along and new Yankees owner George Steinbrenner decided the best way to win titles was to take some of those championship-winning A's and make them Yankees. Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter helped the Yankees to titles in '77 and '78. Oakland has had championship-caliber teams more recently, but in 2000 and '01, the team was eliminated by the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. History then repeated itself when A's slugger and 2000 MVP Jason Giambi was lured away by an enormous, long-term Yankees contract. Giambi, however, is no Jackson.

Kansas City Royals (1976-85): Before big market and small market became an everyday part of baseball conversation, the Royals were a baseball power. From 1976 to '85 the Royals won a World Series, two pennants and five AL West titles. Along the way, the teams of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae and Dan Quisenberry played the Yankees in four memorable AL Championship Series (the Yankees won in '76, '77 and '78; the Royals won in '80) and one memorable pine-tar game.

Baltimore Orioles (1996-97): As the Yankees were emerging from their 1980s slump, the Orioles were reemerging as a power in the American League. Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson and Mike Mussina looked like they might be on their way to a pennant when they met up with the Yankees in the 1996 ALCS. In the eighth inning of Game 1, with the Yankees down by a run, rookie shortstop Derek Jeter hit a long fly ball to right field, where 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence at Yankee Stadium and pulled the ball into the stands. Umpire Richie Garcia did not call fan interference and the "home run" tied the game. Bernie Williams wound up winning the game for the Yankees with an 11th-inning homer, but it was Maier who cost the Orioles the pennant. Baltimore lost to the Indians in the 1997 ALCS and has not finished better than third place since.

New York Mets (1997-2000): Before interleague play began, the Yankees and Mets played the Governor's Cup, the last exhibition game for each team before the regular season. Even these games generated buzz in New York. So, in 1997 when the first real games between New York teams since the 1956 World Series were played, an intracity rivalry was reborn. It was elevated from fun to drama when Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza in July 2000 and then ratcheted up to ridiculous when the two teams met in that year's World Series and Clemens flung a sawed-off bat in Piazza's direction during Game 2. The Yankees won that Series, the Mets haven't finished better than third in their division since and the games between the two teams every summer have become just games again.

-- Mitch Rubin

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