Prior to this weekend, the Dodgers and Yankees had played each other eleven times, all in the World Series. No two teams have played each other for the championship as often. For the first seven of those meetings, the teams shared the same city, and they took on very different roles. The Yanks were corporate New York, the powerhouse that won championship after championship because they could. The Dodgers were the underdog, representing the working guy over in the community of Brooklyn. Of course, they weren't really that big an underdog. Between 1940 and 1957, the only time the Dodgers finished lower than third was in 1944, when most of the team was playing on islands in the Pacific. And they only finished third four times, twice during the war. The Yankees weren't really all that much better than the Boys of Summer, but for a long time, the Dodgers just couldn't beat them. Five times between 1941 and 1953 the Dodgers lost, often in bizarre fashion. They were what the Red Sox are now. "Wait til next year." They finally won in '55, but lost again the following year in a series that saw the greatest pitching fluke of all time, Don Larsen's perfect game. A year later, the Dodgers moved west, and things changed. In '63, Koufax, Drysdale, and Podres held the Yanks to four runs for the series as the Dodgers swept. (I particularly enjoyed that one, because it gave me the chance to gloat at my best friend, who was a rabid Yankee fan.) The Yanks won in '77 and '78, and the Dodgers won in '81. A lot of baseball history is wrapped up in those eleven series.
This weekend the rivalry was rekindled as the Dodgers played the Yankees for real for the first time since 1981, and took two out of three. Woo hoo! I tried to watch Saturday's game, but Fox showed the backup game here, since the backup game was the frelling Sox. Ya know, if you're going to be on in place of the game I want to watch, the very least you can do is hold a lead against the Giants. Feh.
Sunday's game was on ESPN, so I did get to watch. The game wound up hinging on one play. The Dodgers were up a run in the 7th with two outs when Dave Roberts sliced a sharp line drive to the opposite field, which fell just inside the left field line. Now Roberts is very, very fast, and the ball looked to be a sure double, but Hideki Matsui raced over to cut the ball off, hoping to make a spectacular play to hold Roberts to a single. As it happened, he should've just tried to make the routine play. As he approached the ball, his feet got a bit tangled up, and he was in an awkward position when he reached down for the bouncing ball. And he missed it. Right under his glove. Oops. It rolled all the way to the wall, and then some, hugging the gentle curve of the wall as it was guided further and further out toward center field. Meanwhile Roberts had been running full out from the moment he'd hit the ball, and was halfway to second with the play in front of him when Matsui erred. He just kept right on going, beating the eventual throw home easily. It was an important run, because it meant the homer the Yanks got in the ninth didn't tie the game.
Up in San Francisco, the Giants took two out of three from the Sox, so they remain 1½ games back as they get ready to host the Dodgers tonight at SBC Park. Should be a good series. So many interesting games lately. Tonight it's Odalis Perez, who's had a couple of good outings recently, against the Giant's Kirk Rueter, who hasn't.