Major League Baseball is the oldest established American professional sport. Since 1869, teams have been battling it out on the diamond in pursuit of the World Series championship title. With a rich history going all the way back to a time before the days of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” with fans chanting for peanuts and crackerjacks, the MLB has witnessed the competitive sagas of several teams that have woven some of the greatest rivalries in sports today.
5. Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets
Known as the Battle of the Broads, the rivalry between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies was born on April 27, 1962 at Polo Grounds. The Mets franchise had just been inaugurated into the league. The first game against their East division rival ended in a tight match with the Phillies narrowly clinching the victory at 11-9. Considering that the two teams share the same division and are in close proximity to one another, a rivalry was naturally quick to ensue.
Both teams have shared notable moments throughout the extensive course of their rivalry, including Phillies pitcher Jim Bunnings pitching a perfect game against the Mets in 1964 (the first perfect game in Phillies history), and the two teams each having famous pitcher Tug McGraw on their rosters during the 1960s to early 1980s. In the mid-2000s, the teams’ rivalry reignited resulting in more competition for a playoff spot. From the 959 meetings the teams have shared, the Phillies currently leading the regular season series 520 to 486.
4. Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers
A relatively newer rivalry, the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers did not officially meet until June of 1997 after the Brewers transferred from the American League (AL) Central Division to the National League Central (NLC). Prior to the former Seattle team’s arrival, the Cubs shared a rivalry with the Chicago White Sox. The division rivals have met 369 times with the Cubs narrowly holding the lead in the regular season series 189-180. The pair’s rivalry is so intense, that fists have flown between fans themselves.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
Widely considered one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are two of the longest-standing competitors in Major League Baseball. The two first met over a century ago on April 26, 1901 when both clubs operated in New York City. They squared off in Brooklyn and Manhattan up until the end of the 1957 season when Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley decided to relocate his team to Los Angeles. In doing so, he persuaded Giants owner Horace Stoneham to also move his franchise to California in order to preserve the two teams’ rivalry.
The Dodgers and Giants have met a whopping total of 2,506 times with the Giants leading the regular season series 1,256-1,233. At 23 each, the teams are also tied for most National League Pennants. Given their close records and the extent to which each owner was willing to go to maintain their fierce rivalry, the Dodgers and Giants will forever be two of the ultimate competitors in professional baseball.
2. Chicago Cubs vs. Saint Louis Cardinals
Also referred to as the Route 66 rivalry or the I-55 rivalry, the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs share perhaps one of the most vicious contentions in the MLB. Their rivalry is notorious for scrappy brawls, such as in 1974 when the two benches engaged in a ferocious throw down, and in 1928 when Chicago Slugger Hack Wilson attacked a jeering Cardinals fan leading to 5,000 spectators to storm the field. Having met 2,443 times, the Cubs lead the Cardinals in National League Pennants 19 -17, yet the Cardinals lead in World Series championships 11-3.
1. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
One of the most well-known rivalries in sports, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have had an immense share of battle royales. The two teams originally met in 1901 under their first titles, the Boston Americans and the Baltimore Orioles. After several seasons, the pair’s rivalry would become one of the greatest in Major League Baseball. It all started when the Red Sox traded star player Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, leading to an 86-year gap in which the Sox failed to take home a single World Series championship title. Deemed the “Curse of the Bambino” this championship drought would become one of the most infamous moments in the two teams’ rivalry.
Since then, the Yankees and Red Sox have faced off three times in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and met 2,272 times with the Yankees leading the regular season series 1,216-1,020. Since the early 2018 season, the two teams’ rivalry has once again been sparked by an all-out brawl that erupted between the two benches after Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin and Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly threw fists during the seventh inning. In 2019, the Yankees won four of five meetings, which ultimately pushed the Red Sox out of playoff contention. Going into the 2020 season with the Red Sox out for retribution, one can only imagine what new chapter the teams will add to the boundless story of their rivalry.