Tonight’s Yankees-Red Sox game will have a little extra juice to it. Not only because Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start at Fenway, but because Jacoby Ellsbury will make his return to the place he called home for seven years. He isn’t the first high-profile player to switch his red socks for pinstripes, and he wont be the last. Here’s a look back at some notable players who made the switch, and how they did in their first game back in Boston.
Babe Ruth – Purchased by the Yankees from Red Sox – 1919
The Babe played his first game back in Boston as a member of the Yankees on April 19, 1920. Actually, he took part in a doubleheader. Combined in the two games, he went 3-for-8 with a double and knocked in a run. The Yankees lost both games, but Ruth went on to hit 54 homers that year with 135 RBIs with a robust .376 average. This was the beginning of “The Curse of the Bambino.” The Sox didn’t win a World Series for 86 years after Ruth was sold to New York.
Sparky Lyle – Traded to Yankees from Red Sox – 1972
After starting his career for the Red Sox, Lyle was traded to the Yankees in 1972 where he would become the closer. He didn’t appear in a game at Fenway as a Yankee until opening day of 1973, when he went 2.2 innings, giving up three hits and a run – blowing the save and getting the loss. Lyle would become a dominant closer for New York, even winning the MVP award in 1977.
Wade Boggs – Signed with Yankees – 1992
Boggs spent 11 years with Boston before signing with the Yankees in the winter of 1992. He returned to Fenway in 1993 on May 21 and went 0-for-4 with a walk in a 7-2 Yankees loss. Boggs became an integral part of the teams leading up to the 1996 championship squad, which put a knife in the heart of Red Sox nation. He played with the Yankees for five seasons hitting .313 before signing with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Roger Clemens – Traded from Toronto to New York – 1999
Perhaps the biggest legend since Ruth to wear both Red Sox and Yankee uniforms, Clemens made a short pittstop in Canada before donning the pinstripes. The Red Sox believed he was in the “twilight” of his career, so they let him go after the 1996 season. Clemens arrived in the Bronx in February of 1999, as the Yankees were coming off the greatest season in franchise history. He made his first start as a member of the Yankees in Fenway on July 31, 1999. He went 5 innings, giving up five hits and four runs in a no decision. After coming so close to winning a championship in 1986 as a member of the Red Sox, Clemens helped the Yankees win it all in 1999 and 2000.
Johnny Damon – signed with Yankees – 2006
After helping the Red Sox break “The Curse,” Damon signed a $52 million deal with the Yankees in ’06. He returned to Fenway – clean shaven – on May 1 of that year and went hitless in a 7-3 Yankees loss. Damon was booed viciously by the Fenway faithful whenever he returned to Boston. He would go on to hit .285 as a Yankee, and can now say he’s one of the rare players who won a World Series ring with Boston AND the Yankees.
* Kevin Youkilis never played at Fenway as a Yankee – injury.
Other notable players who have made the switch: Red Ruffing, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyte.
How will Ellsbury do tonight? We’ll have to find out. This is only the beginning of a long Yankee career. Both the organization and their fans hope he can do some damage and send the Fenway faithful home unhappy.