The deep-rooted history behind the New York and Boston rivalry

Colonial roots fuel New York and Boston's rivalry, spanning trade wars to sports battles. Their growth reflects America's cultural evolution.

Historically, New York and Boston have had a contentious relationship that goes back much beyond the baseball rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox

Before the first game ever played between the Yankees and the Red Sox, both teams had a reputation for being strong opponents.

The rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox has been the topic of countless anecdotes, but the hatred that exists between the two cities dates back far longer than that. To celebrate rivalry week, we’ll analyze how the intense rivalry between these two cities permeated American popular culture.

New York City and Boston appear to be as dissimilar from one another as two cities can be to the untrained eye. In one of these cities, colonial-era buildings predominate in the downtown area, whereas in the other, 20th-century skyscrapers take center stage. Even if cattle were to blame for the grid structure of one city’s roads, the city itself is a model of good urban planning.

How everything got started

The new colony established by the Dutch in the Americas

New York and Boston have been close since the beginning of each city’s existence. The New Netherland Company was established in 1614 by the Dutch. This resulted in a string of commercial ports being founded along the Hudson River Valley, marking the beginning of European colonization of the Americas. Although the Pilgrims’ original plan was to dwell near the Hudson River, they instead settled at Cape Cod shortly after their 1620 arrival. Colonists from the Dutch West India Company settled on Manhattan Island in the 1620s. They gave the island the name New Amsterdam. Boston was founded in 1630 by a group of religious extremists called the Puritans. Both cities, one commercial and cosmopolitan and the other religious and conservative, wanted a piece of the lucrative fur trade and staked rival claims to vast areas of the Northeast. While one metropolis thrived on commerce and variety, another was dominated by religious conservatism.

New Amsterdam and Boston were both part of competing colonial empires that fought bitterly over who should rule the Americas. The war ended in 1650 when New York and Connecticut signed the Treaty of Hartford, which established the current border between the two states. The border between the Dutch and English colonies ran along here. In addition, the modern state line between New York and Connecticut can be located here.

The good times of the past

In the 18th century, both of these towns experienced rapid expansion, becoming major colonial ports for the United States. Because of its lumber resources but lack of agricultural land, New England became an important maritime hub for the United States and the British Empire. At a close second to Philadelphia’s 30,000 population in 1776, New York was the most populated city in the United States. The city exported the goods it had produced with the help of its slave labor force. Both, especially New England, were major hubs for the legal and academic communities. On the site of the former New College, Harvard University was founded in 1636. New York’s Columbia University was founded in 1754 on the former site of King’s College.

British government officials had begun to conclude that military force would be necessary to maintain order in Boston well before the infamous Tea Party of 1773. Because of this, Boston was recognized as a strategic location in the fight against British rule throughout the American Revolution. In 1765, a group of Boston residents organized a protest to oppose the Stamp Act. Everything started right here. The Livingstons and the de Lanceys, together with their respective followings, were steadfast in their support for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and the British Crown. This resulted in the city of New York remaining deeply divided along partisan lines. The political atmosphere of the state deteriorated as a direct result of this occurrence.

Further reading:

The Stamp Act led to Boston Tea Party

The capital of the United States was moved from Philadelphia to New York after the war. When the Articles of Confederation were in operation, Philadelphia was chosen as the nation’s capital. However, once the Constitution was enacted, New York City was chosen. The fact that it only lasted a year was disappointing to both Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Party. In order to win Congress to approve Alexander Hamilton’s plan to lower the national debt, they gave in to Thomas Jefferson’s demand that the capital be moved to the Potomac. For Congress to take any kind of action, a demand like Jefferson’s was required.

Despite setbacks during the New England canal-building era, Boston did not become a backwater. However, the city flourished and became a center for industry and education, as well as a pioneer in the growth of railroads. Boston was the first U.S. city to have a subway system in addition to a train system. Boston’s leaders tried their best, but in the end, New York’s superior position won out, and the city became a provincial outpost wholly reliant on New York.

However, making a move from NYC to Boston now makes great sense due to Boston’s many advantages as a contemporary, appropriately sized metropolis. 

Development of the economy

In the second half of the 18th century, New York skyrocketed to become the largest city in the Americas, if not the entire world. The historical period of the American Revolution coincides with this increase. However, Boston did not stop competing with the urban region for political and intellectual clout, if not economic dominance. While New York was known for its trade and Tammany Hall, Boston was known for its education, arts, and sports (perhaps the roots of both basketball and volleyball). Boston has managed to preserve an air of refinement and grandeur reminiscent of royalty, in contrast to New York City’s notoriously overcrowded, illiterate, physically dirty, and politically corrupt reputation.

New York eventually surpassed Boston as the nation’s center of culture and learning due to the former city’s superior affluence and infrastructure. The rivalry with Boston was a major factor in this development. Since the 1860s, when it first began presenting musical theater, Broadway has become one of the world’s two most important theater districts, along with London’s West End. New York would also become home to numerous educational institutions, and today it boasts a higher percentage of its population enrolled in higher education than Boston.

Come on, everyone, and compete in some outdoor sports!

The Massachusetts Game

The result has been increased rivalry in sports between the two cities, most notably baseball. This level of competition is common in prosperous regions. Two early variants of baseball existed before the commencement of the Civil War, and their rules were nearly identical to one another. The “Massachusetts Game,” as it was commonly called, had underhand pitching, no foul zone, and a roster of 10-14 men per side. In addition, there was no area that was technically part of the off-limits area (foul zone). In addition, the batter’s position was dead center between the first- and third-base lines. A team wins the game if they score 100 runs before their opponent does. In order to record an out in an inning, a fielder had to make contact with a runner carrying the ball. The game was played until 21 points were scored, foul territory was considered fair play, and each inning required three outs in accordance with the rules of New York, sometimes known as the Knickerbocker style. The New York Rules eventually replaced the Massachusetts Game as the standard set of regulations used by the Union Army throughout the American Civil War.

It is generally agreed that modern baseball may trace its roots back to the New York style. Boston’s Red Sox club kicked off in 1901, and the Baltimore Orioles became the New York Highlanders after moving there in 1903. The rest, as they say, is history once the Yankees traded for Babe Ruth 13 years later. Ruth was traded to the Yankees by the Red Sox.