Memorable Player Rivalries Involving New York Athletes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Last season’s showdown between Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman wasn’t exactly the model of good sportsmanship, but if you like a good, juicy rivalry, you’re not complaining.

As Beckham and Norman prepare to square off Sunday, with Norman now a Washington Redskin, we take a look at some of the most memorable individual rivalries involving players from New York teams.

Joe DiMaggio (Yankees) vs. Ted Williams (Red Sox)

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio

Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams (left) and Yankees great Joe DiMaggio (credit: Getty Images)

It doesn’t get much better than this — baseball’s two best players at the time competing for archrivals. DiMaggio won the MVP in 1939, ’41 and ’47, while Williams won it in ’46 and ’49. “Joltin’ Joe” won batting titles in 1939 and ’40, while the “Splendid Splinter” won it in 1941, ’42, ’47 and ’48. In 1941, DiMaggio went on a 56-game hitting streak — a record that still stands today — while Williams batted .406 — he’s the last player to hit .400. Of course, DiMaggio blew Williams away in world titles — 13 to none.

Patrick Ewing (Knicks) vs. Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets)

Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing

The Houston Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon (left) looks to pass the ball under defensive pressure from the New York Knicks’ Patrick Ewing during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 17, 1994, at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Bob Strong/AFP/Getty Images)

The rivalry between these two 7-footers began when they were in college — Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas beat Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars for the national championship in 1984. Olajuwon got his revenge 10 years later in the NBA Finals, when the Rockets topped the Knicks in seven games.

Roger Clemens (Yankees) vs. Mike Piazza (Mets)

Home plate umpire Charlie Reliford comes between Mets catcher Mike Piazza and Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. (Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Home plate umpire Charlie Reliford comes between Mets catcher Mike Piazza and Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. (Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

In a scary-looking incident, Clemens hit Piazza in the head with a pitch on July 8, 2000, sending the slugger to the dirt with a concussion. When the Yanks and Mets met up again in the World Series a few months later, Clemens tossed a shattered bat in Piazza’s direction as the Met ran out a foul ball, nearly resulting in a brawl.

Mickey Mantle (Yankees) vs. Willie Mays (Giants) vs. Duke Snider (Dodgers)

Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle (public domain)

From left, Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle

It still seems unreal — three of the best center fielders to ever grace a baseball field were all playing in the Big Apple at the same time for much of the 1950s. Between the three of them, they account for 44 All-Star slections, five MVPs and three plaques in Cooperstown. Mantle faced Mays in the 1951 World Series and squared off with Snider in the 1952, ’53, ’55 and ’56 Fall Classics.

Mike Bossy (Islanders) vs. Wayne Gretzky (Oilers)

Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky

Hall of Famers Mike Bossy (left) and Wayne Gretzky (credit: Getty Images)

This rivalry was cemented in 1983 and 1984, when the Islanders and Oilers met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals. It proved to be a passing of the torch between two dynasties. The Isles won the first showdown, sweeping Edmonton to win the Cup for the fourth straight year. The Oilers, however, got the better of New York the following season and won the Stanley Cup four times in five years with “The Great One” leading the way.

Joe Namath (Jets) vs. Johnny Unitas (Colts)

Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas

Hall of Famers Joe Namath (left) and Johnny Unitas

The Hall of Famers met in two of the greatest games in NFL history: Super Bowl III, of course (although Unitas came off the bench in that one), and in a 1972 regular season game when they combined for 872 passing yards (496 by Namath, 376 by Unitas) in a 44-34 Jets victory.

Keyshawn Johnson (Jets/Buccaneers) vs. Wayne Chrebet (Jets)

Keyshawn Johnson (left) and Wayne Chrebet (credit: Getty Images)

Keyshawn Johnson (left) and Wayne Chrebet (credit: Getty Images)

Johnson was the prototypical wide receiver and first overall draft pick in 1996 out of powerhouse USC. Chrebet was the undersized, undrafted overachiever from Hofstra, who became a fan favorite. And Johnson was clearly jealous. When they were teammates in 1997, Johnson called Chrebet “the team mascot” in his book. In 2000, before Johnson’s Buccaneers faced the Jets, Johnson said comparing Chrebet to him was like comparing “a flashlight to a star.” Then Chrebet went out and caught the game-winning touchdown.

Jorge Posada (Yankees) vs. Pedro Martinez (Red Sox)

Jorge Posada and Pedro Martinez

Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada (left) and ex-Red Sox Pedro Martinez during the 2003 ALCS (credit: Getty Images)

Martinez had a rivalry with the Yankees as a whole in the 2000s, but he and the Yanks’ catcher especially did not like each other. The most memorable exchange between the two came in the infamous 2003 ALCS brawl. Martinez said he lost his temper and tossed 72-year-old Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground only after Posada insulted his mother. Martinez was seen pointing to his head, which many interpreted as a threat that the three-time Cy Young winner would aim for Posada’s noggin the next time he saw him in the batter’s box. The grudge was still alive and well in 2015, when, in separate interviews, Martinez said, “I don’t really want to interact with Posada,” and the ex-Yankee said, “We’re probably not going to dinner anytime soon.”


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