Yankees vs. Dodgers: Baseball’s Enduring Rivalry

By Joshua Schnitman

The American League Yankees and the National League Dodgers have formed one of Major League Baseball’s most storied rivalries. Their inter-league rivalry had a significant impact on New York baseball culture — the Yankees drew their fans across all five boroughs of New York, and their home stadium was in the Bronx, while the Dodgers specifically represented the borough of Brooklyn. Even when the Dodgers moved West to Los Angeles, their rivalry with the Yankees continued. There are no two franchises throughout MLB history that have squared off against each other in the World Series as many times as the Yankees and Dodgers have — 11 times total. Some of baseball’s most noteworthy legends have competed in these battles in their primes such as Yankees Hall of Famers: Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Micky Mantle, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield; and Dodgers Hall of Famers: Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton. Many of these World Series battles have also featured some of baseball’s legendary Hall of Fame managers as well: Joe McCarthy and Cassey Stangel of the Yankees and Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers. 

The New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers first met in the World Series in 1941. Joe DiMaggio, surely one of the most respected baseball players of all-time, led manager Joe McCarthy’s Yankees to victory past Pee Wee Reese and the Dodgers, 4-1, in what was one of DiMaggio’s three AL MVP seasons throughout his career. 

Shortly after WWll ended, one of the most significant moments in American sports history occurred: Jackie Robinson became the first African American to enter a Major League Baseball game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947, he epitomized excellence on the field, in addition to his extraordinary courage in enduring all of the prejudice and discrimination that he faced — ultimately paving the way for so many others. The Dodgers, led by Robinson and Reese, made the 1947 World Series interesting, they took the Joe DiMaggio/Phil Ruzzuto/Yogi Berra-led and Casey Stengel-guided Yankees to seven games. But the Yankees would rule New York once again and came up victorious in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series. 

In 1949, Robinson had an NL MVP season, and he, Reese, and the young Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges, were determined to finally win Brooklyn its first title. Again, they were overwhelmed by the Yankees, who defeated them, 4-1. The Yankees’ 1949 World Series victory was their first of an eventual five consecutive titles, and along the way, they would hand the Dodgers another two heartbreaking World Series losses. During the Yankees’ amazing World Series run, the great DiMaggio would retire, and another one of baseball’s most beloved luminaries would begin his career with the franchise, Mickey Mantle. While the torch may have been passed from DiMaggio to Mantle, the Yankees’ glory surely remained constant. 

In 1955, Campanella won his third NL MVP in five years, while Duke Snider had his third consecutive season hitting 40+ home runs. 1955 would be the year that the Dodgers would finally win their first World Series, as they defeated the Yankees in the World Series in seven games to earn the banner. The first-ever awarded World Series MVP was given in 1955 to Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres, who pitched a shutout in the decisive Game 7. 

The following year, the Yankees were destined to get their revenge, led by Mantle’s MVP season, the first of three throughout his career. In yet another seven-game World Series between these two teams, the Yankees prevailed and returned the championship trophy to the Bronx. The MVP of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen, pitched the one-and-only perfect game in World Series history in Game 5. The Dodgers would make their move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958, shortly after Robinson retired and an automobile accident had sadly paralyzed Campanella. 

Now on the West Coast, the Dodgers soon proved they were a force to be reckoned with again. It was only a matter of time before their World Series rivalry with the Yankees would be showcased again — now just from opposite coasts. In 1963, Sandy Koufax, a mere rookie during the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series season, had by now proven to be one of the most incredible pitchers ever seen. Koufax, determined to help lead the Dodgers to their second World Series title since moving to Los Angeles, had an extraordinary Cy Young Award and NL MVP season. The Dodgers squared off against the Yankees in the World Series, with pitcher’s duels amongst three of the greatest in history, Koufax and Don Drysdale of the Dodgers and the Yankees’ Whitey Ford. Koufax, who set the then-record for most strikeouts in a World Series game in Game 1, was also dominant in the clinching game of the Dodgers’ series sweep, completing one of the greatest individual seasons that an MLB pitcher has ever had by also claiming the World Series MVP. 

14 years later, the Yankees vs. Dodgers World Series rivalry would be renewed again, their first meeting during the Tommy Lasorda-managed era of Dodgers baseball. In this 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson would earn his now so-famous nickname, “Mr. October.” Jackson hit a record five home runs throughout the series, including an incredible three home runs in the Yankees’ clinching Game 6. Jackson’s 1977 World Series performance was surely one of greatest players that the baseball world will ever see. 1978 presented a World Series rematch, and Jackson and the Yankees would again crush the Dodgers’ hearts.

In 1981, their most recent World Series matchup, three separate players, Ron Cey, Pedro Guerrero, and Steve Yeager, would share the series MVP award for manager Tommy Lasorda’s Dodgers, as they defeated the Yankees, 4-2. This was notably the only time in World Series history where there were multiple recipients of the World Series MVP award. 

The Yankees won an astounding record of 27 World Series banners and defeated the Dodgers in the World Series eight of those times. The Dodgers, another one of Major League Baseball’s class organizations, who have won seven World Series banners (one in Brooklyn and six in Los Angeles), defeated the Yankees in the World Series three of those times. As it has been 40 years since this World Series rivalry has been renewed, patience continues to teach the baseball world virtue. The baseball world will most certainly be elated when the Yankees vs. Dodgers World Series rivalry is finally reborn.

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