Baseball’s Greatest Rivalries

By Charlie Shapiro

Kelly Franco Throop entertained the audience with her insights into baseball’s historic rivalries.

At the May 29th meeting of the Retired Men’s Association Spike Lipschutz introduced the day’s speaker, Kelley Franco Throop, on “Getting Schooled in Baseball’s Greatest Rivalries.”

Kelley Franco is a baseball media entrepreneur, and her company is Three Inning Fan LLC. She hosts her own baseball podcast, “A Date in October with KFT.” She has been a guest lecturer at the Baseball Hall of Fame and a baseball contributor on CNN’s Financial Network. By day, Kelley is a practicing attorney in New Canaan, Connecticut at her firm, Franco and Associates.

Franco began by setting the stage for discussing rivalries, emphasizing how they add passion, excitement, and storytelling to baseball. She then dove into the “four main rivalries” she wanted to focus on. The first was the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, which Franco called possibly “the rivalry with the greatest baseball moments.” She traced the geographic and socioeconomic roots of the rivalry dating back to the late 1800s. The high point was the famous 1951 pennant race, culminating in Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” home run to win the pennant for the Giants.

The second main rivalry covered was the Yankees and Red Sox, labeled “the greatest rivalry in sports.” Franco hit on several landmark moments, including Bucky Dent’s home run in the 1978 playoff game, Aaron Boone’s dramatic 2003 ALCS-winning homer, and the 2004 ALCS comeback by the Red Sox from a 3-0 series deficit to finally reverse the “Curse of the Bambino.” The third peculiar rivalry discussed was between flamboyant Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the 1970s, stemming from Kuhn voiding Finley’s attempted trades and sales of star players. The fourth main rivalry was the Cubs and Cardinals, driven by their geographic proximity and frequent regular season matchups over the decades, as well as shared players and managers like Bruce Sutter.

Franco then covered three “honorable mention” rivalries in a quicker hitting style. First was the combustible relationship between George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, with Martin getting hired and fired five times as Yankees manager. Next was the fierce on-field battling between the Yankees and Royals in the late 1970s, highlighted by brawls and the infamous “Pine Tar Incident.” Lastly, she discussed the underrated but heated Reds-Pirates rivalry which produced several classic playoff matchups in the 1970s.

The talk featured multimedia clips of iconic baseball moments like the Roseboro-Marichal brawl and Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game six home run. Franco sprinkled in trivia questions to engage the audience on points like players involved in various plays. She closed by mentioning other potential rivalries to explore like the St. Louis Browns-Cardinals, Mets-Yankees, and Pete Rose’s clash with commissioner Bart Giamatti, expressing her passion for unearthing baseball’s rich tradition of fiery rivalries.

The Q&A covered topics like the awful racism Jackie Robinson faced with his low initial salary, how baseball’s increased reliance on analytics may be diminishing prolonged rivalries, the disastrous Nolan Ryan trade by the Mets, and comical tales of heckling of Ted Williams from the Fenway stands by fans.
Overall, Franco’s talk provided a comprehensive overview of some of baseball’s most heated rivalries, peeling back the layers on their roots, key moments and personalities, and how they added to the vibrant fabric of the game’s history and lore. Her multimedia approach and blend of facts, storytelling and audience engagement made for an entertaining and informative presentation.

The talk can be viewed by going to the RMA website at https://greenwichrma.org, and clicking on “Speakers.”

The RMA’s upcoming presentation, “Once a Giant: A Story of Victory, Tragedy, and Life After Football,” by Gary Myers, is scheduled for 11 AM on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Radio host Jim Campbell will interview sports journalist and author Gary Myers on his new book that details the brotherhood formed by the 1986 Giants as they won Super Bowl XXI. What makes this brotherhood so unique is nearly 40 years later the bond remains as strong as ever. If a player has an issue, his teammates are there to help him out. Even Bill Parcells, the hard-driving coach, is there for his former players. He has loaned a total of $4 million to former players with financial problems. Myers will talk about the impact playing football has had on the post-career lives of the ’86 Giants as they are now in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Many of the stories are heartwarming and funny but some are heartbreaking. The ’86 Giants are the most popular team in Giants history as the team begins to celebrate its 100th season.

Gary Myers is the former NFL Columnist for the Dallas Morning News and New York Daily News. He is the author of six books, including “Brady vs. Manning,” a New York Times bestseller, which examines the greatest rivalry in NFL history. “Once a Giant,” an Amazon bestseller, was released in September. He is currently working on his seventh book: “Was It Brady or Belichick?” Myers has been covering the NFL since 1978 and was a long-time cast member of HBO’s “Inside the NFL” and the YES Network’s “This Week in Football.” He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and is a former adjunct professor at Newhouse. He is a regular contributor to The NY Blitz on WPIX in New York.

To stream the presentation by Gary Myers at 11 AM on Wednesday, June 12, click on https://bit.ly/30IBj21. This presentation will also be available on local public access TV channels, Verizon FIOS channel 24 and Optimum (Cablevision) channel 79.

Note: The views expressed in these presentations are those of the speakers. They are not intended to represent the views of the RMA or its members.

RMA speaker presentations are presented as a community service at no cost to in-person or Zoom attendees, regardless of gender. Any member of the public who would like to receive a weekly email announcement of future speakers should send a request to members@greenwichrma.org. The RMA urges all eligible individuals to consider becoming a member of our great organization, and thereby enjoy all the available fellowship, volunteer, and community service opportunities which the RMA offers to its members. For further information, go to https://greenwichrma.org/, or contact members@greenwichrma.org.

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