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Outside of the NHL and a few notable exceptions in the other major sports, Harvard fans don’t often get to see their school’s alumni compete in professional uniforms. This is especially true when it comes to Major League Baseball, where Harvard is perhaps better known for producing front office talent—like New York Mets VP of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta ’95 or Cleveland Indians Director of Baseball Operations David Stearns ’07—than actual players. Indians pitcher Frank Herrmann ’06 is the Crimson’s lone regular presence on major league rosters.
So, unless you’re a Boston native (well at this point, even if you are a Boston native), it might seem difficult to get excited for tonight’s edition of the storied Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, a September matchup that would have generated significant buzz in Boston in years past. But while the Yankees are searching for a post-season berth, those hopes were dashed long ago for a Sox team that has been unloading talent and looking to rebuild.
But as fans of Harvard, whom should we throw our support behind? A glance at history and finances shows some parallels between Yankee greatness and Harvard prestige. Harvard has historically found itself near the top of most college rankings, a tradition it continued earlier this week as it tied Princeton atop US News and World Report’s annual rankings. The men in pinstripes have a noted track record themselves, having won 27 World Series titles, 16 more than the second-best St. Louis Cardinals.
And despite a hiccup or two in recent years, Harvard’s endowment (estimated to be $32 billion) trumps that of every other academic institution just as the Yankees’ near $200 million 2012 payroll towers over the rest of baseball. But supporters of both organizations know that what looks like limitless resources on paper don’t always translate cleanly to the real world. Yankees fans might ask how their astronomically high payroll buys a team that has played .500 baseball since July with the same frustration that Harvard students wonder what happened to hot breakfast, why there are no late-night dining hall hours, or how The Cataracs were recruited to headline Yardfest.
The forsaken Red Sox have some Crimson ties of their own. Ben Crockett ’02, a former Harvard pitcher and minor league prospect, is Director of Player Development for the Sox, a position that looks to be especially relevant with the attempts to rebuild. Local ties between the university and ball club run even deeper—Harvard played the Red Sox in an exhibition game in the first ever contest held at Fenway Park in 1912.
Unfortunately, it’s a terrible year to be a Sox fan, and even the most devout have struggled to stay on board. But life as a Goliath is far from carefree. As the Yankees’ recent stumble has demonstrated, failures are magnified when the standard is greatness. Those of us at Harvard who have paid any attention to the news in recent weeks can certainly relate to that.
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