The Battle of the Boroughs: Minor League Baseball’s Best Rivalry
By Robert Pimpsner (Pinstriped Prospects)
Since the 2001 season, the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones have faced off against each other in what can only be considered one of the top rivalries in all of Minor League Baseball, the Battle of the Boroughs. It is a rivalry that is ingrained in the fabric of the communities themselves and was only natural to extend to the field. Long considered “the forgotten borough”, Staten Island has always sat in the shade to its more famous neighbor across the bridge.
Since 2001, the Brooklyn Cyclones have won the McNamara Division four times and the New York-Penn League wild card four times, while the Staten Island Yankees have won the division title six times and had one wild card berth. In all sense of the game, the two New York City rivals have dominated the New York-Penn League since the year 2000.
Throughout the years there have been many memorable moments between the two teams. Emotions run high in these games, and the fans are always on the edge of their seats. You never know what will happen, whether it is a bench clearing brawl like the one that got eight Staten Island players suspended and fined in 2003 or the switching incident in 2008 when Pat Venditte made his professional debut.
Players like Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Chien-Ming Wang, and Brett Gardner have taken the field against the Cyclones, but one of the most memorable moments came in 2008 when the switch-pitching Pat Venditte made his professional debut. Pat is one of only a few switch-pitchers in professional baseball history. With two outs in his pro debut, the switch-hitting Ralph Henriquez walked up to the plate. The ensuing confusion saw both Venditte and Henriquez switch sides several times before the umpires declared that Henriquez must step in right-handed. Four pitches later Henriquez would strike out and a new rule would have to be created. There are not many players in history who can say a new rule was created because of them.
With this being one of the most intense rivalries in the minors, emotions run high. So high that these teams have faced off in two bench-clearing brawls. The first one taking place in Staten Island on July 17, 2003. In the sixth inning, Yankees pitcher Matt DeSalvo fired a fastball inside that connected with Brooklyn’s Andy Wilson’s helmet. Wilson dropped to the ground immediately, bounced up, took off the helmet, and slammed it to the ground before charging at the mound. The resulting scuffle cleared both benches. After 28 minutes the police and security came over to break it up. Yankees pitcher Brad Blackwell was sent to the hospital to get stitches, and a few days later eight players were fined and suspended.
On August 21, 2006, the Staten Island Yankees were playing the Brooklyn Cyclones at MCU Park. Early on the Yankees found themselves down, 4-1, but in the third inning the Baby Bombers went ahead and had a 9-6 lead over the Cyclones. Staten Island manager Gaylen Pitts was ejected from the game after arguing with the umpire leaving his coaching staff in charge. In the eighth inning, and after the Yankees plated 10 more runs, emotions went wild. Both benches cleared in a massive fight on the field. Running out of the clubhouse and back onto the field was Pitts wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops heading straight for the fight. After the Yankees went on to win 21-6, Pitts was suspended for three games.
Needless to say these games are among the most popular, always drawing good crowds in both ballparks. The fans are engaged, always ready to cheer for their favorite team and ready for excitement. These games are among the most emotional and competitive for both teams all year. What will happen this year? It is time to find out. Enjoy the game!