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Yankees and Their Fans Suspend Red Sox Rivalry to Honor Boston

By Patrick Wall | April 17, 2013 8:00am

CONCOURSE — Before the Yankees stepped onto their field Tuesday evening, much seemed the same as ever.

Blue-and-white hordes of hometown fans surged out of train cars and into Yankee Stadium, while tourists huddled outside it, posing and grinning into cellphone cameras, as scalpers pushed their paper products.

But there were reminders, some subtle and others explicit, that the previous day two deadly bombs had exploded at another crowded sporting event, the Boston Marathon.

Counter-terrorism police officers patrolled outside the stadium Tuesday with helmets, rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs. A moment of silence preceded the game. Flags flew at half-mast. A message on the scoreboard urged, “Pray for Boston.”

“We hate the Red Sox,” said Emilio Rodriguez, 80, a Yankees fanatic with an ingrained aversion to the team’s rival. "But..."

"We’re united with them today,” added Carolyn Rodriguez Dondero, 51, finishing her father’s thought.

After the third inning in the series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, which the Yankees won 4-2, Neil Diamond’s ballad “Sweet Caroline” played on the loudspeakers while fans sang along. The tune is a staple at the Red Sox’s Fenway Park.

“Thank you NY Yankees for playing 'Sweet Caroline' for the people of Boston,” Diamond tweeted Tuesday. “You scored a home run in my heart. With respect, Neil #OneBoston.”

The Yankees also honored the Red Sox by displaying a banner outside the stadium with both team logos framing the words "United We Stand" and showcasing a ribbon on the scoreboard that read, "New York stands with Boston ... Pray for Boston."

The tribute transported Michael Ranieri, a Yankees fan from Staten Island, back to 2001, when the Red Sox played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” in their stadium just days after 9/11.

Ranieri had been sent temporarily to work in Boston after his Lower Manhattan office was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks. When he heard his hometown anthem play at Fenway Park, he was stunned.

"I looked at my colleagues and just said, ‘Wow. I would have never expected this,’” recalled Ranieri, 52. “It was just so consoling to get that.”

Meanwhile, Tom Cavanagh, a Queens resident who attended Boston College, remembered hauling a couch outside his dorm during the marathon one year so that he and his friends could sit and drink beer while runners grimaced as they charged up “Heartbreak Hill.”

“Marathon Monday is always a day of celebration,” Cavanagh, 30, said. “Now it’s marred.”

But another Boston College alum, Adam, who asked that his last name not be used, said an event like Tuesday’s baseball game could help the country carry on in spite of tragedy.

“It’s just a good way to be normal,” said the 24-year-old Long Islander. “To be an American.”

Raymond Batkay, a Bronx native and former Navy submariner, felt the same.

“I’m not going to be stopped from enjoying my life,” said Batkay, 35. “This is my national pastime in the city of my birth.”

He noted that he was even willing to look beyond the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

“It’s like the Marines,” Batkay explained. “You hate the Marines — but ultimately, they’re on the same team.”

Juan Calderon, a Bronxite who brought his two young daughters to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, agreed that the human bond between Boston and New York dwarfs the competition between its teams.

“There are games,” said Calderon, 33. “But this is the big picture — life.”