One of the great things about the game of baseball is the weight of history that is felt on the playing field. On both a minor and macro level, the remembrance of things past informs the intensity and excitement of the moment. In a single game, we recount the previous at-bats and innings. In a season, we recall past series, the ebb and flow of win/loss streaks. And along the wide arc of baseball history, we remember the rise and fall of teams and the rivalries that took place.

Baseball history is rich with colorful rivalries, but perhaps none has achieved the depths of emotion as that between the Dodgers and the Yankees. Playing for different leagues, the two teams could only meet in the World Series prior to the introduction of Interleague Play. They have faced off 11 times in the World Series, more than any other clubs. The Yankees have won eight of those contests, including the first five meetings in 1941, ’47,’49, ’52 and ’53. The continual heartbreaking defeats suffered by the Brooklyn Dodgers gave rise to the famed line, “Wait’ll next year.”

Announcer Vin Scully remembers the emotion as he called the last out of the seventh game of the 1955 World Series when at long last the Dodgers were victorious in a 2-0 cliffhanger: “Had I said another word, I would have burst into tears.”

To fully appreciate the emotions involved in the New York rivalry, a little history is necessary. Baseball came of age in the boroughs of old New York when Brooklyn was its own city. Beginning July 20, 1858, all-star squads representing both areas played monthly three-game series. New York took the first, but in subsequent years, Brooklyn would dominate. In the modern era, the Yankees were, well, the Yankees winning with damning consistency while the World Series-less Dodgers of Brooklyn were known as “de Bums.”

When at last the Dodgers of the late ’40s/early ’50s emerged as a major force in the National League with the help of African-American players Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, their repeated defeat at the hands of the mighty Yankees was made all the more frustrating because Yankee president Larry MacPhail had been a vehement opponent of allowing blacks in the big leagues. The rivalry seemed to take on a moral component beyond just the game.

Since moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers and Yankees have met four times and have each won twice, the Dodgers in ’63 and ’81 and the Yanks back-to-back in ’77-’78. Angelenos proved only too happy to inherit the rich rivalry. As the Dodgers welcome the current World Champion Yankees to town this weekend (June 25-27) one can only speculate about the spirits of baseball past who will show up on the field.