Curse you Bambino, curse you

With his wild hair and full beard and looking more like a central casting idea of Rasputin than a professional baseball player, Johnny Damon of the Boston Red Sox, dubbed his team “the team of idiots.”
He said: “If we use our brains, we’re only hurting the team. We’ve tried to eliminate the thinking and let our natural ability take over.”
And that natural ability did take over as the Red Sox were able to not only win the World Series—a feat they had not accomplished since 1918, but were able to dismiss one of the most popular stories in sports—the “Curse” of the Bambino.
Bur first, a background check: The notion of the “Curse” rests on several pillars, most of them up for debate on their authenticity, but entertaining nonetheless.
The story claims that Boston owner Harry Frazee, a failed theatrical producer, sold the coveted Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 to line his own pocket, bail out his theatrical productions, and eventually bankroll his girlfriend’s successful production of the musical “No, No, Nanette,” earning him a fortune.
The Yankees provided Frazee with a second mortgage on Fenway Park worth $350,000, thus turning the $100,000 cash sale into a larger transaction of nearly half a million dollars, which is the equivalent of a gazillion dollars today.
Ruth, who hit 29 homeruns for the Sox in 1919, went on to hit 54 for the Yankees the following year, led the pin stripes to a championship in 1921, and became an international star, who is still discussed as one of the greatest ever.
It has been recorded that Ruth proclaimed the transaction such a travesty he uttered the Red Sox would never again win the World Series—the Red Sox hadn’t won since 1918 (exactly 31,458 days), while the Yankees have won 26.
As written by John J. Hallahan of the Boston Globe following the deal: “Boston’s greatest baseball player has been cast adrift. George H. Ruth, the middle initial apparently standing for “Hercules”, maker of homeruns and the most colourful star in the game today, became property of the New York Yankees yesterday afternoon.”
The news became the talk of the nation and was regarded as blunder of such cosmic proportions the baseball gods had been punishing the Sox ever since, or so some people believe.
•In May of 1926, during a time in which Boston lost over 100 games in three consecutive seasons, much of Fenway Park’s left-field bleacher sections were destroyed by fire.
•In Oct. of 1946, in their first visit to the World Series since 1918, the Red Sox lost a decisive Game 7 to the Cardinals.
•In Oct. of 1967, the Sox lost to the Cardinals in their next visit to the World Series. After leading the Sox to victory in Games 2 and 5, Jim Lonborg returned to the mound in Game 7 against the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson and lost 7-2.
•In Oct. of 1975, the Reds took a 2-1 lead in the World Series with a controversial 6-5, 10-inning win. Reds pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister hesitated after a bunt and collided with catcher Carlton Fisk, who was trying to field the ball. Fisk’s throwing error allowed Cesar Geronimo to advance to third, and later score the game winning run. The home plate umpire ruled there was no interference despite heated protests by the Red Sox.
•(The Big One) In Oct. of 1986, the Red Sox were one strike away from the title, but then came Bob Stanley’s tying wild pitch and Mookie Wilson’s winning grounder though the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6. Boston would then waste a 3-0 lead in Game 7, losing 8-5.
•In Oct. of 2003, Aaron Boone homered off Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS.
Looking back, though, the “Curse” of the Bambino was a blessing for the rest. In 1920, it came to fruition the White Sox had thrown the 1919 World Series. The game could’ve been irreparably harmed, but Ruth, with all his skill, charm, and gusto, in the media capital of the world no less, became a saviour.
And now the “Curse” is over, but did it really ever exist? Wasn’t the “Curse” just a series of bad decisions? Perhaps they suffered from being the last team in baseball to sign black players, even though they had the first chances to snag Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. Of course, selling the greatest player in baseball history was also a bad idea (it’s called sarcasm folks).
Rather than confront the franchise’s prickly and painful past and admit those defeats all had real explanations, fans fell for a soothing fairy tale that assured them that all was right with their bar-stool world.
The “Curse” was a cute, clever, near perfect cure-all that made losing a badge of honour and every Sox fan a martyr on a crusade to right a wrong. Like Buckner’s mistake—they took that nightmare, and it turned into a bedtime story.
The “Curse” became a self-fulfilling prophecy, worming its way into the psychology of the team. Media regularly credited the “Curse” for every misstep by the Boston front office and every miscue on the field, and the notion was as common as cliché.
Reverse-cursing ceremonies had been performed at Fenway Park. Séances done, exorcisms performed, hats burned. It’s been set to music and inspired documentaries, and was even part of the team’s promotions.
The “Curse” fit Boston, a parochial place that always goes after the new guy, the outsider. It made everyone an insider. It gave Boston someone to blame—that rat bastard Harry Frazee. He was perfect for the role: dead and a New Yorker, a patsy no one knew and who couldn’t fight back.
The “Curse” of the Bambino, that amalgam of jinx, superstition, and despair was narcotic. It explained everything. It made everyone an expert. The “Curse” worked. It was somebody else’s fault all the time.
So let’s not downplay the Sox’s victory. They swept the Cardinals, who brought steroid induced bats into the World Series, but had anemic twigs come game time.
Go Sox! Yankees Suck!

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