Podsauce loves to learn about sports curses, just in time for spooky season. Superstitions and lore stalk sports arenas, their players, and fans, where intrigue meets skepticism as they watch events unfold and decide what they want to believe. “The Curse of the Great Bambino” battered up in 1919, referring to slugger Babe Ruth’s trade from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees. This trade resulted in an 86-year losing streak for the Sox, as legend claims.
Babe Ruth is “The Great Bambino”
“The Curse of the Great Bambino” refers to Babe Ruth himself. In 1919, he was sold from the Sox to the Yankees for $125,000, cursing the Sox to enter an 86-year shut-out from winning the World Series. Prior to this, they were on a streak, winning 5 of the first 15 World Series games up until “Bambino” was sold. The Yankees became the leading team in America. This curse is a classic component of the ongoing Sox vs. Yankees rivalry.
The Red Sox’s owner Harry Frazee was also a theater producer, and used Ruth’s sale money to finance productions. In 1921, the Red Sox’s manager transferred to the Yankees! Other Red Sox players followed suit and joined Ruth’s team. The Red Sox continued to strike out, and these losses were attributed to “The Curse of the Great Bambino.”
Ruth’s pay cut
In 1934, Ruth signed a year contract for $35,000, taking a pay cut of $17,000. This was in part due to manager Jacob Rupert’s ongoing feud with Ruth’s claim for the spotlight. Rupert believed he should earn less since his performance declined with age. Even with this salary, Ruth was still the highest paid baseball player in America, so they settled the negotiation.
The Sox kept losing
The Sox played against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946’s World Series, the team’s first since Ruth left. The curse prevailed and the Cardinals won. Two years later, they finished the regular season, tied for first place, and lost the first-ever tie-breaker one-game playoff. They would have won the next year if they managed through either of the last two games. Instead, they were beaten by the Yankees, who went on to win 5 World Series in a row.
The curse carried on
It was Game 6 of the World Series in 1986, and the Sox were leading. The Mets scored 3 runs and tied the game. Then, the Mets won! This happened when the Sox’s 1st baseman, Bill Buckner, missed a ground ball and it rolled through his legs.
Is it real?
After 1986’s World Series, New York Times columnist George Vecsey detailed “The Curse of the Great Bambino” in his writeup, wondering if this was the reason behind their loss. And the Sox continued to lose. While the Sox would make it to the World Series, they’d be ahead then lose by the most unbelievable series of plays.
Fans would try to break the curse with countermeasures. They placed a Boston Red Sox cap atop Mount Everest while burning a Yankees cap at base camp, seemingly to no avail.
In 2004, the Sox finally won the World Series
In Ken Burns’ documentary, Baseball, Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee had a recommendation, saying the Sox should exhume Babe Ruth’s body, go to Fenway Park, and apologize for trading him to the Yankees. Dan Shaughnessy published The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino in 1990. The curse ended in 2004 when the Sox finally won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals. Wahoo! Tune in to this episode for more on “The Curse of the Great Bambino.”
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