We’re up to bat once again with more sports lore, curses, and superstitions! This one is coming to you from “Ridiculous History” with their episode, “Japan, Baseball and the Curse of the Colonel.” Hosts Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown take us to Japan, a culture with some serious superstitions and a serious love for baseball.
The 1985 Japan Championship Series
There’s a lot of background involved in this story, because it is a strange story indeed. It involves understanding Japan’s obsession with Kentucky Fried Chicken and American baseball player Randy Bass. All the way back in 1985, the Hanshin Tigers were on top of the world. They had just won the Japan Championship Series, a true underdog story. Their victory is largely credited to Bass, an American ex-major league player who had recently joined the team. He was a hulking man with a powerful swing, and he quickly became the Tigers Star Slugger.
Well, in celebration of how fantastic Bass was and how stoked fans were to have finally won the Championship Series, fans went nuts. They had been hurling other fans into the Dōtonbori River, a leap that is popular after a big sports win, but particularly they began throwing in fans who looked like players on the Tigers. But as they looked around for a Randy Bass lookalike, the only remotely close döppelganger was a Colonel Sanders statue that was in front of every KFC across Japan. The rabid crowd seized the statue and hurled it into the river as an effigy.
The Curse begins
And thus begins the Curse of the Colonel. The Tigers suffered from an 18-year losing streak, placing last or next-to-last in every season after the Colonel was swept away. And they have never won another Championship Series since. And fans believe that the team is being haunted by the ghost of the real Colonel Harland David Sanders.
Many attempts were made to recover the statue, but divers were unable to find it. It was eventually found in 2009 by divers who originally thought it was a barrel or a human corpse. But Hanshin Tiger fans quickly identified it as the upper-body of the long lost Colonel. The next day, the legs and right hand of the Colonel were found in the river, but his glasses and left hand remain missing. It is believed that the curse cannot be broken until both are found.
Other Japanese superstitions
Tigers fans will tell you even today that there is a curse upon their team. Even though they had some hot streaks in the early 2000s (in 2003, they made it to the Championship Series and nearby KFCs either brought their statues inside or bolted them down), they have remained unable to win another championship. Even since 2018, when this episode was recorded.
But Ben and Noel share with us some other interesting Japanese superstitions to wrap up the episode. From not cutting your nails at night, to hiding your thumbs in your fists as a hearse passes by, to not whistling at night, these beliefs coincide with supernatural beings and plain old thieves.
So take a listen to “Ridiculous History’s” “Japan, Baseball and the Curse of the Colonel” to hear even more about the vengeful habits of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s spooky to be haunted, but it’s even spookier to be bad a baseball. Just ask the Red Sox.