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A 'Curse' Born of Hate
October 26, 2004 8:13 PM   Subscribe

The Unsettling Origins of the "Curse of the Bambino." As of this writing, the Boston Red Sox seem to have a good chance of breaking their 86-year championship drought, popularly attributed to a curse brought upon the Sox in 1920 when then-owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. But as Glenn Stout writes, popular wisdom (as usual) has it wrong. A fascinating article on how misplaced anti-Semitism, Henry Ford, and an influential sportswriter in thrall to baseball's controlling interests gave birth to one of the best-known pieces of baseball mythology. [via the SDMB]
posted by Johnny Assay (45 comments total)

 
If you fucking jinxed this! I swear!
posted by xmutex at 8:18 PM on October 26, 2004


Johnny Assay, I assume you meant this thread by your SDMB link.
posted by Gyan at 9:16 PM on October 26, 2004


Boston sports teams have quite a history of coming out of championship droughts at the expense of teams from St. Louis. It happened to the Blues against the Bruins, and it also happened in Football and Basketball when the Celtics won their first basketball champtionchip in the late 50s.

So there's definitely precedent.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:20 PM on October 26, 2004


Two teams coming back from an 0-3 deficit in the same year would surely be one of the signs of the apocalypse, right?

Right?
posted by yhbc at 9:22 PM on October 26, 2004


I just figured that for this world series, it only makes sense for the Red Sox to be up 3-0 before they lose it all. With the whole down 0-3 in the championship series thing and the lingering thoughts in the back of their heads about the curse will just make it hurt all that much more when the Cardinals are able to pull it out.

Albert Freaking Pujols.
posted by graventy at 10:07 PM on October 26, 2004


Also, Whacking Day was originally an excuse to beat up the Irish.

Great article. Thanks!
posted by solistrato at 10:22 PM on October 26, 2004


Not just two 0-3 comebacks, but a team losing 4 straight (the final 2 at home) on the coat-tails of a 7-game winning-streak against two 100+ win-teams.

I hope the Sox lose, just to keep it interesting. If I was a fan, I would want them to lose. Think of the implications if they win: it just means they're another big-market team with only themselves to blame should they ever lose in the future. Scapegoats like a curse are good. For the fans. And for marketing.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:23 PM on October 26, 2004


Think of the implications if they win: it just means they're another big-market team with only themselves to blame should they ever lose in the future.

Hmm, so they might become like the post 1962 Maple Leafs. Like some leafs fans wish there was some curse to blame.
posted by bobo123 at 10:43 PM on October 26, 2004


Mach3avelli: I hope the Sox lose, just to keep it interesting. If I was a fan, I would want them to lose.

Horsecrap. Only fools think that Sox fans feel that way, Mach3avelli. The fan base will be as rabid in 2005 if they win it all this year, only people who don't know baseball or New England think that anyone wants the curse to continue. That's like suggesting that battered women want to be battered, it helps make them feel "special"- that if they got free and safe, why, they'd be just like every other woman. Idiotic.

I want a championship so bad I can taste it, and I'd love to be able to face any future losses or heartbreaks by simply saying, "Hey, we won in 2004, what are we complaining about?!" When the Yankees lose, for example, the fans are probably a little bummed out. But hell, 26 championships and they can't get too suicidal. Have you ever heard of a sports team or its fans that likes to lose because it makes them different?!?

For example, the fact that the New England Patriots are 6-0 this year with an ongoing streak of 21 wins is all the more enjoyable when you know that even if they utterly collapse and don't make the playoffs, or if they don't go undefeated and/or win the Superbowl... well, they've got 2 of the last 3, we can't be greedy. The Patriots winning this year will almost seem too much- like now we're taking championships from other teams. I'd love for the Pats to win again, but having recently won, I can brush it off as only disappointing should they lose.

Now, Yankees fans- those are the ones that are a big-market team with only themseles to blame should they ever lose in the future....
posted by hincandenza at 10:46 PM on October 26, 2004


My dad mentioned something to me about a piano that Babe Ruth dropped into a lake or something in Boston. As a true nerd, i have no idea if he was puling my leg (I'm 38, and it would be delightful to discover my dad can still fool me). Was he making shit up, or is there a piano component to Teh Kurse.
posted by mwhybark at 10:46 PM on October 26, 2004


arrgh!

+ "?"
posted by mwhybark at 10:47 PM on October 26, 2004


Have you ever heard of a sports team or its fans that likes to lose because it makes them different?!?

Brewers' fans?
posted by drezdn at 11:17 PM on October 26, 2004


Mach3avelli: I hope the Sox lose, just to keep it interesting. If I was a fan, I would want them to lose.

hincandenza: Horsecrap. Only fools think that Sox fans feel that way, Mach3avelli.

I don't claim to speak for fans. Not the key words: "if I was a fan."

I want a championship so bad I can taste it

Imagine how much sweeter it would taste 10, 20, 50 years down the line from now. Don't cum just yet. The orgasm will be that much better further down the line.

I truly believe if that ball hadn't rolled between Buckner's legs, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. I'd like to know whether you look back at '86 and laugh. I just think that losing the WS from 3 games up in a romantic fashion would compound atop the misery Sox fans already feel (historically) and make the next championship they win that much sweeter.

The Pats example isn't very good (if that was a counterargument). I'm not talking in terms of a win vs. lose paradigm, I'm talking in terms of an unprecedented paradigm. It's not about losing the WS, it's about keeping this historic streak ongoing (comparably, much more tragic than the Cubs). And for just the same reason, I've taken an interest in the Pats because of their streak. To me, it's the same fascination behind changing the channel to watch every Barrry Bonds at-bat or watching the NBA Finals last year to ogle at Detroit's defensive dominance (Ben Wallace is now my favorite player to watch after Garnett).
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:30 PM on October 26, 2004


My dad mentioned something to me about a piano that Babe Ruth dropped into a lake or something in Boston. . .). Was he making shit up. . . .

Dads never lie, mwhybark. The famous piano in the pond was discussed here, and there's more about it here. There's also a restoration project, which Dave Barry wrote about last year.

p.s. I would like to see the Red Sox crush the Cardinals tonight, starting in the first inning once again, and get this all over with.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:54 AM on October 27, 2004


I forgot — thanks for that link, Johnny Assay. A very interesting piece of sports history.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:56 AM on October 27, 2004


Speaking for myself and my grandfather, who was born in 1917 and has been aching for this world series his entire life, I will not be disappointed to see the Sox "reverse the (alleged) curse." Indeed, I can think of nothing more satisfying at this particular moment.

The victory over the Yankees last week was one of the finest experiences we've ever shared (albeit across a continent and an ocean). To have them take a series in his lifetime will, frankly, be a moment that our whole family will cherish forever. In ten years, we'll be saying "I'm so glad they won it while he was still alive."

I would sacrifice the joy of them winning for the first time since 1918 when I am 90 for him to be able to experience the joy of them winning right now. Tomorrow, in fact.

Of course, the curse has really been the Yankees. They have been the best team in baseball for most of the last 100 years. The Sox had no chance to even make it into the World Series with the Yankees always winning the AL East. The thing that broke the curse was the second highest payroll in baseball. Hey, that works for me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:58 AM on October 27, 2004


I hope the Sox lose, just to keep it interesting.

You may want to consider that "interesting" to you is a proverbial kick in the nuts to the actual fans.

We've had "interesting" for 86 years. We'd like to try "victory" on for a little while.
posted by jerseygirl at 3:45 AM on October 27, 2004


As a Yankees fan, I'd like to see the Sox win just so everyone can STFU about the stupid "curse". The only curse of the Sox is that they have to play in the same division as the one team who's perenially just-that-much better than them. If the Sox were a National League team, there would be no curse.

I, for one, would like to be able to watch the Sox lose and be able to say "fuck the Sox" without having to hear back some lame comment about a curse.

But hey, that's me ;)
posted by mkultra at 4:17 AM on October 27, 2004


I hope the Sox lose, just to keep it interesting. If I was a fan, I would want them to lose.

We've had this same discussion at Spofi; the Red Sox losing is great for everyone who isn't an actual fan of the team, but it's bs for everyone else. I'm perfectly happy with the Sox turning into a big-market team everybody outside of Red Sox Nation hates. Don't care. I hope the Cubs, White Sox and Indians all get a win soon too. Crap like "The Curse" only serves one market: sportswriters too dull to come up with stories on a daily basis. It's been wonderful to watch Boston's own hatchet man Dan Shaughnessy act as self-appointed defender of "The Curse of the Bambino" (which he wrote a best-seller about) when in reality all he's defending is his current tax bracket.

Fuck any curse and fuck waiting for tomorrow. I'm 28 years old right now and I've been dying with this team for over 75% of my stupid life. This is one of the few teams where someone can say "We won" and not sound like a complete idiot. Because you know what? We will have. Find something Sysiphean task to spend 6 months of every year on, worry-think-talk about for the other 6 months and come back every Next Year with renewed vigor and faith. Do it for two decades and then I'll drop by and tell you you should try it for another five because it'll be sweeter. 20 years is long enough to wear this yoke. I can only imagine trying it for 80. No thanks.
posted by yerfatma at 4:23 AM on October 27, 2004


So The Curse that doesn't exist was made up to cover up the antisemitism displayed against a man who wasn't Jewish.

Am I reading this right?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:18 AM on October 27, 2004


Really interesting article. I like how the author slides in Frazee's Masonry, just for fun.

Keeping with my SoxFilter tradition,
here's Robocop the rabbit watching
Damon's grand slam in Game 7 against
the Yankees.

One more game! Go Sox!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:10 AM on October 27, 2004


yerfatma -

Or not. Maybe you should consider coming up with an avocation that isn't quite so Sisyphean. There's no reason to "wear the yoke" for anything from the time you're 8 years old...

At least, not IMO.
posted by Irontom at 7:14 AM on October 27, 2004


There's no reason to "wear the yoke" for anything from the time you're 8 years old...

Except that New Englanders are born with it and science hasn't found a way to get it off.

Descriptions of Red Sox fandom are filled with so much melodrama that it's easy to forget that we really live this way. I don't blame you,as an outsider, for thinking it exaggerated, pathetic and/or stupid. But the Red Sox are what ties this region together. We're cold, standoffish people who hate strangers. The only comraderie we get is knowing that we're all feeling this. People in Boston are smiling at each other on the street and its a very strange feeling.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:26 AM on October 27, 2004


There's no reason to "wear the yoke"

Some may disagree.
posted by yerfatma at 8:26 AM on October 27, 2004


Don't cum just yet. The orgasm will be that much better further down the line.

Ah, yes, the "reductio ad fucking" argument.
posted by bachelor#3 at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2004


Hmm, so they might become like the post 1962 Maple Leafs. Like some leafs fans wish there was some curse to blame.

I think you meant "post-1967".

*soft sobbing*

/Leaf fan
posted by grum@work at 8:43 AM on October 27, 2004


Another Boston native weighing in on the "curse" - I've been a Red Sox fan since I attended my first game as a Bleacher Creature in 1978. I was six. I'm now 32. For me the curse was always about the Yankees, and Babe Ruth, and had nothing to do with Harry Frazee - until reading the linked article I was only peripherally aware of the Frazee connection to the curse. My family has buried more than a few relatives who went to their graves knowing that their god had truly forsaken them because the Sox never won in their lifetimes. Of course, when I was a little kid, I didn't make much of the fact that the Celtics had more white players than any other team in the NBA, nor did I know that the Red Sox was one of the last teams in baseball to hire black players. Heck, I was even too young to really have any awareness of the anti-busing riots. Back then, I could never understand why so many of my black friends in Dorchester wore Lakers gear, and idolized Magic Johnson.


Of course, I'm older now and wth perspective I look back and say to myself, my god, Boston may as well have been Birmingham, Alabama as far as tolerance goes. Perhaps if Frazee hadn't been run out of the American League that latent Boston racist legacy might have been different. Maybe the "curse" is really about Frazee but in a different way - that Boston was cursed for its acceptance of racial intolerance and bigotry for so many years. Or maybe its rooted in envy...a Ruthian envy. I remember reading a lot about Babe Ruth as a kid, and whatever he was as a baseball player, he utterly lacked as a human being. He was a lout in every sense of the word, a bigot, a sexist boorish pig of man. That Bostonians consider themselves cursed to have "lost" such an individual says a lot about Americans and their idolatry of sports heroes - we are willing to overlook anything - and I mean anything - to win. The phenomenon of the Curse is like any other sports myth out there - c'mon, we all know that Barry is juiced, and that Lance's testicular cancer was CAUSED by his steroid use.

Nonetheless, should the Red Sox prevail tonight, I will be beaming from ear to ear. The only thing that will make me happier....well, is it too much to ask for two miracles in one week? Please God, if you are out there, please - I'd rather have 100 more years of one-pitch-away-from-victory World Series losses by the Red Sox if you would only guarantee that Bush is voted out of office next Tuesday......that's all I'm asking. Call it the "Kerry Kurse" if you want, for I'd gladly trade a Red Sox collapse for a Kerry victory.
posted by piedrasyluz at 8:56 AM on October 27, 2004


Fans and sportswriters have joked for years about a "Chicken Curse" that keeps the University of South Carolina's Gamecocks football team from having a championship season.
posted by alumshubby at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2004


Maybe the "curse" is really about Frazee but in a different way - that Boston was cursed for its acceptance of racial intolerance and bigotry for so many years.

Are you sure you read the article? The intolerance was among other AL owners and the AL president, not residents of Boston. The idea that forced busing, not the Reds or Bucky Dent, beat the Sox in the '70s is giving baseball an importance even I'm not comfortable with.
posted by yerfatma at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2004


As a non-sports fan, I'd just like to note that, when combined with the stress of the presidential election, the tension revolving around the Red Sox these last few weeks is elevating the current level of uncertainty and expectation in this country to almost unbearable levels. My soul is beginning to ache.

Great link Johnny Assay. Much appreciated.
posted by junkbox at 10:03 AM on October 27, 2004


Fascinating article, thanks for the link!
posted by cell divide at 10:03 AM on October 27, 2004


I hope you haven't jinxed them as I did last year. <--- All you ever wanted to know about the curse; the thread comments also pretty much sum everything up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2004


Yerfatma - my suggestion that the Curse had anything to do with racial intolerance in Boston was only karmatically speaking, of course. However, I would posit that the anti-Semitism of the AL owners was equally matched by the racism of Boston residents throughout the 20th century. I do not actually think that the reason the Red Sox have not won since 1918 has anything to do with any Curse or with racism or with anything other than chance.....I was simply riffing on some of the themes in the linked story, that's all.
posted by piedrasyluz at 10:22 AM on October 27, 2004


hincandenza, if you're going to make analogies, perhaps you could avoid comparing the problems of grown men who get paid millions of dollars to play a game with those of women who get beaten by their husbands. It might be just a bit more respectful.

In any case, a great and interesting article. Despite my lack of interest in baseball, it was fascinating reading on how the myth got made.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:43 AM on October 27, 2004


Well Civil_Disobedient, at least you waited 'til now. However, if they blow 4 straight, you go on the list with the coworker who wanted the Sox to sweep so he could play poker on Thursday ("They've waited 86 years. You can wait one fucking week?") , all the locals who turned into Sox fans after the ALCS and think winning in St. Louis will be "a letdown" and the local radio hosts who are now suggesting the Cardinals suck. That's a list you don't wanna be on.

Thanks for the link. I forgot all about that thread. For the record, I will be puffing my chest out and laughing at others' misfortunes for 1-2 weeks if the Sox win.
posted by yerfatma at 11:24 AM on October 27, 2004


Sports Guy jerks some tears. Saw it on Sportsfilter, but would have eventually found it on my own.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2004


ANTI-SEMITISM!
posted by Satapher at 11:53 AM on October 27, 2004


This is one of the few teams where someone can say "We won" and not sound like a complete idiot.

wtf? is the payroll based on tax revenue or something?

St. Louis fans pay for tickets just like Red Sox fans. go Cards!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2004


Obtuseness is unbecoming. I meant more the emotional than fiscal investment.
posted by yerfatma at 2:32 PM on October 27, 2004


piedrasyluz - There was a world of difference between the Red Sox and Celtics organizations. The Red Sox were filled with racists at every level of the organization. The Celtics, on the other hand, hired the first black head coach in the NBA (and I believe in any major sport). Yes, the Celtics had a lot of white players for a long time, but they were players who won championships; they were players who were drafted because they were good, not because they were white. The Red Sox' racism prevented them from acquiring talent and lead to a lot of their problems over the years; the organization was only finally cleansed by Dan Duquette, the previous general manager.
posted by gspira at 5:21 PM on October 27, 2004


The Celtics drafted the first black player in the NBA. And the Bruins were the first team to play an African American as well (Willy O'Ree).
posted by yerfatma at 5:11 AM on October 28, 2004


Curse? What Curse?
posted by caddis at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2004


gspira, yerfatma - I admit I am not as aware of the organizational histories of the Celtics and Red Sox as I should be - However, just because the Bruins and Celtics weren't necessarily racist organizations doesn't mean the town itself and those teams' fans weren't/aren't. And just because a team drafts a black player doesn't mean it sees black players as equals. Remember Oil Can Boyd? I still think my point was that in Boston growing up it was pretty hard to find any black people (at least in my neighborhood, where we were the only white family for blocks around) that rooted for any of the Boston teams. Why is that? Were my friends not interested in baseball or basketball? I don't think so. They loved, and rooted for the Lakers and distant teams. They didn't feel connected to Boston franchises for some pretty obvious reasons. I think in this case the perception is the reality.
posted by piedrasyluz at 12:12 PM on October 28, 2004


Are you sure you read the article? The intolerance was among other AL owners and the AL president, not residents of Boston.

Are you sure you want to be claiming residents of Boston haven't been grievously racist/anti-Semitic?

Great article -- thanks, Johnny Assay! And congrats to the Sox!
posted by languagehat at 5:02 PM on October 28, 2004


Hey! The Red Sox' (Sox's?) General Manager is Jewish! Theo Epstein! Why didn't anyone mention that?!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:21 AM on October 29, 2004


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