Sunday, April 19, 2009

Curses A Part Of Baseball

The Curse of the Bambino isn’t the only superstition to grace baseball’s history, and with the season starting I could not think of a better way to welcome it than talking about some of its more popular superstitions that are as well known as the game itself.
Before I get into the major superstitions I want to mention minor ones, and here they are: Not talking about the outcome of a seven-game series before it’s over, drawing in the batter’s box before each at-bat, not stepping on the foul line when taking the field, refusing to wash a piece or part of an entire uniform during a hot playing streak, tapping one’s bat on home plate before an at-bat, not talking about a no-hitter or a perfect game in progress, holding on to a lucky bat or glove and chewing only one wad of gum.
There is another minor superstition, but it has a little more history to make it a step above minor status, and that is not shaving after a postseason win. This one started back in 1908 with the Chicago White Sox as they won their way to a World Series title.
This superstition was then again brought back to life by the 2005 Boston Red Sox.
Now that the minor ones are out of the way let’s move on to the ones that everyone knows and continue to talk about and I’m going to start it off with an angry goat.
It begins with the Chicago Cubs having a long period of uselessness. I mean the last time they won it all was 1908, but to be fair they made it into the World Series in 1932 and then again in 1938.
In 1945 they were able to make it into the Fall Classic and in that same year the Cubs lost the series, causing an angry fan to hex the team.
The man was named Billy Sianis. He owned a nearby tavern and had two box seat tickets to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Tigers and he brought along his pet goat, Murphy.
The goat had on a blanket and pinned onto the blanket was a sign that read "We got Detroit’s goat."
Before the game ended, Sianis and the goat were asked to leave due to the goat’s odor and this caused Sianis to become very angry. His anger led him to place a curse on the Cubs and since that incident the Cubs have never won another pennant or played in a World Series at Wrigley Field again, all that for just insulting a goat.
The Cubs would go on to lose in Game 4 and eventually the 1945 World Series. Sianis then wrote a letter to Wrigley Field saying "Who stinks now?"
Now I’ve saved the best superstition for last and that is The Curse of the Bambino. Who doesn’t know about this curse? A curse that went on for 86 years until it was ended in a historical way by the Boston Red Sox.
Babe Ruth played six seasons with the Red Sox, in that time they won three World Series and Ruth’s career with the Red Sox looked like this: he hit .322 with 29 home runs and 114 RBI; he started 17 games as a pitcher, posting a 9-5 record and a 2.97 ERA.
The Red Sox then made a bold decision and sold their star player to the Yankees for $125,000 in cash and a $300,000 loan.
In 1920, Ruth, while wearing the pinstripes, hit 59 home runs and then hit 54 the next year. Ruth hit .342, cracked 714 home runs and set virtually every Major League hitting record.
Ruth had a 15-year run with the New York Yankees and in that time he led them to seven AL pennants and four World Series championships. That might not seem like a curse for the Yankees, but let’s look at what the Boston Red Sox were doing during 1920 to 2003.
The Red Sox won no World Series during that 85 year period. They did, however, win four pennants, but would lose the World Series always in a dramatic way.
The curse went on for 85 years, people died not being able to see the Red Sox win a World Series, but all that changed in 2004 when the teams met for the third time in five years in the ALCS.
I remember watching this and just being very frustrated, the Yankees took a three games to none lead and appeared to be hovering over another pennant win.
That changed when the Red Sox took a turn for the better and buckled down and won four straight games after being down three.
This was the first and only time that a baseball team came back from such a deficit. Of course it broke the hearts of Yankee fans and reversed the curse and the Red Sox went on to win the World Series.
Those are some superstitions that have been with baseball for a long time, and even though some of these curses get reversed there is always going to be another one to take its place. As long as there is baseball, there will be superstitions.

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