A Brief History
On October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended a World Series victory drought that went back to 1918, an incredible 86 years between Major League triumphs. Over those many decades of frustration, rabid Red Sox fans often cited the unfortunate deal that sent Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player of all time from the Sox to the hated New York Yankees, ushering in a dynasty of Yankee success that has been unparalleled in Major League history.
Babe Ruth, or George Herman Ruth, was a great pitcher for the Red Sox, having won 24 games and lost only 13 in the 1917 season while posting an ERA of 2.01. (Were you aware of his greatness as a pitcher?) In 1918, a season shortened by World War I, Ruth transitioned from being a pitcher to becoming an everyday player to take advantage of his batting skills. He tied for the major league lead in home runs (11) that year, and also batted a decent .300. Ruth also did some pitching, posting a fine record of 13 wins and 7 losses with an ERA of 2.22. During that 1918 season, the Babe won 2 of the 4 Red Sox victories in the World Series to secure the last Red Sox Championship until 2004. The Babe had also pitched 29 2/3 scoreless consecutive innings during World Series play, a record that stood until 1961. In the 1919 season, Ruth was almost done as a pitcher, but still compiled 8 wins and 5 losses record. On the other hand, The Bambino slugged a Major League record 29 home runs, eclipsing the previous American League record of 16 and an obscure 1884 record of 25 by a player that played with a home park boasting a home run fence of only 215 feet from home plate! Ruth was now the premier slugger in baseball. While he was at it, he also managed to homer in all 8 American League parks, something no major leaguer in either league had ever done. In his 6 seasons as a pitcher with the Red Sox, Ruth won 89 games and posted a sterling ERA of only 2.19.
Now that the Red Sox had the most talked about player in baseball (and the biggest draw), they of course sold his contract to the Yankees so that Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, could pursue his real love, producing plays. Frazee also sold other Red Sox stars, virtually bankrupting the team, so perhaps the curse that foiled the Red Sox for so many decades should have been called “The Curse of Harry Frazee” instead of “The Curse of the Bambino.”
Despite having some pretty decent teams over the years after the sale of Ruth, and having some great ballplayers such as Jimmy Foxx and Ted Williams, as well as more recently Carl Yastrzemski and Wade Boggs, the Red Sox managed to win the American League Pennant in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, but managed to lose the World Series each time. The team seemed cursed!
Finally, in 2004, after slipping into the playoffs by virtue of winning the Wild Card slot, the Red Sox beat their hated rival, the New York Yankees, in the American League Championship Series under the guidance of manager Terry Francona, propelling the Red Sox into the Fall Classic once again. Facing another storied franchise in the St. Louis Cardinals, the Sox had their work cut out for them! The Cards had posted a regular season record of 105 wins against only 57 losses, while the Bean Towners had won only 98 games.
BUT! Led by World Series MVP Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox swept the hapless Cardinals 4 games to none to finally break the long, dreary stretch of no World Series victories and to vanquish for good The Curse of The Bambino. Why do we say for good? Because the Red Sox have gone on to win World Series Championships in 2007, 2013, and are the reigning champs by way of winning the 2018 World Series (although since the 2019 version of the World Series is being played between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals, the Red Sox will not remain reigning champs for long).
Athletes, sports fans, and gamblers are all notoriously superstitious and quick to believe in a variety of curses and other “lucky” and “unlucky” omens, actions and events. Hard to top the Chicago Cubs for championship frustration, going from a World Series victory in 1908 and taking over a century to win their next World Series in 2016! On top of that, the Cubs 2016 triumph came at the expense of the Cleveland Indians that have not won a World Series since 1948, as of now a 71 year stretch. Are these teams cursed, unlucky, or just not as good as other teams? You tell us!
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite sports related “curse” or superstition? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Deveney, Sean. The Original Curse: Did the Cubs Throw the 1918 World Series to Babe Ruth’s Red Sox and Incite the Black Sox Scandal? McGraw-Hill Education, 2009.
Gutlon, Jerry. It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and the Curse of the Bambino. Skyhorse, 2009.
Phillips, Stanley. The Goat, the Babe, and the Maroons. CreateSpace, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Ken Curtis on Flickr of Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke and Bronson Arroyo during the 2004 World Series parade, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Ken Curtis at https://flickr.com/photos/83609650@N00/1866444. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.