There is no such thing as ‘The Curse of the Babe’

There is a book out about the Red Sox and newspaper collections over the years. One specific article is about the sale of Babe Ruth. It was published January 5th, 1920, two days after the sale of Babe Ruth. It was a very, very long article and detailed the reasonings behind the sale. Now, because I already knew the reasonings, I wasn’t really surprised about the article. However, I became surprised when they said some stuff I didn’t know. It was rather interesting; I’ll run down some quick points.

It was a pure and simple cash transaction – $125,000. I’m not going to run down the points that are presented here, but I want to add a couple things to that brilliant article. First off, Babe Ruth kept skipping games to go off and have fun and play little exhibition games for money. He was a very divisive force in the clubhouse, and teammates hated him. Also, he kept wanting his salary raised. He once told the owner he wanted his salary doubled from $20,000 to $40,000, an insane amount and request in these days. He was a stellar pitcher, but insisted on playing the outfield. The Sox NEEDED him to pitch. In the last year Babe played for the Red Sox, in 1919, the team went 66-71. In the two years after Babe left, they went 72-81, and 75-79, which was not that different from Babe’s last year. They then completely fell off the map, losing no less than 86 games (63-86 in 1933 and the most in 1932, going 43-111) until 1933. They started improving up until 1946, where they went to the World Series, but lost. The mid-fifties to 1966, they were horrible. Interest in the Red Sox were nil. They were like the Tigers. Then…the Impossible Dream. It changed EVERYTHING. In the words of the Impossible Dream book in which I linked you to earlier:

Entering the 1967 season, no one really cared about the Red Sox. They hadn’t contended for a pennant for more than a decade and barely 8,000 fans turned out on Opening Day. Oh, before Ted Williams retired in 1960, fathers had taken their sons and daughters to see him, but usually only once, and after his retirement there were few other reasons to go to Fenway Park. Interest in the franchise was at an all-time low. Even owner Tom Yawkey stayed away. Since local officials had turned down a request for help in building a new ballpark several years before, he’d been a virtual stranger and was reported to be contemplating selling the team.

Then came 1967, when general manager Dick O’Connell put together a team of young, hungry players and installed fiery manager Dick Williams as their leader. They shocked the baseball world. Boston’s “Cardiac Kids,” led by MVP Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg, captured the imagination of an entirely new generation of Red Sox fans. The city suddenly began to look at the team through new eyes. In the “Summer of Love,” all of a sudden there was nothing New England loved more than the Red Sox. The glow of that season has yet to diminish, and the passion for the team has yet to wane. Nineteen sixty-seven changed everything.

The success of the 1967 team also reawakened Boston’s slumbering sports press. The “Boston Globe” and, to a lesser degree, the “Herald” dramatically expanded their baseball coverage, and a new generation of younger, hipper sportswriters such as Leigh Montville and Peter Gammons took over. The counterculture embraced the youthful Red Sox, and the alternative press pushed the envelope further with a more personal style of reporting.

But the Impossible Dream turned nightmarish as the Red Sox lost not only the 1967 World Series but also the 1975 World Series, the 1978 playoff game against the Yankees, and, worst of all, the 1986 World Series versus the Mets [Evan’s note: And also the 2003 Game Seven ALCS against the Yankees]. With a roster of stars that included some of the games most talented players, such as Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, and Roger Clemens, writers found the Red Sox an every more compelling subject. But to every Red Sox fan’s lasting dissapointment, the team’s defining character became its seemingly inexhaustible quest to experience ever more excruciating varieties of loss.

I don’t believe in the Curse. Honest. I believe it has more to do with writers, and the fans, because they/we are so embittered. The players can’t help but let it affect them a little. The players, however, did overcome that to sweep the A’s three straight with their back to the wall after two losses. But the Yankees’ also had perceptions working to their favor. They were the Yankees. And factor in an idiot for a Red Sox manager, and well…let’s just say things didn’t work out in our favor. But with a PASSIONATE ownership, a smarter manager, and a better team that could win 100 games (which the Red Sox have only done once in 1915 when they went 101-50)…this is truly the year. The sands of time are running out. It has to be 2004 or bust.