Curse of the Colonel

The Red Sox and the Cubs aren’t the only teams in the baseball world to have suffered the effects of a curse. A Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers, found itself the victim of the “Curse of the Colonel,” with the “colonel” being none other than KFC’s Colonel Sanders.

The Hanshin Tigers are located in Kansai, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. In 1985, the Tigers faced the Seibu Lions and took their first and only victory in the Japan Championship Series. The team’s success came in large part due to the efforts of an American playing on the team, slugger Randy Bass (who would later serve as a Senator for Oklahoma).

As one might expect following a major championship victory, the Tiger fan base launched into celebration. A particularly raucous crowd gathered at Ebisu Bridge in Dōtonbori, Osaka.  Fans here would yell the players’ names, and with every name, a fan resembling that member of the Tigers leaped from the bridge and into the canal. However, lacking a Caucasian person to represent MVP Randy Bass, the crowd seized a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders (who apparently resembled Bass, in their minds) from a nearby KFC and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy.

According to the legend, thus began the Curse of the Colonel. The Hanshin Tigers began an 18-year losing streak, placing last or next-to-last in the league each year. The Tigers had a surprisingly good season in 2003, winning the Central League and earning a spot in the Japan Championship Series. However, the Tigers lost the series to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so the curse was presumed to still be in place. The curse, fans believed, would continue until the Colonel statue had been recovered from the river.

The Colonel was finally discovered in the Dōtonbori River on March 10, 2009. The statue was, not surprisingly, in pieces, and it lacked the glasses the Colonel held in his left hand. It was believed that the curse could only be lifted by returning the Colonel’s glasses, so a replacement set of glasses were given to him in order to ensure the breaking of the curse.

The KFC restaurant to which the statue originally belonged no longer exists, so the now-restored Colonel Sanders makes his home at the branch near Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

Curse of Colonel Sanders Japan recovered statue

Colonel Sanders statue, shortly after being recovered from the river in 2009 (Ogiyoshisan)


This day in baseball: Carl Mays beans Tris Speaker

On May 20, 1918, Indians outfielder Tris Speaker was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Red Sox hurler Carl Mays.  A right-handed submarine pitcher, Mays denied Speaker’s allegation that the beanball pitch was intentional.  Mays pitched a complete game, winning 11-1 that day.  The beanball would prove a precursor to the pitch that would kill Ray Chapman two years later.

Carl Mays

Carl Mays (SABR)


This day in baseball: First perfect game

Cy Young threw the first perfect game in American League history on May 5, 1904.  In the game, Young led the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory over Rube Waddell and the Philadelphia A’s.  It also marked the first perfect game in the majors since 1893, when the distance from the mound to the plate was changed from 45 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches.

Cy_Young

“Cy Young” by Bain News Service


“When My Buckner Moment Comes,” by Dan Bern

This song is amusing in a way that almost hits too close to home.  Even though we know it is okay not to be perfect, we all worry that our own “Buckner moment” will come at the most inopportune and humiliating time.


This day in baseball: First game at Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees played their first game at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923 in front of more than 72,000 fans. Babe Ruth hit the first home run of the new ballpark, a two-run shot off Red Sox pitcher Howard Ehmke, to help New York beat Boston, 4-1. The new $2.5 million ballpark was the first to feature three decks.

Yankee Stadium,1920s


Carlton Fisk’s Hall of Fame induction speech

Known in baseball as “Pudge,” Carlton Fisk played for both the Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971–1980) and Chicago White Sox (1981–1993). In 1972, he became the first player unanimously voted American League Rookie of the Year, though he is probably best known for “waving fair” his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

This speech is the longest one I’ve listened to so far, but it’s worth the time. It’s not hard to get a glimpse of the kind of work ethic and character that Fisk possessed through this oration.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.


“Railroads and Baseball,” by Dudley Laufman

I have never seen nor heard anything like the story about Ted Williams in this poem, but I do like the idea behind it. As the author comments, it makes for a great story. This piece by Dudley Laufman appeared in Sptiball Magazine in January 2010.

*

That time there in Warner, New Hampshire,
game between Bradford and Warner,
someone clouted a drive across the railroad tracks
just in front of the afternoon run
of the Concord to Claremont commuter.
Ump made it a ground rule double.

I think I told you this one,
Arlington – Waltham.
Spy Ponder hits one over the tracks
in front of the 6:15 to Lexington,
Watch City outfielder scoots through the underpass,
comes back waving the ball,
wants a ground rule double,
ump says home run.
Yeah, I told you that one.

But get this.
I don’t know if this is true or not,
but it makes a good story.
The Red Sox are enroute Boston-Providence
for an exhibition game in Pawtucket.
Train passes through Sharon or
some little town like that.
Train whistles along the edge of the ball field,
sandlot game, mix of grubby uniforms,
and someone lines one towards the train.
Ted Williams is standing out on the back platform,
reaches out, snags the ball, and keeps it.
Train rumbles on to Pawtucket,
Williams clutching their only ball.

Next day (the Sox stay over),
train headed back to Beantown.
The boys are out on the field
(they found another ball).
The Kid is out on the platform again,
and he throws the ball back,
autographed by all the Bosox.