The Chicago Cubs went so long between World Series championships that, even after finally winning one, the pop culture references to their dry spell continue to haunt. This song is an example of just that. You know you’ve had a rough time of things when the likelihood of your winning again gets compared to the likelihood of the Canterbury Tales becoming a bestseller.
Ernie Banks won his second consecutive MVP award on November 4, 1959. Mr. Cub finished the season with a .304 batting average and 143 RBIs, including 45 home runs. Banks collected ten of the writers’ 21 first-place votes, with Eddie Mathews (5) and Hank Aaron (2) of the Braves and Dodger Wally Moon (4) dividing the rest of the first-place votes.
In the first game of a doubleheader on August 31, 1915, Cubs pitcher Jimmy Lavender threw a no-hitter against the New York Giants, a 2–0 victory. He struck out eight batters and walked just one. On June 14 of the following year, again against the Giants, Lavender pitched a one-hitter, allowing only an infield single to Benny Kauff.
“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” featuring the famous double play combination of “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” was first published on July 12, 1910. However, the original name of the the poem was “That Double Play Again.” Six days later, the New York Evening Mail would republish the poem, this time with the title we know it by today, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”
On June 25, 1924, left-handed relief pitcher Emil Yde hit a double in the ninth inning to tie the score, 6-6, against the Cubs and send the game into extra innings. Then, in the fourteenth inning, Yde hit a triple to lead the Pirates to an 8-7 victory.
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.
Over the course of a doubleheader in Cincinnati on May 30, 1904, Cubs first baseman Frank Chance was hit by a pitch five times. In the first game of the day, Chance even lost consciousness for a brief period when one erratic pitch hit him in the head.