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)

Baseball 101: Eephus pitch

I had to Google this one when I heard about it this morning, because I personally have never seen one in a professional ballgame before (or, really, any ballgame, unless you count Little League).

An eephus pitch, which translates to “nothing” pitch, is a very, very slow pitch with virtually nothing on it.  Supposedly, the pitch received its name from outfielder Maurice Van Robays, who explained, “Eephus ain’t nothing, and that’s a nothing pitch.”  Due to its lack of velocity, the eephus pitch floats to the plate in a high arc, resembling a pitch thrown in a slow pitch softball game, except thrown with an overhand motion.  Since it appears so rarely, by throwing an eephus pitch, a pitcher can catch a hitter off guard.

Last night, in a game between the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, Kazuhito Tadano tossed this doozy of a pitch while facing Mauro Gomez.  The pitch discombobulated the umpire, who called it a ball, in spite of its crossing the plate seemingly through the strike zone.

To watch the video of Tadano’s eephus pitch, click here.

Kazuhito Tadano throws an eephus pitch against Mauro Gomez (New York Daily News)