Wednesday, October 20, 2004

What's All this Curse Business?

There's this baseball game coming on tonight -- you might have heard of it -- involving these two American League teams with very high payrolls.

The only thing I have to say about this before it starts (and while watching the other extra-inning nailbiter in that other championship series) is this: when did everyone start talking about the Red Sox's "curse," the "Curse of the Bambino," and so on? I did a Nexis search on October 1986, that most infamous of Octobers, for the terms "'Red Sox' and curse and 'Babe Ruth'." I found only four articles from that whole month that matched, and the articles talked about the "curse" as more of an in-joke among the Red Sox, a half-superstitious half-joking explanation of why the franchise hadn't won a World Series since 1918. Now, there are four articles every hour that talk about the curse, and it's routinely talked about by people who aren't particularly interested in baseball, let alone baseball history. When did this little joke among baseball buffs and Red Sox die-hards pass into the cultural mainstream? Is this another thing that came about when all those Harvard grads started writing for TV?

Also, one thing about the "curse" story that doesn't make sense to me: the story is that Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth in 1918 in order to finance the musical production No, No, Nanette. But, in fact, No, No, Nanette didn't get produced until 1922 (and it didn't make it to Broadway until 1925, after a long run as a touring show), and in those days it didn't take four years to produce a stage show. If Frazee sold Ruth to finance a stage play, it was probably My Lady Friends, the 1919 play upon which Nanette was based. So in other words, Frazee sold Babe Ruth and we didn't even get "Tea For Two" out of it.

Edit: I have just been reminded that Ruth was not sold in 1918, but in late 1919 or early 1920. Why is it that I di not remember that Ruth was with the Red Sox in 1919, but I did remember that he hit a then-record 29 home runs that year? Because my mind is so cluttered with statistics, there's no room for actual non-numerical facts. Shame on me. Shame.

No comments: