For Red Sox fans, 2004 ushered in the dawn of a new era; an era where it is no longer cosmically impossible for Boston to win a World Series. Just for good measure, the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007.
But what about that pesky 86-year drought? Was there really a curse preventing the Sox from being successful? Here’s a chronological breakdown that will teach you everything you need to know about The Curse of the Bambino. We’ll also reveal some facts about the curse that might surprise you (hint: we’ve got the real dirt on Jimmy Buffett, Jimmy Fallon, and Bill Buckner)!
1. Boston Started Out Strong
It’s important to note that the Red Sox weren’t always a bad team. In fact, they were quite good just before the invention of the short-wave radio.
All 28 members of the original team in front of all 75 of the original fans
The Boston Americans (apparently they got to go first on “pick your team name day”) were the very first franchise to win the World Series. Not only that, but in the first 15 Fall Classics played, Boston won 5 of them, many in the later part of the 1910’s.
This dominance can be attributed to one person; the greatest player in the history of the game. Maybe you’ve heard of him? His name was Babe Ruth.
2. The Babe was a Broadway Producer (Sort of)
After the Red Sox won their 3rd championship in 4 years (thanks largely in part to the fact that Babe Ruth was a home run hitting stud in a time when most of baseball was played using strategy and small-ball), the Bambino asked for a much-deserved raise. After all, he was filling the seats and making the sport popular and accessible to the American public.
George Herman Ruth, Mrs. McGovern’s 5th Grade Class
However, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee wanted none of it, and instead sold Ruth to the Yankees. He used that money to finance a play called “My Lady Friends,” which was later released as the Broadway musical “No, No, Nanette.”
Both the show and the Yankees performed much better than the Red Sox did over the next 8 decades, winning a combined 6 Tony’s and 26 Championships before the Red Sox could win either. (The Sox continue to be shut out of the Tony nominations, despite their advances in both lighting and costume design.)
3. Trust Me, They Really Didn’t Win
While the people of Boston know their pain all too well, the rest of the country is a far more casual observer of the Red Sox, and therefore many of them swear they saw some Red Sox World Series celebrations at some point between 1918 and 2004. Indeed, the Red Sox appeared in 4 championship series before finally winning their 5th in 2004, however all 4 ended in futility.
Fisk doing the YMCA in the on deck circle
Red Sox and Good Will Hunting fans alike know the story of the 1975 World Series. Carlton Fisk hits a dramatic game winning home run down the foul line, frantically tries to wave the ball fair, gets his wish and subsequently turns Fenway Park into a mob scene. However what many people forget is that it was only Game 6. Winning that game guaranteed a Game 7, which they then went on to lose 4-3.
4. Billy Buckner Got a Raw Deal
Moving ahead 11 years, we arrive at the next and final time we will see the Red Sox lose the World Series. If the city of Boston had to summarize the entire season in three words, they would be “F#@* BILL BUCKNER.”
Even the umpire tries to help out Buck, pointing to the ball in disgust
Bill Buckner committed an error. A horrible, horrible error. He allowed a groundball to pass directly under his glove, which allowed the winning run to score in a previously tied game. However history has conveniently left some things out:
- Once again, it was Game 6
- There were 3 hits, 3 runs and a wild pitch allowed in that inning by Boston pitching, all of which were more damaging than Buckner’s error as they erased the Red Sox lead and made it a tied game
- Bill Buckner was never convicted of a felony because of his performance in that game
Perhaps no fans in the history of professional sports have ever been more violent, ruthless and downright awful to a player than Boston was to Bill Buckner. He was released the following season, partially for his own safety after receiving countless amounts of hate mail and death threats.
It wasn’t until 2008 (after the Red Sox had won TWO Championships) that Buckner was invited back to Fenway to throw out the first pitch of the season. He received a 4-minute standing ovation, and was thereby released from the witness protection program.
5. Fans Tried Lots of Crazy Ways to Break the Curse
Over the years fans and extremists have gone to ridiculous lengths to try to rid their city of the curse, up to and including exorcism, vandalization, and even the proposed exhumation of Babe Ruth’s corpse. There was even an elaborate attempt staged by Jimmy Buffett.
Jimmy looks more historic in black and white
Yes, even Jimmy Buffett went so far as to channel the ghost of the Bambino (as played by his high bassist) and a witch doctor (as played by his high drummer), putting them on stage to fight or something. Whatever the method, numerous attempts were tried, and failed. Until…
6. Jimmy Fallon Broke the Curse?!
That’s right. And why not? It makes perfect sense. If the curse of the Bambino began with a musical, why not end it with a film?
Bogart and Garbo, they ain’t…
Hollywood law states that if you are investing millions of dollars into a film that hinges on a piece of history not changing, it will definitely change. Apparently the original Fever Pitch was supposed to end the same way the previous 86 drafts of the script ended. But when the 2004 Red Sox won the World Series, the ending had to be rewritten. As it turns out, nobody saw the movie anyway, so it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if they had just left it.
7. The Truth: There Was No Curse
After years of futility and heartbreak, baseball fans can now rest easy knowing the truth about the Curse of the Bambino… it never existed.
If you ask any baseball fan why the Cubs have yet to win the World Series, they will tell you it is because of the Billy Goat Curse. However if you ask any Cubs fan the same question, they will sit you down for a 90-minute lecture on the past faults and shortcomings of the team before insisting that THIS is the year it all changes.
Same story, different scapegoat
True Red Sox fans never believed in the curse. The simple truth is that some teams just have crappy centuries.
Baseball is not an exercise in probability. Teams do not have a 1 in 30 chance of winning the World Series each year. Professional baseball is so much more complicated than that, and the fact is if a team is mismanaged, mishandled, and possibly just a tad unlucky for 80 years, it’s easy to see how they could miss 86 times before finally winning once.
Although it is easy for Boston fans to breath a sigh of relief having two championships under their belt, many of them will never forget the cursed years. Whether it was fate, a curse or just a string of bad luck, those days are over. The city of Boston, and the Babe, can rest easy.