December 26th is one of the most significant days in the history of the Boston Red Sox franchise. What occurred on this day back in 1919 helped to shape the next 80+ years of Sox history and created countless storylines for journalists all across New England. Harry Frazee’s decision to have a fire-sale after the Sox won the World Series in 1918 led to the selling of Mr. George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000. The price the Yankees paid was more than twice the previous high for a professional baseball player and turned out to be the most influential move of the 20th century in baseball, especially from the perspective of most Bostonians. That move began what was much later known as the “Curse of the Bambino.”
Frazee was criticized for many things throughout his tenure as the GM of the Red Sox, but selling Ruth had to top the list. The following season in New York, Ruth was converted from a pitcher and outfielder to a full-time outfielder and he proceeded to hit 54 home runs, a new league record. It was the ultimate in revenge for the hefty lefty who only made the already existing riff between New York and Boston a full-blown rivalry. Ruth’s first year in New York was only a hint of things to come, as he would become one of the most dominate hitters the game of baseball has even seen on into the mid 1930’s. In 15 seasons with New York, Ruth hit 659 homeruns and collected 2,518 hits in 2,084 games, but it was the void he left in Boston that caused years of disappointment and despair.
Over the last decade, the Red Sox organization has come a long way to overcome what was coined by Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy as the “Curse of the Bambino” dozens of years ago. That term became a common phrase in every New Englander’s vocabulary and it became as much a psychological and mental block as anything else for players and fans alike. Teams like the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team, the 1975 Carlton Fisk home run and the 1986 World Series all had the highest of highs, but always ended with the lowest of lows as the teams fell victim to the cursed existence of the Red Sox. Loyal Red Sox fans were consistently disappointed until the 2000’s when boy wonder, Theo Epstein, and the new group of owners for the Sox put all that behind them. Still, even with 2 World Series titles and a competitive team every year, the Ruth trade still defines what it means to be a Sox fan, player or employee. It just happens to be easier to write and talk about it now that the ‘curse’ is broken and a part of history, not the present.
The holiday time is a chance for family and friends to gather, swap presents and just rejoice together. I find it the most reflective time of the year and a chance to really look at things in a new, refreshing light. For those of us that are and have been passionate Sox fans for years, it is a lot easier now look at the Sox organization in a refreshing light, because we have all been blessed with success over the last decade, finally pushing the Babe Ruth monkey off our backs. This off-season proves that the Sox are still as strong, if not stronger, than any other organization out there. The phrase “there’s always next year” has become an anthem for continued success year in and year out and not a painful and depressing reiteration after another failed campaign like it did throughout the 20th century. As hard as I can be on the Sox front office when I feel they are veering in a wrong direction, the overall picture has been pretty phenomenal since the early 2000’s and 2011 is shaping up to be as good, if not better, than in the past.
As we all enjoy our little respite from work and spend a few days celebrating, let’s also take a moment to think about that infamous day 91 years ago that forever changed the landscape of Boston baseball. It was monumental at the time, but even more so in the decades following. Once you have taken that moment to reflect, just laugh and shrug your shoulders. The curse is a distant memory filled with forgettable and painful moments. The past is just that, the past…the future is now.