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Blessed Curse?

The only curse hanging over the Red Sox is that Boston has been the second best team on the field during a lot of post-season games, whether the sox happened to be playing the Cardinals, the Reds, the Mets, or — cue the scary music — the Yankees.

That means the cursed is, at least to some extent, blessed, since really bad teams don't get to the post season. They are, by any measure, unworthy of cursing. They stumble haplessly through each season, creating their own bad luck and bad karma so dependably that a curse would be superfluous, a waste of nastiness.

But if there were a curse associated with Babe Ruth, it seems to me the Red Sox would be the beneficiary rather than the aggrieved party. Consider that by the time former sox owner Harry Frazee traded Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, Ruth had been in the big leagues for five years. At 24, he'd developed and demonstrated a taste for every manner of monstrous indulgence. He was almost certainly thrilled to be traded to the capital of same after five seasons in relatively small, relatively tame Boston. Why would he curse the guy who set him loose on New York?

Then there's the small matter of who's likely to curse people, places, institutions, and so on. Laying a curse on somebody or some place is generally the last resort of a snaggle-toothed, cackling crone or a bitter, defeated old guy without strength to do more than rail to the stars against whoever or whatever has smashed him flat. When Babe Ruth retired, all he wanted to do was manage the Yankees. he didn't want to manage the Red Sox. he didn't want to manage the Boston braves, with whom he'd limped through the final days of his career. He wanted to manage the Yankees.

There was no possibility that it would happen. The people who owned the team regarded Ruth as an overgrown child. They were delighted, of course, with the value he'd added to their franchise, but they joked among themselves that since he couldn't manage himself, he couldn't be expected to manage the portfolio. Ruth never got the message, and any number of accounts of his retirement mention how he kept thinking that one day the phone would ring and he'd be offered the job he coveted.

So when would it have occurred to the Bambino to hurl a curse? When he was young and strong and rich and headed to best place in the world to be young and strong and rich? or when he was old and disappointed? And whom would he have cursed? The team that, by trading him, enabled him to monopolize the brightest spotlight in sports? Or the team that denied him the last opportunity he desired?

This program aired on October 22, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.

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