The Curse of the Bambino

by Dan Shaughnessy

Reviewed by Michael J. Mehl

It must be hell being a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Other teams have been bad: in the thirteen years of their existence, the Kansas City A's had nine winning months, the Cleveland Indians went over forty years between World Series, and we all know about the Chicago Cubs. But these teams were merely bad. (OK, the A's were atrocious.) The Red Sox, well, the Sox always seem to be so close to the prize. Then reality intrudes, be it in the form of Bill Buckner's poor fielding, Bucky Dent's home run, or World War II and Korea cutting years out of Ted Williams career. Though they've finished first many times and been in quite a few pennant races, the last World Series the Sox won was in 1919. That's a long time, even for Cubs fans.

Why? What causes this team to torture those hardy New England souls? Dan Shaughnessy thinks he knows. On January 5, 1920, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth's contract to the New York Yankees, for $100,000, with a $300,000 mortgage on Fenway Park thrown in. Since that moment, the Red Sox and their fans have been doomed never to see another World Series Championship flag fly over the Back Bay.

The Curse of the Bambino is Dan Shaughnessy's detailed account of the Red Sox's woes since that fateful day. Shaughnessy, a sports writer for the Boston Globe, tells all -- the collapse of the team after the Babe moved to the Bronx, and moving on to the hopeful years when Williams was the star. Then the tension mounts as the Sox win the greatest baseball game of all time, then turn around and loose the 1975 World Series to the Reds in 1975. Then there's Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent beating the 1978 Sox out of a pennant with a home run, and, of course, the Series winning out dribbling through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the 1986 series. Each of these events, is described in (morbid?) detail, along with other great Red Sox collapses.

But Shaughnessy's thesis ultimately collapses -- you would think that a "curse" on the Sox would have been noted shortly after Ruth left town. By Shaughnessy's own evidence, though, a belief in the "curse" didn't take hold until the ball rolled through Buckner's legs. Let's face it -- except for some of the Williams teams, from 1920-1974 the Sox were just bad. Since then, they've had about as much success as anyone could expect, better than your average team (e.g., Houston).

Despite that, this book is an interesting history of the Red Sox from Ruth's day up to the present. It is highly recommended for baseball fans of all types, except Yankee fans.

Author:     Dan Shaughnessy
Title:      The Curse of the Bambino
Publisher:  Penguin Books, New York, 1991
ISBN:       0-14-015262-8
List Price: $10.95 (Paperback)

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© 1996 by Michael J. Mehl


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