Dad is a life-long fan of the Boston Red Sox. So in the last few years, he’s had a lot of reason to celebrate. After all, Boston has been one of most successful teams this decade. And truthfully, they’ve always a pretty good team, even when they weren’t winning it all. The names in lineups from days gone by read like a who’s-who of baseball’s elite. Names like Yastremski, Eckersley, Rice, Evans, and Baylor have all made tremendous impacts on Beantown’s baseball legacy.
But my dad never really cared much for a recently-departed player: Manny Ramirez. Oh, he’s talented, no doubt about it. He can hit. He can flat-out hit. In baseball parlance, he can rake. And for several years, he brought his uncanny hitting skills to the fans at Fenway. But dad said that Manny also brought other things to the park…an extremely temperamental attitude, a colossal ego, and a “me-focus” rather than a team focus.
So dad didn’t shed many (Manny?) tears when the superstar was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 3-team trade this summer. Of course, it’s not the first time the Boston Red Sox have traded away a testy, big-name player. There is precedent.
On December 26, 1919, another famous player was “traded”. But this player was no star, and he was no superstar. He was, quite likely, the greatest player to ever put a uniform on his body. We’re talking about George Herman Ruth. Babe Ruth had achieved his initial fame as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for the Sox, but was just starting to emerge as a middle-of-the-order power hitter. The sky was the limit for Babe Ruth.
But the Babe knew it, and sometimes his attitude showed it. Like modern-day Manny, he was prone to outbursts of anger, displays of ego, and an occasional unwillingness to take the field. And the Babe had demanded a 100% raise for the next season, an amount that owner Harry Frazee was unwilling to pay.
So Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, and the rest is history. The Yankees soared to baseball’s pinnacle. Ruth highlighted numerous powerhouse lineups, including the 1927 “Murderer’s Row”…possibly the greatest hitting lineup ever.
The Red Sox struggled. Oh, they had good teams, and some great teams, but after that trade, it was said that the Sox were cursed as the World Series eluded them. If the curse was real, it was in full force in 1986, when that little dribbler that should have ended the Series in Red Sox victory somehow eluded Gold Glove first baseman Bill Buckner, giving the Mets a path to the title.
The Curse of the Bambino has long been broken, but that trade always hangs over the Boston faithful. Is Manny’s departure the beginning of another Curse? No, but it brings to mind the one deal that was cursed.