December 26: The Curse of the Bambino

BambinoToday marks the anniversary of perhaps the most famous transaction in sports history. Yes, it was on this day in 1919 that the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

So, why did the Red Sox trade one of their star players? Well, you see, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was also a theater impresario. So, to finance his latest theatrical venture, a stage play called My Lady Friends, he sent the Babe to the Bronx.

Now, this transaction proved to be a turning point for the two teams. When the trade was made, the Red Sox were one of the best teams in baseball and had in fact won five of the 16 World Series that had been held up to that point. The Yankees on the other hand were kinda mediocre. However, the addition of Ruth (and then in 1921, the addition of the Sox’s manager Ed Barrow) turned the Yankees’ fortunes around. As for the Red Sox, they took a turn for the worst. From 1918 to 2004, the Red Sox did not win one World Series title, while the Yankees won a whopping 26. This phenomenon became known as “The Curse Of The Bambino,” named after one of Ruth’s nicknames.

Interestingly, although this so called “curse” lasted 86 years, the idea of a Ruth related curse didn’t become popular until 1990, when Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy published a book called The Curse Of The Bambino. Amusingly, during a game at Yankee Stadium in September of that same year, Yankee fans chanted “1918” to taunt the Red Sox. Unsurprisingly, the media went absolutely gaga for the idea that the Sox were cursed, and any time the Red Sox cam close to the World Series, the curse was bound to be brought up.

So, fast forward to Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series: The Red Sox are down three games to none against those damned Yankees and facing elimination. It’s the bottom of the ninth inning and the Sox are down by one run. Miraculously, the Red Sox scored a run off Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, tying up the game. That was a major shock, as Rivera was perhaps the greatest closer in baseball history. How great? Well, more people have walked on the moon (12) than scored a run off him in the postseason (11). The Sox went on to win the game in the 12th inning and then win the next three games (including taking two at the dreaded Yankee Stadium) and advanced to the World Series.

Following the exciting comeback, the World Series almost seemed like an afterthought, as the Sox quickly dispatched the St. Louis Cardinals by sweeping them in four games. The Red Sox were champions and the alleged curse was broken. Since 2004, the Red Sox have won two more championships), while the Yankees have only won one.

Oh, and one last thing before we get to today’s drink. Let’s pretend for a moment that there actually was a curse. Most folks would point to that fabled Game 4 victory as the moment the Sox overcame the curse. However, I’d like to point you towards the events of August 31, 2004. During an otherwise normal game, a foul ball hit by Sox player Manny Ramirez hit a sixteen year old Red Sox fan in the face, knocking out two of his teeth; and wouldn’t you know it, the boy lived on a farm in Sudbury, Massachusetts that was once owned by Babe Ruth. Coincidentally, on that same day the Yankees lost at home 22 to nothing, the worst defeat in team history.

So, if you’re a Yankees fan, you might want to give a cheer (but not a Bronx cheer) to the Red Sox organization today for their foolish business deal; or if you’re a Red Sox fan you’ll want to celebrate that the 86 years of futility have come to an end. Either way, why not celebrate with a Bronx cocktail? After all, the Yankees do play in the Bronx. The Bronx is a pre-Prohibition cocktail, that was created by Johnnie Solon, the head bartender at the Waldorf hotel. According to legend, Solon created the Bronx after being challenged by a customer one day to create a new drink on the spot. When asked to come up with a name for the drink, he thought of a recent visit to the Bronx Zoo and named the cocktail after that. The customer loved the drink and it soon became one of the Waldorf bar’s most popular drinks. The Bronx is a fascinating mix of gin, vermouths and orange juice and it’s pretty refreshing.

Bronx

  • 1 ounce Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/3 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: “I remember you well, at the Chelsea Hotel…”

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