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The Curse of the Bambino
The inaugural 140-game season of the American League
began on April 24, 1901. Boston's team was given the nickname "Americans" to differentiate them from the
cross-town National League "Nationals." The press also dubbed them the Somersets, Plymouth Rocks,
Collinsmen, Puritans and Pilgrims. Team owner John I. Taylor decided that, for the 1908 season, they
would wear white uniforms with red stockings while playing at home. The name Boston Red Sox was born.
Boston was the strongest team in the newly founded league, finishing first in six out of their first
eighteen seasons. They appeared in five World Series between 1901 and 1918, winning all five.
In 1914, the Red Sox (now owned by Joe Lannin)
purchased the contracts of Ernie Shore, Ben Egan and a young pitcher named George Herman Ruth from
the minor-league Baltimore Orioles. Ruth went by the nickname "The Babe" or "The Bambino." He was
brought up to Boston's major league team on July 11, 1914. That season, he appeared in four games
with a 2-1 record. The Babe had eighteen wins for the Red Sox in 1915, and 23 in 1916. Boston won
both years' World Series. Baseball writers anointed Ruth as one of the best lefthanders the game had
ever known. On October 9, 1916, he pitched a fourteen inning complete game victory over the
Brooklyn Dodgers in game two of the World Series.
In 1917, The Bambino led the league in shutouts
(nine) and ERA (1.75), with a 24-13 record. Lannin sold the team to Harry Harrison Frazee at the end
of 1917. Rosters were being decimated as players left to fight in World War I. Ruth helped by
playing in the field (mostly in left) when he was not pitching. Despite batting in only 95 games,
he hit the most home runs in the majors. He was on the mound for game one of the 1918 Fall Classic,
where he pitched a complete game shut out to beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0. He would also get the win
in game four of that series, helping the Red Sox defeat Chicago four games to two. Boston won three
championships in The Babe's first four full seasons with the team.
In 1919, The Red Sox and Ruth could not agree on
a contract; the Babe settled for $10000 per year (other top players in the league were earning upwards
of $15000). In addition to earning only half of what he felt was appropriate, The Babe no longer
wanted to pitch; Boston's new owner Harry Frazee and Ruth were not getting along. Babe Ruth hit a
record 29 home runs, more than any other major league team. Prior to the 1920 season, Ruth
was sold to Colonel Jacob Ruppert's New York Yankees for $100,000, plus a loan collateralized by Fenway
Park. Ruth's .376 batting average, 54 home runs and 137 RBIs generated attendance of 1,289,422 fans in
his first year with the Yankees. That was the first time in baseball history that a team's home
attendance exceeded one million. This led to the construction of Yankee Stadium, "The House That Ruth
Built." On July 12, 1921, Ruth broke Roger Conner's record for career home runs when he swatted his
137th off of St. Louis Browns pitcher Dixie Davis.
1901 - 1918
(prior to the sale of Babe Ruth)
||1903 1915 1918
1919 - present
(after the sale of Babe Ruth)
|1923 1943 1961
1927 1947 1962
1928 1949 1977
1932 1950 1978
1936 1951 1996
1937 1952 1998
1938 1953 1999
1939 1956 2000
The Yankees continued to share the Polo Grounds
with the New York Giants until 1923 (when Yankee Stadium opened). That year, Ruth (batting .393
with 41 home runs) led the Yankees to their first of a record twenty-six World Series Championships.
The Babe hit his last three home runs (numbers 712, 713 and 714), while playing for the Boston Braves, in a game against Pittsburgh on May 25, 1935. He retired eight days later. The Bambino
ranks among the best ever in dozens of pitching and hitting
records. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, on February 2, 1936, as one of the five
charter members. The other four were Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner.
Boston has appeared in only five World Series since
1918, losing four of them in seven games. In 1946, they tied game seven in the top of the eighth
against the Cardinals, but gave up the winning run in the bottom of the inning. Boston had a 3-0 lead
in game seven of the 1975 Series, but ended up losing by one run to the Reds. They were one strike
away from winning the 1986 Series four times in game six. The Red Sox then had a 3-0 lead going
into the sixth inning of game seven, but gave up eight runs in the final three innings to lose the game.
The Sox carried a three-run lead into the bottom of the eighth of game seven of the 2003 ALCS. They
allowed New York to score three runs to tie the game. Then, the Yankees won on Aaron Boone's home run
in the eleventh inning. The Red Sox lost by five runs to Cleveland in the 1948 American League
tiebreaker. Thirty years later, Boston had a 2-0 lead until New York's Bucky Dent hit his infamous
home run over the Fenway scoreboard in the seventh inning of the AL East tiebreaker. In 1949, they
needed to win one of their two final games to win the American League (both against New York). They
blew a 4-0 lead in the first game, and lost the second by a score of 5-3. Many consider Boston's
performance after the departure of Babe Ruth to be attributable to "The Curse of the Bambino."
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