Tag Archive for: Baseball

For the first two decades of the new century, the Boston Red Sox were far-and-away the dominant team in baseball. They won multiple World Series and seemed poised to continue their dominance well into the decade of the 20s.

But that didn’t happen.

What was at one time enthusiastic and committed ownership gave away to apathy and penny-pinching. A solid core of players was dealt away in favor of cheaper, less-talented substitutes.

Ownership spent their capital elsewhere on nonbaseball interests to intentionally diversify their portfolio.

 

The same thing is happening again, in the here-and-now. What’s that? You thought I was talking about the 21st century Sox? Oh, no. This has happened before — at the start of the 20th century.

The Red Sox won the World Series five times before 1918. They had a wealth of talent, including a player whose fame transcends the ages: Babe Ruth.

Babe Ruth

But Red Sox owner Harry Frazee saw the Babe as a way to finance a theatrical play called My Lady Friends. It wasn’t No, No, Nanette, as is popularly thought; that play didn’t come out until 1925. But did you ever see My Lady Friends? Probably not since it wrapped up its Broadway run by the summer of 1920. Good investment Harry!

Frazee sold the Babe’s contract to the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers, as they became known, went on to win 27 titles in the 20th century. After 1918, the Red Sox went on to win exactly none, though they reached the World Series four times between 1919 and 2000. Each time, they lost in the seventh game.

The Sox travails were mystically blamed on the trade of Babe Ruth. This became known as The Curse of the Bambino — Ruth’s nickname.

 

One truly had to be a devoted fan to endure the misery and futility that the Olde Town Team inflicted on its faithful followers. For all the world, it looked like the Sox aspired to create the most gut-wrenching way to break their fans’ hearts.

For me, the most-memorable failure was the 1986 World Series, where a routine ground ball rolled between first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs, sealing the victory for the New York Mets in Game Six. The Sox went on to lose Game Seven, of course, which added to the mystique of the so-called Curse.

But then the 21st century dawned, with a new owner who made Daddy Warbucks look like a pauper. John Henry came with a willingness to spend money, but he also brought in a stable of savvy baseball management. Things were looking up.

Could The Curse be finally broken?

In 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years. For Boston fans, it was like a religious experience. That inevitable feeling of futility that always hung over the team had finally been vanquished.

They also won in 2007, 2013, and 2018. They have the most titles of any Major League Baseball team in the 21st century. Maybe because of that, complacency has set in for the fans — and also, it seems, the ownership.

Just like Harry Frazee 100 years ago, John Henry’s group is no longer solely focused on the fortunes of the Red Sox baseball team. Along the way, he has acquired NASCAR’s RFK Racing, UK Premier League’s Liverpool Soccer team, the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, and the TMRW golf league. None are theatrical plays, but they’re certainly not baseball ventures either.

To further confirm that support for the Sox had badly waned, the group sold the rights to rightfielder Mookie Betts — arguably the best homegrown talent to come out of the Red Sox system in decades. You could fairly say that he’d been the centerpiece of the Sox’s most recent success.

 

So 1918 was last time the Red Sox won the title in the 20th century. And 2018 is the last time the Red Sox won in the 21st century — so far. Are Bostonians destined to wait till the 22nd century for another title?

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. I don’t know about that. It seems to me that history sure as hell is repeating itself, given the current state of the Red Sox relative to 100 years ago.

But Go Sox!

 

The End

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Michael J. Foy

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