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The Ghost of the Bambino

By Bob Bobala (TMF Bobala)

I'm actually a big fan of Halloween. There's nothing I like better than getting dressed up as something ridiculous, pretending I'm somebody I'm not, and then chomping down a pound and a half of candy corn after bobbing for apples in my living room. Sometimes I even invite other people over to share in my bounty.

But as much as I like a good pagan holiday, the end of October is usually a tough time for me. The World Series is played at this time of year, and I grew up in Massachusetts, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan.

Ahhhhh! This story took a scary turn, didn't it? As baseball fans know, the Red Sox have not won a World Series since 1918. We Red Sox fans are used to being left out come October, but worse than that have been the times we've been there. I'm not even going to get into it here, but when we have made it to the World Series, we've managed to lose it in a final and decisive game in the most heartbreaking way imaginable.

We all know, though, that it has been more than fluke wild pitches and easy grounders slipping underneath infielders' legs that have crushed the Red Sox in October play. This is a ghost story that's lasted since 1920, when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000. Since then, the dreaded Yankees have won 24 World Championships while the Red Sox have suffered under the Curse of the Bambino for most of the 20th century.

This year looked like it could be different, though (how stupid we are!). The Sox seemed to put together a charmed team. Despite low expectations, they not only made it to the postseason, they came back to beat a stronger Cleveland Indians team by winning the final three games of a best-of-five division series. This set up a head-to-head matchup with the Yankees in the American League Championship Series for the first time.

If ever there was a chance to break the Curse, this was it. And things were looking hopeful until I awoke to find Babe Ruth in my living room. Now, I know that sounds like an outlandish statement, but I assure you it's true. My coworkers might tell you that I've had a nagging case of the flu lately that's made me delirious, but don't pay them any mind.

I saw the Babe clear as daylight just as I pulled out of one of the fevers that had been dogging me for days. I awoke to the smell of a cigar and stumbled into my living room to see his ghost lounging with his feet on my coffee table. He was watching videotapes of recent Sox collapses in the postseason -- to the Mets in '86, sweeps at the hands of the A's in '88 and '90, crushed by the Indians in '95 and '98.

He looked up at me with a big grin on his face. "You didn't think this was going to be the year I let you have a championship, did you?"

My first reaction was to reach for the phone and call the police, but I thought better of it.

"Sure, I throw you a bone every so often," the Babe said. "Back from two games down to beat Cleveland this year.... It only makes it all the more painful when you lose to the Yankees in the next round. Hope is the most painful thing you can have. It'll kill ya every time."

He snickered as he re-played the clip of the ball going through Bill Buckner's legs in '86.

"What made you so bitter that you could hold a grudge for 80 years through life and death?" I said. "Why do you have to punish us like this?"

"That Harry Frazee. Paid me a measly $7,000 and sold me for a $100,000. Me. The greatest baseball player that ever lived. Do you know what kind of dollars I would command in today's marketplace?"

"Well, I suppose a lot, Babe. But if you put a little of your salary away 80 years ago, you could be one stylin' ghost these days."

Fool that I am, I ran some quick numbers while the Babe continued to rant about the injustice of it all. He put his cigar down on the table and popped in a different videotape -- apparently ghosts carry their own video libraries.

"OK, Babe, you're right," I said. "Your salary wouldn't be up to snuff in today's marketplace. Heck, adjusted for inflation, the $100,000 you were sold for only amounts to about $900,000 today -- but it's a very different market."

"Tell me something I don't know," said the Babe, with a mouthful of candy corn.

"OK, in 1919, if you saved and invested just one year of your salary -- $7,000 -- in Coca-Cola stock, today it would have grown to about $875 million."

"What?! Them's a lot of clams."

"You could have been the richest Yankee ghost of all time."

"Just by buying some pop?"

"Well, by buying one of the great companies of the 20th century and holding it through thick and thin. It's the miracle of compounded returns. For a ghost like you, with a timeframe lasting centuries, stocks are your best bet -- by far."

"Man, with that kinda dough I could build a new Yankee Stadium -- a new House that Ruth built."

"Now, wouldn't that be better than keeping a hex on the Sox?"

The Babe looked at me very intently. He put his cigar back in his mouth and puffed on it quietly while he thought for a minute. My hopes that the Red Sox could beat the Yankees heightened and I imagined myself on a parade float after a World Series victory, all of New England praising me for single-handedly breaking the Curse by teaching Babe Ruth's ghost how to take control of his finances.

Then the Babe spoke:

"Nah," he said. "What would I do if I wasn't haunting the Red Sox, making them pay year after year after year? I mean, it gets boring being one of the undead. You have no idea what I go through."

"Couldn't you just buy an Internet company or something?"

"Inter-what?"

"Never mind."

"The Yankees in five. But I'll give you a victory over Clemens. How's that?"

"OK, I guess I'll take what I can get."

Bucky Dent's home run in '78 was on the TV now and the Babe hooted and howled as he rewound it. "That was a great one! A masterpiece on my part."

"Yeah, great."

"Give it another 80 years, kid. Maybe I'll tire of it eventually.... Maybe not."

Next Scary Story-- The Blair Wise Project

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