After 86-year wait, the Bambino finally lifts the Curse off the Red Sox

World Series

October 28, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

ST. LOUIS -- Somewhere in the great beyond, The Babe was munching on his sixth hot dog and having a belly laugh at Boston's expense.

"They think I was holding them back," he said with a chuckle. "Like I really cared enough to go all the way back down there and kick that ball through Buckner's legs. That's rich."

Grantland Rice raised an eyebrow.

"So you really didn't have anything to do with it?"

"Well, I won't say I had absolutely nothing to do with it," the Bambino replied. "I did create the Yankee mystique, which I suppose might have been the Red Sox mystique if they hadn't sold me to build stage props."

Damon Runyon chimed in.

"You're telling me that there really wasn't any curse at all? That the only thing keeping the Sox from winning it all for 86 years was their own dumb luck?"

Ruth thought about that for a minute, then lit a cigar. The smoke formed over his head like a halo.

"I was never one to hold a grudge," he said. "Remember, I even hugged Gehrig that day at Yankee Stadium. What a speech. The guy doesn't say boo to anyone his whole career and then he floors everybody with that `luckiest man on the face of the earth' thing. C'mon, which one of you guys wrote that for him?"

The Babe was getting off-subject. The Red Sox were down below, spraying each other with champagne and washing away the aura of failure that had enveloped the franchise for the better part of the past century.

"Why would I be angry at the Red Sox anyway?" Ruth said. "If I had stayed in Boston I might never have become the Sultan of Swat. Yankee Stadium might have ended up being called `The House that Gehrig Built.' I got no gripe with the Red Sox. Never did."

Rice wasn't convinced.

"You're telling me that Bucky Dent hit that home run all by himself?"

The King of Clout suddenly had a twinkle in his eye.

"OK, I felt sorry for the kid, but that really wasn't about the Red Sox. That was during the period where I was letting go of my anger toward the Yankees for refusing to let me manage after I turned that team into the greatest dynasty in sports history."

While the Red Sox partied on in St. Louis, the streets in Boston filled with revelers -- thousands of happy fans celebrating the end of an era. Some of them carried signs bidding farewell to The Bambino.

"Let 'em think what they want," Ruth said. "They're still giving me credit for calling my shot at Wrigley Field in 1932. I was just shooting my mouth off and pointing back at the mound, but you hacks never used to let facts get in the way of a good story."

The Babe looked wistful, as if he suddenly remembered what it was like back then when he was the most famous athlete on earth.

"There's nothing wrong with a little, well, embellishment. That's what baseball is all about. That called shot thing was really just a swing and a myth, but everybody sure has a lot of fun talking about it."

Maybe someday, Rice suggested, they'll be having a similar argument about Curt Schilling's red sock, but the Bambino wasn't about to bite on that.

"I like that Schilling kid," Ruth said. "I know he named his kid after Lou, but he's got spunk. He likes the limelight a little too much, but that doesn't make him a bad fella. The rest of those guys I can take or leave. Look like a bunch of idiots."

The Red Sox lifted the mantle of despair from their shoulders last night and they did it in such a decisive manner that their angst-ridden fans never had a chance to imagine all the things that might go wrong. They are on top of the baseball world for the first time since The Babe pitched two gems in the 1918 World Series.

"So now there's only one so-called curse," said Rice. "The Cubs haven't won a World Series since you were in short pants."

Ruth looked up, a knowing smile spread across his broad face.

"Yeah, they shouldn't have screwed with me in '32."

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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