AFTER THE Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Series in 1985, celebrating fans decided that a statue of Colonel Sanders outside a local KFC bore a resemblance to the team's American slugger, Randy Bass. So the revelers hoisted the statue, which ended up falling off a bridge and into the Dotonbori River. The Tigers haven't won a title since. But last week the statue was rescued from its watery grave, raising hopes that the Colonel's return will help the team regain its championship form. As curse-busting theories go, that's not so far-fetched, considering what it took to break these hexes:
Curse of the Bambino The Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919—and promptly embarked upon an eight-decade run of futility. The Cure: It was more like a sacrifice. At Fenway Park on Aug. 31, 2004, a foul ball off the bat of Boston slugger Manny Ramirez hit 16-year-old Lee Gavin in the face, knocking out two teeth. Lee, a die-hard Sox fan, lived in a house in Sudbury, Mass., that was once owned by Ruth. The first sign that the kid's spilled blood might be somehow cleansing: That night the Yankees lost 22--0, the worst shellacking in their history. Two months later the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years.
Curse of Billy Penn Since 1901 no building in Philadelphia had risen higher than the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. But the construction of One Liberty Place, which opened in 1987, changed that—and, according to locals, cursed the city's four major sports teams. The Cure: In 2007 an even taller building, the Comcast Center, was opened. When workers laid the final beam, they adorned it with a small statue of Penn. The next year the Phillies won the World Series, ending the city's title-free drought of 25 years, the longest for a four-sport town.
Curse of the Socceroos Before a World Cup qualifier in Rhodesia in 1969 the Australian team recruited a shaman from Mozambique to put a curse on its opponents. It worked (the Socceroos won 3--1), but when the team failed to pay the witch doctor, he placed a curse on the Aussies. They lost their next game and missed the World Cup. The Cure: In 2004 Australian TV personality John Safran revisited the stadium in Rhodesia with another witch doctor and partook in a ceremony that he said, "involved us sitting in the middle of the pitch, [where] he killed a chicken and splattered the blood all over me." The Socceroos proceeded to make the 2006 World Cup, their first in 32 years, and reached the second round for the first time ever.
WALTER IOOSS JR. (CAT)
AL TIELEMANS (PHILLIES)