If Humphrey Bogart is still hanging out in Casablanca, ducking the IRS, he may be offering this consoling thought to the misery-loves-company folks: “We’ll always have the Cubs.”
However, not Our Olde Towne Team. No, the Townies’ antics over the last fortnight made us feel like an affair in Paris with either Bogey or Bergman.
But what will the masochists, hypochondriacs, paranoids, and doomsayers among us do to fill the void created by The Curse’s liquidation? And what about the generations of parents who threatened their offspring with: “If you don’t eat your spinach we’ll call down the Curse of the Bambino on you!” That disciplinary tool has been eighty-sixed along with the 86 years of infamy.
My Uncle Studley phoned from his farm in Brunswick, Ohio, to be reassured that The Curse is genuinely dead, with a sharpened Louisville Slugger piercing its heart.
“In that case,” he said, “we won’t have to feel sorry for you folks any more. Now we can direct our sympathy toward the Little Sisters of the Poor, and bang charitable drums for the Salvation Army like we did for all those years, wishing for the Sox’ salvation. Hurrah. But no more care packages for you, nephew.”
Fair enough. Those were home-grown squash, which seemed appropriate for our previously squashed hopes.
The esteemed bygone scribbler, Ring Lardner, used to describe the tussle between the American and National League champs as the World Serious. We understood. Never was it more serious than in this province.
As a survivor of three of the Serious debacles (1946 via radio, 1967 and 1975 in the line of scribbling duty), I didn’t know if I could take another. So in 1986 I begged off, fleeing to the Himalayan reaches of Bhutan, seeking Buddhist monks who could exorcise The Curse. Maybe in a couple of lifetimes from now, they shrugged. But at least I was spared the tragic Buckner’s inability to stoop to conquer.
Conquest interruptus was the Townies’ usual fate in the Serious. Until now. Still, both 1967 and 1975 had their moments. St. Yaz and the noble Lonborg brought about a totally unexpected pennant, along with the birth of Red Sox Nation. And benchie George Thomas confessed that his wife wouldn’t let him hold their newborn infant because, “She’s watched me field.”
But the last paroxysm of joy was in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, where Orlando Cepeda led a victorious conga dance. Tony La Russa, custodian of a veritable house of Cards, must be wondering where Cepeda has gone.
Of course Pudge Fisk’s majestic home run will linger forever from ‘75 -- but how could it all go the wrong way on Joe Morgan’s popsicle single?
I’ve been receiving congratulatory calls from across the world, to which I respond, “Thanks, but I had nothing to do with it.” One babble-show host in Sydney said, “But you outlasted The Curse. Good on you.”
Then he asked, “Is Johnny Damon tap dancing on the Charles River? You know, he looks sort of like . . .”
Yeah, I know, and I imagine the Hollywood producer with a Biblical mind-set, Mel Gibson, will make a film called “The Passion of the Damon.”
Could I stand the pressure of actually attending this time? Barely, but yes. In a rooftop seat somewhere near Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I did hear the delicious clang of Bellhorn’s first-game homer against the Pesky Pole in the eighth inning against the Cardinals.
Sitting next to me was the postmaster of Salem, Joan Inglis, who declared that decisive blow to be an air-mail special delivery, and promised the checkmating of the Cards was in the mail. She was right.
So was a Navajo medicine man, 83-year-old Chester Nez in Santa Fe. Clad in a Red Sox jacket, he sprinkled corn in the four directions and blessed Our Townies -- that when they lagged three games behind the Yankees! He also blessed John Kerry, so who knows? At least the Townies, charging down the stretch from 0-3 to 8-3 gave flip-flopping a good name.
Thanks, Chester. Red Sox Nationals thank you, too. Even if the Nation isn’t voted into the UN, here’s looking at you, Terry’s kids. All of us will always have 2004.