Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

Casualties of the Curse

April 2004

Casualties of the Curse
The "Curse of the Bambino" has claimed many victims
in the last 85 years, here are some of the most notable.

No group of fans has been subjected to more chokes, collapses, and near-misses (or done more whining about it) than the fans of the Boston Red Sox.  Whether it's due to a curse caused by selling the game's best player to the Yankees in 1919 or a product of the area's negative, cynical, assume-the-worst culture, the Red Sox have not been able to capture baseball's Holy Grail since World War I.  Here are seven men that, by a cruel twist of fate, have come to symbolize the franchises' ineptitude.



Johnny Pesky
Played for Red Sox: 1942, 46-52
Also played for: Detroit Tigers (1952-54) Washington Senators (1954)
Notable Accomplishments: .307 career hitter, All Star in 1946, Led AL in hits 3 times (42, 46, 47), managed Red Sox 1963-64, 80
Infamous for: Hesitation
Scene of the crime: 1946 World Series, Game 7: October 15, 1946, Sportsman's Park - St. Louis, MO
What happened: With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Cardinals' OF Enos Slaughter led off the inning with a single.  After two outs were recorded, Harry Walker lined a single to left-center and Slaughter was off and running.  By the time CF Leon Culberson (who was replacing Dom DiMaggio who had pulled a muscle the previous inning) got the ball and relayed it to the Pesky. Slaughter meanwhile, had ran through the stop sign at third and was headed for home. Pesky, who was surprised like everyone else in the park at Slaughter's actions, allegedly hesitated before throwing home and Slaughter scored.  After Boston failed to rally in the 9th, the Cards won the game and the Series 4-3.  There is some debate on how much, if at all, Pesky waited before throwing home.  The film of the event is inconclusive.
Where is he now?:  Unlike the rest of the people on this list, Pesky remains in the good graces of Boston fans.  He is a popular figure in the area, and is often seen at Spring Training and Fenway Park.



Denny Galehouse
Position: P
Played for Red Sox: 1939-40, 47-49
Also played for: Cleveland Indians (1934-38), St. Louis Browns (1941-47)
Notable Accomplishments: Won Game 1 of the 1944 World Series
Infamous for: Being at the wrong place at the wrong time
Scene of the crime: American League Tiebreaker: October 4, 1948, Fenway Park - Boston, MA
What happened: In a baffling decision Boston manager Joe McCarthy decides to start the journeyman Galehouse over staff ace Mel Parnell in the one game playoff for the AL pennant. The moved shocked the Red Sox fans and players, including Galehouse himself. After Cleveland jumped out to a 4-1 lead, Galehouse was lifted for Ellis Kinder in the 4th.  The Indians cruised to an 8-3 victory, and Boston fans were left wondering what might have been.
Where is he now?: Denny Galehouse died on October 14, 1998 in Doylestown, OH



Bobby Sprowl
Position: P
Played for Red Sox: 1978
Also played for: Houston Astros (1979-81)
Notable Accomplishments: None
Infamous for: Being at the wrong place at the wrong time
Scene of the crime: "The Boston Massacre": September 10, 1978, Fenway Park - Boston, MA
What happened: After the fading Red Sox had lost three straight to the visiting Yankees, manager Don Zimmer elected to start rookie southpaw Bobby Sprowl instead of the reliable Bill Lee, who was in a feud with the skipper.  Sprowl, who Zimmer said "had ice water in his veins", walked the first two batters of the game and was pulled in the 1st inning.  The Yankees went on to win the game 7-4, capping a four game sweep at Fenway.
Where is he now?: Sprowl is now the head baseball coach at Shelton State in Alabama.



Calvin Schiraldi
Position: P
Played for Red Sox: 1986-87
Also played for: New York Mets (1984-85), Chicago Cubs (1988-89), San Diego Padres (1989-90), Texas Rangers (1991)
Notable Accomplishments: None
Infamous for: Not sealing the deal
Scene of the crime: 1986 World Series, Game 6: October 25, 1986, Shea Stadium - New York, NY
What happened: With the Red Sox leading the Series 3-2 and the game 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th, Calvin Schiraldi took the hill with hopes of clinching a title.  Things actually began quite well, as Schiraldi retired Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez to lead off the inning.  Next, Gary Carter slapped a seemingly harmless single to left and Kevin Mitchell was called out of the Mets' clubhouse to pinch hit.  Mitchell followed with another single and Carter advanced to second.  Schiraldi jumped ahead of the next hitter, Ray Knight, 0-2 and Boston stood just one strike away from a world championship.  Knight, however, hung tough and was able to bloop another basehit to center.  Carter scored on the hit, making it 5-4, and Mitchell moved to third.  John McNamara then pulled Schiradli for veteran Bob Stanley. (continued in Bob Stanley's entry)
Where is he now?:  Schiraldi is currently the baseball coach at St. Michaels Academy in Austin, TX.



Bob Stanley
Played for Red Sox: 1977-89
Also played for: N/A
Notable Accomplishments: Set an AL record for relief innings in 1982 (168.1), registered 33 saves in 1983, retired with a Red Sox record 128 saves
Infamous for: A wild pitch
Scene of the crime: 1986 World Series, Game 6: October 25, 1986, Shea Stadium - New York, NY
What happened: Stanley was brought in with two outs and runners on the corners in a 5-4 game in the bottom of the 10th.  Facing Mookie Wilson, he worked the count to 2-2.  Boston was again one strike away from a title.  After Wilson fouled off the next two pitches, Stanley lost control and put the next pitch in the dirt.  When catcher Rich Gedman was unable to handle it, Kevin Mitchell scored from third, tying the game at 5.  Ray Knight moved up to second base. (continued in Bill Buckner's entry)
Where is he now?:  Stanley is currently the pitching coach for the Double-A Norwich Navigators (SF Giants system).



Bill Buckner
Position: 1B
Played for Red Sox: 1984-87, 90
Also played for: Los Angeles Dodgers (1969-76), Chicago Cubs (1977-84), California Angels (1987-88), Kansas City Royals (1988-89)
Notable Accomplishments: Won NL batting title in 1980 (.324), All Star in 1981, .289 career hitter with 2,715 hits
Infamous for: An error
Scene of the crime: 1986 World Series, Game 6: October 25, 1986, Shea Stadium - New York, NY
What happened: With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of 10th and Mookie Wilson at bat with a full count against Bob Stanley, Bill Buckner became the most famous victim of the "Curse of the Bambino."  After fouling off another Stanley offering, Wilson bounced a slow roller up the first base line.  Instead of scooping up the seemingly routine grounder, Buckner froze and the ball rolled under his glove into shallow right field.  Ray Knight, who was running on contact, scored from second, sealing a miraculous 6-5 victory for the Mets and ending the most painful inning in Red Sox history.  The Mets, of course, won Game 7, 8-5 and took home the title.
Where is he now?: Buckner is living quietly in Boise, ID.



Grady Little
Managed Red Sox: 2002-03
Notable Accomplishments: Led Boston to the ALCS in 2003, compiled a 188-136 record (.580) in two seasons
Infamous for: Not pulling the trigger
Scene of the crime: 2003 ALCS, Game 7: October 16, 2003, Yankee Stadium - New York, NY
What happened: Leading 5-2 going into the bottom of the 8th, Little sent ace hurler Pedro Martinez back to the mound despite a high pitch count and a shaky showing in the 7th inning.  Martinez, who has rarely pitched into the 8th in recent seasons, retired Nick Johnson to start the inning.  Boston was now just five outs from disposing of their arch rivals and advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1986.  However the next batter, Derek Jeter, got things rolling with a double to right and Bernie Williams followed with an RBI single to center which prompted a visit to the mound by Little.  With the left-handed hitting Hideki Matsui due up next, everyone expected the manager to pull Martinez for southpaw Alan Embree who had been warming up in the bullpen.  Little however, chatted briefly with Martinez and decided to leave him in the game.  Matsui responded with a ground rule double that advanced Williams to third.  Next, Jorge Posada capped the rally with a two run double that tied the game and finally prompted Little to yank Martinez.  The gamed remained tied until the bottom of the 11th when Aaron Boone hit Tim Wakefield's first pitch into the leftfield bleachers and sent the Yankees to yet another World Series. Little, who was sharply criticized for leaving Martinez in the game, was relieved of his duties shortly after.
Where is he now?: Little was able to land a job with the Chicago Cubs as a scouting consultant and special assistant to the general manager.



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