The grim tale of the Boston Red Sox’s trade of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees and Boston’s subsequent 80-plus-year World Series drought has been told so many times as to become almost apocryphal. Indeed, the Curse of the Bambino has come to define the Red Sox nation — we are perennial also-rans and pessimists, living in the shadow of the cosmopolitan Yankees and inevitably waiting for disaster to descend and once again deny us our dreams. Despite fielding many a strong team (this year is no exception), we have come as a community to expect failure.
Indeed, despite sitting comfortably in second place (behind the ever-reviled Yankees) in the American League East, September is fast approaching, thus heralding the period when the Red Sox typically begin their post-summer meltdown. Already fans have begun to ponder our beloved Red Sox with the same anxiousness one regards an old car — what will go first? What part will fall apart before the other? Such is our cynicism that talk of next year seldom involves matters of hope but more typically an acceptance of further brutality to come.
All of which puts the new Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein, in an interesting position. Obviously, as the youngest general manager in league history there is a tremendous amount of pressure riding on his shoulders. At the same time, how much can one ask of any individual when the team itself suffers from a curse that rests in its blood, which is as genetic as it is painful?
Precisely because of the immensity and the near-impossibility of a Red Sox victory at the World Series, Epstein deserves our support. Baseball is, after all, a game of statistics, of history and of lore, and to have a Jew (Epstein is the grandson of screenwriter Phillip Epstein — who, along with his brother Julius, wrote “Casablanca” — and the son of novelist Leslie Epstein) cure us of this mystical affliction would be to place a member of the tribe (and I’m not referring to the Atlanta Braves here) on unique and hallowed ground.
Admittedly there is a longstanding relationship between Jews and baseball (from Johnny Kling to Hank Greenberg to Sandy Koufax to Shawn Green). Yet we as a people are seldom on the frontlines of glory in it or any of the other major American sports (indeed, this entire matter brings to mind the famous “Airplane” joke about the great book of Jews in sports, which turns out to be a pamphlet.)
So, for a higher purpose, for a greater good, for all our sakes, Yankee fans should turn away from their Bronx Bombers, Mets fans should shun their boys at Shea, Indian fans should avert their eyes from their politically incorrect namesakes and baseball fans everywhere should stand and cheer the Boston Red Sox and their young general manager. Then we can talk about the Celtics.
Michael A. Rauch, a displaced Bostonian, is an attorney and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles.