History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.
—Henry Ford, 1916
I don’t believe in curses. I believe we make our own destination.
—Manny Ramirez, 2004
A little more baseball history bunk for you today, as the Red Sox roll over the Cardinals in an anticlimactic World Series that makes it seem like they do this every week:
A Curse Born of Hate?
This article, probably not news to the Sox nuts among you, tells the history of the “Curse of the Bambino,” which, it turns out, was largely created in the 1980s by sportswriters George Vecsey and Dan Shaugnessy (with a little help from Bill Buckner and the Mets).
Until that moment, no one ascribed Boston’s failure to win a World Series since 1918 to anything resembling a curse connected to Babe Ruth and Harry Frazee. … In truth, apart from a few brief seasons after World War II from 1918 until 1967 nobody gave a damn about the Red Sox.
More interesting than the recent history of the Curse is the backstory, in particular the vilification of Harry Frazee, the Red Sox owner who invoked the Curse by selling Babe Ruth to New York in 1919. In making Harry Frazee the villain of the tale, Shaugnessey & Co. apparently resurrected elements of an old anti-Semitic smear campaign. Frazee wasn’t Jewish, but many in the 1910s and 1920s believed him to be, because he had (very suspicious) “a New York-based theatrical background.” And so he was pilloried by W.J. Cameron, Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic attack dog, in a series of essays on “The Jewish Degradation of Baseball.”
“Baseball,” opined Cameron for Ford, “was about as much of a sport to Frazee as selling tickets to a merry-go-round would be. He wanted to put his team across as if they were May Watson’s girly girly burlesquers. Baseball was to be ‘promoted’ as Jewish managers promote Coney Island.” When Frazee bought the Red Sox “another club was placed under the smothering influences of the ‘chosen race.’” The article concluded that baseball’s essential problem was that Frazee and other Jews were “scavengers [that] have come along to reduce it [baseball] to garbage. But there is no doubt anywhere, among either friends or critics of baseball, that the root cause of the present condition is due to Jewish influence . . . If baseball is to be saved, it must be taken out of their hands.”
“Promoting” baseball as if it were Coney Island! Imagine!
The ESPN article I linked to here is a little odd. It lays out the (I hope widely-known) story of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism quite well, but then it takes such pains to point out that Frazee wasn’t actually Jewish, it comes off a bit like the movie Gentlemen’s Agreement: “Anti-Semitism is wrong because sometimes the people you’re bigoted against aren’t really Jewish.” (See also: Black Like Me.) But it’s all a fascinating story, and a great example of the way knowing a little history adds complexity and strangeness to everyday life.
Even if Henry Ford thinks that it’s more or less bunk.
Memo to myself: Find out more about “May Watson’s girly girly burlesquers.”