The Curse of the Bambino 

U.S. #2046 was issued for the 50th anniversary of the All-Star Game.

On December 26, 1919, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, ushering in the long-standing superstitious Curse of the Bambino.

Born in 1895, George Herman “Babe” Ruth – sometimes called “the Bambino” – was one of the most popular and talented players in baseball history. He began his career as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but longed to play every day.

U.S. #3408h from the Legends of Baseball issue.

That opportunity finally arose in the 1918 season. A fellow player convinced the manager that the crowds were larger on days that Ruth played, so they should let him have a daily position on the field to draw larger crowds every day. The gamble proved a success, as Ruth had a .300 batting average and helped lead the team to victory in that year’s World Series.

U.S. #3184a from the Celebrate the Century series.

The following season, Ruth only pitched in 17 of his 130 games and had an 8-5 record. Though the team wouldn’t make it to the World Series, Ruth had a banner year. He became the first major league player to hit a home run in all eight ballparks in his league. And he broke the major league home run record, finishing the season with 29.

Marshall Islands #665 pictures Ruth in his Yankee uniform.

Then during the break between seasons, something unexpected happened. On December 26, 1919, the Boston Red Sox sold Ruth to the New York Yankees. Even now we don’t know all the details that led to the sale of one of baseball’s most recognizable players. In part, it seems the Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed money, possibly to finance a play. Additionally, Ruth had signed a three-year contract before the 1919 season for $10,000 per year. But by the end of the season, he recognized the growing popularity of the sport – as well as his own popularity – and wanted his salary doubled or he would sit out the season and cash in on his popularity in other ways.

Guyana #2916 pictures several Ruth portraits.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had never won a league championship, let alone a World Series, up to that point, and knew they needed something special. Reportedly, the team’s owner asked the manager what they needed to win and he said, “Get Ruth from Boston.”

In the end, Frazee sold Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, the largest amount ever paid for a baseball player up to that time. The deal was then announced to the public on January 6, 1920. Many were shocked, with some Boston fans upset with the loss, and others less so because they knew he had grown difficult to deal with.

Guyana #2913 – Set of 12 Babe Ruth gold-foil baseball card stamps. Save $44 of Scott value!

According to one sports historian, the deal “changed the fortunes of two high-profile franchises for decades.” The Red Sox, who had won five of the first 16 World Series, wouldn’t reach the postseason again until 1946, or the World Series until 2004. Many called this long stretch the “Curse of the Bambino.” On the Yankees side, they would go on to win seven American League pennants and four World Series with Ruth on their team.

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  1. I did not realize this is the anniversary of the sale of “The Babe”. Couple of corrections, the Red Sox did reach the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986. They had a drought of winning the Series’s from 1918 until 2004.

  2. The Babe Ruth museum in Baltimore is an interesting place to visit. It has many interesting. Things to see about Ruth, If you like baseball you will enjoy this place. I believe he lived in this building when he was a child.

  3. Without a doubt THE BEST all-around player in MLB history. Hank Aaron and
    Barry Bonds (with the help of Steroids) surpassed him in career Home Runs, BUT
    neither of them won 94 games as a Pitcher (neither even stepped on a mound) AND
    threw 2 shutouts in the World Series (Back to back) and held the record for most
    consecutive shut out innings in a World Series (actually his most cherished records)
    until Whitey Ford broke it. Career ERA of 2.28, WS ERA 0.87, 3 wins in WS. Lifetime
    .671 winning percentage (he won better than 2 games for every loss). NO ONE has ever
    had stats like that.

    1. Babe’s Home Run ratio per at bats is also tops by far — you could argue credibly that he is still the Home Run king.

  4. Your statement that “The Red Sox, who had won five of the first 16 World Series, wouldn’t reach the post season again until 1946, or the World Series until 2004.” is in error. The Red Sox played in the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, as well as 2004, 2007 and 2013. You can look it up.

  5. A suggestion: Perhaps a proof reader is needed instead of relying on spell checker. I understood the article, the information in which is good, but had to read a couple of times due to the errors.

    Babe Ruth (not Rush) was arguably the greatest Baseball Player of all time. He had a natural ability, not needing any artificial enhancements, and was the single most important asset to the NY Yankees, ever garnered. He played hard and partied hard. RIP Babe.

  6. The Red Sox played and lost in the 1986 WS against the NY Mets. This is when the infamous Bill Buckner play occurred.

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