By HAL BOCK, AP Sports Writer October 28, 2003 For the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees' World Series loss was small consolation for their own postseason disappointment, another heartbreak administered by the hated ``Evil Empire.''
Red Sox fans are convinced the Curse of the Bambino is real when it comes to their own encounters with the Yankees. David Kohler, president of SportsCards Plus, believes he owns the bat that started all this trouble.
A year ago, Kohler's company purchased the bat used by Babe Ruth to hit the first home run ever in Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923, the day the baseball palace opened. Ruth victimized his old team that day and things have been going downhill for Boston ever since.
``This bat started the curse,'' Kohler said. ``The Red Sox still haven't recovered.''
The Babe's bat spent two months on display at the Yogi Berra Museum last summer and also was shown at the National Sports Collectors Convention. Now Kohler has decided to put it up for auction next April on the anniversary of the first Yankee Stadium home run.
There is an interesting history attached to the 44-ounce bat.
Ruth was enthused about construction of the new Stadium, a home for the Yankees who, until then, had been occupying a kind of second-class citizenship as tenants of the New York Giants across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds.
By then one of baseball's top sluggers with a flair for the dramatic, Ruth wanted to initiate the new stadium with a home run. With a crowd of 74,000 jamming the new ballpark, Ruth was enthusiastic about the opener.
``I'd give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in this first game in this new park,'' he supposedly said before the game.
In his second at-bat, Ruth delivered, hitting a curve ball from Howard Ehmke into the right field seats and making his way around the bases with that little tiptoe trot.
Even in those days of primitive communication, news of Ruth's prowess had spread to California. The Los Angeles Evening Herald promoted a contest with the Babe's bat as top prize in a home run hitting contest.
Ruth dutifully sent the first home run bat off to the West Coast, inscribing it ``To the Boy Home Run King of Los Angeles,'' and signed and dated it ``Babe'' Ruth, N.Y. May 7th, 1923.
The contest winner was Victor Orsatti, brother of Ernie Orsatti, who played nine years for the St. Louis Cardinals' Gashouse Gang. Victor became a Hollywood agent, representing Jean Harlow among others. He never made it to the majors, but he did have Babe Ruth's bat and he hung on to it for the rest of his life.
When Orsatti died, the bat was passed along to the woman who took care of him in the last years of his life. ``It was under her bed for 20 years,'' Kohler said.
The bat is in pristine condition.
``It's a very valuable piece,'' Kohler said. ``We believe it could be the Holy Grail of sports memorabilia.''
Kohler would not say how much he paid for the bat or how much he thought it would sell for at auction. He plans to offer it as part of a themed sale featuring Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle.
``This is a national heirloom,'' he said. ``It belongs in Yankee Stadium for everybody to see.''
Your bid, Mr. Steinbrenner.
Updated on Tuesday, Oct 28, 2003 1:54 am EST
Yes doctor, I am sick. Sick of those who are spineless. Sick of those who feel self-entitled. Sick of those who are hypocrites. Yes doctor, an army is forming. Yes doctor, there will be a war. Yes doctor, there will be blood.....