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Recovered Statue May End the “Curse of Colonel Sanders”

March 13, 2009 10:30 AM
by Denis Cummings
Fans of a Japanese baseball team believe that a curse over their team has been lifted after a statue of Colonel Sanders was retrieved from the bottom of a river.

Colonel Sanders Retrieved From River

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A statue of KFC founder Colonel Sanders was found in Osaka’s Dotonburi River Tuesday, 24 years after it was tossed in by celebrating fans of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team. The Colonel is the subject of the “Curse of Colonel Sanders,” a superstition that says the Tigers cannot win the Japan Series until the Colonel is retrieved from the river.

Fans cheered as crews lifted the Colonel’s upper body, which was missing its hands and glasses, from the river. On Wednesday morning, the lower body and one hand was discovered and retrieved, though the glasses and second hand remain missing.

The Colonel had been at the bottom of the river since 1985, when the Tigers won their first and thus far only Japan Series. Tigers fans, who traditionally celebrate victories by jumping from the Ebisu Bridge into the river, spotted the Colonel Sanders statue outside a KFC and thought it looked like star slugger Randy Bass, a bearded Oklahoman who had won the Japan Series MVP. They grabbed it, celebrated with it and then tossed it off the bridge.

“Quickly though, those honest and responsible fans realized what a heinous act they had committed,” wrote USA Today’s Paul White. “They apologized to the store manager and promised to pull the chicken magnate from among the fish. But, when they returned the next morning to search the river bottom, the Colonel was gone.”

The Tigers finished in last place in four of the next six years and 10 of the next 16. They have improved over the last six years, playing in two Japan Series, but losing both. With the Colonel recovered and likely to be displayed at the Tigers’ Koshien Stadium, fans are excited for the upcoming season.

“And what do Hanshin Tigers fans believe the Colonel’s discovery portends?” writes the Mainichi Daily News. “‘We’ll be number one in Japan this year for sure,’ they say.”

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Background: Sports curses

Curses are often concocted to explain a team’s long drought between championships. Probably the most famous sports curse was the “Curse of the Bambino,” popularized by Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, which claimed that slugger Babe Ruth cursed the Boston Red Sox team for selling him to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox went 86 years without a World Series title before winning in 2004.

The Chicago Cubs have gone 100 years without a World Series, and many blame the drought on the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” born in 1945 when the Cubs refused to let a goat into Wrigley Field.

In Philadelphia, which had gone 25 years without a championship for any of its major four teams, the drought was blamed on the city erecting a skyscraper taller than the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. The “Curse of Billy Penn’s Hat” ended in October when the Phillies won the World Series.

Key Players: Randy Bass and Colonel Sanders

Randy Bass

Randy Bass played in parts of six seasons for the Twins, Royals, Expos, Padres and Rangers before signing with the Hanshin Tigers. Bass became one of Japan’s great sluggers, winning the Triple Crown in 1985 and 1986, and hitting 54 home runs, one shy of the all-time single season record in Japan, in 1985.

Bass left the Tigers in 1988 and later retired. He finished his career with 202 homers in Japan, where he remains a “baseball legend.” In 2004 he was elected to the Oklahoma state Senate, where he is still serving.
Colonel Sanders

Harland Sanders, while working at a service station in Kentucky, began serving travelers dinner from his own living quarters in 1930. His dinners grew popular and he was named an honorary “Kentucky Colonel” in 1935 by the governor. He soon moved his operation into a restaurant, where he “perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and the basic cooking technique that is still used today,” according to KFC's official Web site.

He began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in 1955, using his Southern gentleman image—complete with a white suit, beard and cane—to sell his product. KFC was widely successful and Colonel Sanders became an internationally known fast food icon.
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