Sunday, May 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Larry Stone

Legendary Curse of the Bambino needs a rewrite

In the next two weeks, by virtue of pitiful scheduling, the Mariners will play all six of their games this season against the Boston Red Sox.

Unless, of course, the two teams should meet in the (giggle) playoffs.

The occasion of a local Red Sox series always piques the interest of a 79-year-old man in Gig Harbor who has endured a lifetime's worth of reflected ridicule by virtue of his name.

He's Harry Frazee III, grandson of former Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 and unleashed what has come to be known, to the family's everlasting irritation, as "The Curse of the Bambino."

Never mind that virtually everything we think we know about the original Harry Frazee has been proven, by new research, to be fiction, right down to the nonsense about him needing the Ruth money to finance the Broadway play "No, No, Nanette."

Frazee III has made it his mission to defend his grandfather and disprove the "Curse" legend.

"It's kind of laughable," said Frazee III, a former newspaperman in San Diego who settled here after his retirement nearly 30 years ago. "It hurts only that it's such a myth."

Frazee hopes that long-ingrained perceptions can finally be transformed now that the Red Sox have their elusive title.

"It has to have some bearing," he said.

Maybe the Frazee name can be cleared once and for all, and Frazee III can move on to other matters — like figuring out why his beloved Mariners haven't even been to a World Series, let alone won one.

"When I saw that HBO show on 'The Curse of the Bambino,' I thought it was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time," he said. "It indicated that if Boston ever won the World Series, the fans would die of a heart attack. That they waited so long, they got that losing mentality. I felt sorry for the fans on that one."

Frazee III, who still counts himself a Red Sox fan, watched the World Series intently from 3,000 miles away.

"I thought it was wonderful they won," he said. "The only thing is, I've lived through 86 years of this stuff. I think they were very lucky. They did very well; I don't think they'll do it again. I think they have some good players, but the Red Sox are famous for coming up one arm short or one bat short."

For nearly a century, Frazee has gotten the blame for that, but his grandson patiently puts forward his revisionist version of the Frazee ownership, meticulously documented in the 2000 book by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, "Red Sox Century."

Turns out that Frazee — who owned the team in 1918, when they won their last title until 2004 — was a victim of a campaign to demonize him by arch-enemy Ban Johnson, the powerful American League president. Johnson used his allies in the press to spread misinformation about Frazee and try to force him to sell the team.

"It was a pretty dirty story," said Frazee III. "My grandfather didn't deserve what he got."

As for Ruth, the sale had more to do with the fact that Frazee thought (with good reason) he was a clubhouse cancer than any financial problems.

Concluded Stout and Johnson of Frazee: "He became the ultimate scapegoat for devoted fans who have found the failures of the franchise increasingly hard to swallow, and for a franchise that has never been eager to admit its own failures."

Frazee III praises the current ownership group, led by John Henry, and said with seeming intentional irony, "They might be breaking the old curse, if you want to call it that."

To him, if there's a curse, it was instigated by the ownership groups that followed his grandfather — the financially strapped Bob Quinn, and the indiscriminately generous Tom Yawkey.

The Red Sox's crown last October would seem a perfect opportunity for current ownership to reach out to Frazee III in a peace-making venture, but he said he hasn't heard from the team.

Maybe it's just as well. Back in 1993, his son — the original Harry's great-grandson — was invited by the Yawkey family to a ceremony at Fenway Park. He was presented Frazee's medallion from the 1918 World Series, commemorating the championship.

"They booed the hell out of him," said Frazee III. "It was quite unreasonable."

Now, as Frazee hopes for some semblance of Curse Closure, he doesn't mind the potential negative ramifications of a Red Sox title on the man most responsible for propagating "The Curse Of The Bambino."

"It kind of makes a monkey of Dan Shaughnessy," said Frazee, referring to the Boston Globe columnist who authored the book "The Curse of the Bambino" and has turned The Curse into something of a cottage industry. "That's something I like."

Shaughnessy, it turns out, has rebounded with a new book called "Reversing the Curse," which is something that Frazee, on behalf of his grandfather, has been trying to do all his life.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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