By Robert Dominguez
As incredible as it sounds, the insanely intense, nearly century-old Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was brought to an even higher level of animosity — some might say absurdity — in the spring of 2008 when a rabid Boston fan tried to put a hex on the Bombers to make up for all those years living under the Curse of the Bambino.
As construction crews were busy building a brand new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx across the street from the old one, one worker deviously decided to counteract the Yanks’ perennial postseason luck by secretly dropping a magic charm into a vat of wet concrete: a David Ortiz souvenir jersey.
It apparently didn’t matter that the Bosox were the defending World Series champs — or that it was their second title in the last five years after finally reversing eight decades of ring-less frustration since selling a good-hitting southpaw pitcher named Babe Ruth to their bitter baseball enemy.
The overzealous Boston fan likely figured his favorite team could use all the help it could get, and some Big Papi mojo would surely ward off any Evil Empire mystic and aura in the spanking new ballpark set to open the following year.
Unfortunately, word soon leaked out about the supernaturally-laced plot — the construction worker no doubt bragged to all his Beantown buddies — and the humorless Yankees front office managed to not only locate and unearth Ortiz’s No. 34 jersey, the team held a dour press conference and threatened to bring charges against the worker for committing “a very, very bad act.”
But on April 24, 2008, the latest bizarro chapter in the storied rivalry came to a happy conclusion when the stained and tattered jersey — which in New England had by now acquired the same sort of reverence reserved for the Shroud of Turin — was sold at a charity auction to a Massachusetts auto dealer for $175,100.
In retrospect, the hard hat’s hoodoo may have hexed both teams.
The 2008 season ended with the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. The Red Sox, meanwhile, lost a thrilling seven-game ALCS to the underdog Tampa Bay Rays — with Ortiz, one of the best October players in history, hitting an un-Papi-like .154.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo source: Arturo Pardavila III — Under Creative Commons License