by Tim Moynihan, Tom Merritt, & Molly Wood

There is a specter haunting the Boston Red Sox, and it has haunted them now for some 86 years. But it’s not Babe Ruth, and the Boston fans’ attempts to reverse the “curse of the bambino” have all been for naught. They’re after the wrong guy.

The Red Sox haven’t won a World Series since 1918. They traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. So, if the curse was simply the result of trading Babe, the Red Sox would have won the World Series with him in 1919. Something else happened during the off-season of 1918-1919 to curse the Red Sox. They haven’t discovered it, and the Babe curse has distracted them from curing it. Consider this alternative.

Babe Ruth didn’t start out as a regular outfielder for the Sox. He was a pitcher. But by 1918, he began to see action in the outfield. As a result, he began stealing playing time from other Sox outfielders–including a young man named Chick Shorten.

Shorten spent eight seasons as a reserve in the majors, leading the AL in pinch hits (9) in 1921. Over his career he played in 527 games, hitting .275 with 3 HRs and 134 RBI. In World Series appearances, he played 2 games, hitting .571

On July 11, 1917, in Detroit, Boston’s Babe Ruth pitched a gem, allowing just one scratch single in the 8th. Ruth deflected the ball but the throw by the shortstop was too late. Ruth also had a single and triple, but a pinch triple by Shorten in the 9th drove home the only run. Still, all the attention went to Ruth, despite Shorten’s game-winning hit–and that’s on top of Ruth taking his spot in the outfield.

With Ruth ensconced in the field, Shorten didn’t play major league ball at all in 1918. Initially, Chick was just depressed, but then seeing the 1918 Sox win the series without him, he vowed his revenge. Through means unknown, Shorten put a curse on the Red Sox to prevent them and the hated Ruth from ever gaining the world title again.

Shorten was extremely pleased with the fruits of his dark dealings in 1919–but in 1920, the curse came back to haunt, as all devil’s deals do. Babe Ruth was sold to the previously hapless Yankees, and went on to lead them to record numbers of World Series. Shorten watched powerless.

As for the Red Sox, their fate was sealed. In 1922 Shorten played a game for the Providence All-Stars in an exhibition against the Boston Red Sox. The All-Stars won 3-2 with a girl playing first base. A hollow victory, I’m sure.

So, for the past near-century the Red Sox fans have had the wrong man. They must switch their focus from the curse of the Bambino, and figure out how to appease the angry spirit of Chick Shorten. Otherwise, they’ll never gain a World Series title. And time is running out.

When I started writing this the Red Sox were losing to the Yankees 8-0. AS I told the story of Chick on paper, the Sox rallied and brought the score back to 8-7. It can only mean one thing–we’ve almost found the key to the curse. We’re just a man on third and a base hit away from reversing the curse.