Curse broken; local man credits jersey

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 2004

AHOSKIE – Major League Baseball is steeped in history, tradition and, yes, superstition.

So, if the legendary &uot;Curse of the Bambino&uot; has been haunting the Boston Red Sox since 1918, then why not believe that a local man, complete with his lucky BoSox jersey, could play a pivotal role in finally exercising the ghost of Babe Ruth.

With his beloved Red Sox trailing the hated New York Yankees, three games to none, during last week’s American League Championship Series (ALCS), Eric Baldwin figured enough was enough. The time had arrived to break out his secret weapon and bring this well-documented 86-year-old curse to an end.

But for that to happen, Boston – who traded Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 – had to overcome a three games to none deficit in the ALCS, a feat never performed in the history of Major League Baseball.

Reaching into the closet of his home located in the St. Johns community, Baldwin pulled out an authentic Boston Red Sox jersey, a gift from a friend in 1988.

&uot;I had never even worn the jersey because, as you can see, the letter ‘R’ in ‘Red Sox’ was coming a bit unraveled,&uot; noted Baldwin as he proudly displayed the jersey, a heavy wool, short sleeved top complete with ventilation holes in the armpit areas of sleeves. &uot;I was scared if I wore it on a regular basis that it would cause more damage to the lettering.&uot;

However, it was due-or-die time for the Red Sox.

&uot;I decided, what the heck, I’ll put on the jersey and see if it changes Boston’s luck,&uot; said Baldwin. &uot;Based on their past history in the postseason, I knew the Red Sox needed all the luck they could get.&uot;

The rest, as they say, is history.

Rallying against history as well as their longtime Division rivals, Boston bounced back to win four straight games against the Yankees. The final two outings of that historic seven-game series came in the &uot;House that Ruth Built&uot; – aka Yankee Stadium.

&uot;I remember the first night I put it on and Boston won, I said to myself, ‘hey, this jersey must be lucky’,&uot; Baldwin recalled.

From that moment on, Baldwin found himself brimming with confidence.

&uot;It was like I felt they wouldn’t lose again this season,&uot; he stated. &uot;And they didn’t. I wore this jersey for eight straight games and Boston won ’em all.&uot;

After completing the improbable comeback against the Yankees, the Red Sox then swept the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to none, to win their first World Series championship since the 1918 season. The &uot;Curse of the Bambino&uot; was over.

&uot;When (Johnny) Damon hit that lead-off homer at the start of game four (at St. Louis on Wednesday night; a 3-0 win by the Red Sox), I knew right then and there that this Series was over and so was Boston’s long streak of bad luck,&uot; bragged Baldwin.

Baldwin is a native of Franklin, a small town in Macon County, located in the southwestern portion of the North Carolina mountains. The lure of a job as a private contractor with Sprint led him to St. Johns in 1988. He continues in that same profession today.

&uot;I’ve always been a baseball fan,&uot; he concluded. &uot;I’ve been a fan of the (Atlanta) Braves, but started rooting for the Red Sox about three years ago. I liked them because they always seemed to be the underdogs.&uot;

Underdogs no more, perhaps thanks to Baldwin’s lucky jersey.