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The Curse of the Colonel is a curse supposedly put over baseball outfit Hanshin Tigers by the late KFC forefather and symbol Colonel Sanders. The curse was placed upon the team due to the Colonel’s displeasure over mistreatment of his statue.
The statue was thrown into River Dotonbori by the reveling Hanshin supporters following their triumph in the 1985 Championship Series. In line with other sporting-related spells, the Colonel curse has been used to elaborate the team’s 18-year losing series. The belief has made some of the team’s fans to believe that the Tigers would never win any Japan Series unless the Colonel statue is returned.
Effects of the Curse of the Colonel
The Hanshin Tigers have participated in the Series thrice since then, losing in all the matches. Comparisons have been made with the MLB’s Boston Red Sox, deemed to be affected by the Curse of the Bambino till 2004 when they triumphed in the World Series and whose supporters are as well known for destruction of property while celebrating. The Hanshin Tigers have a based in Kansai, which is Japan’s second biggest metropolitan.
They are considered as a long time competitor of the Nippon Professional Baseball, in contrast to the Yomiuri, who are regarded the kings of baseball in Japan. The zealous fans fill the stadium however poorly the Tigers play. In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers played the Seibu Lions, earning their one and only win in the Japan Series, majorly due to Randy Bass’s efforts in the team. This victory drove the fans wild, and a raucous celebration ensued at Ebisu Bridge. It was at this bridge that a group of supporters shouted the names of the players and with each name, a lookalike among the supporters to a player of the victorious team jumped off the bridge into the canal.
There was however nobody to impersonate MVP Randy Bass. The crowd therefore seized the statue of Colonel Sanders off a near KFC and threw it to the canal as a representation. Colonel Sanders was not Japanese and therefore looked different, just like Randy who was an American. This momentary move cost the team dearly, starting the Curse of the Colonel. The curse stated that the Hanshin Tigers would never win a championship anymore till the statue was recovered. After the 1985 success, Hanshin Tigers started an 18 year losing series placing bottom of the league.
There were caucuses which brought some optimism to supporters but they were followed with defeats. There were attempts to get back the Colonel statue by submerging divers and dredging the river with no success. The Tigers fans sent apologies to the KFC store manager but without the statue the team remained cursed. 2003 was an unlikely great season for the Tigers. Their main rivals lost their best player while the Tigers brought in Hideki Irabu, a pitcher from the Texas Rangers. The Hanshin Tigers emerged winners of the Central League and qualified for the Series.
There were speculations everywhere that the Curse was eventually broken. The fans were excited and a reprise of the congratulatory jump into Dotonbori Canal was inevitable. They however jumped into the waterway the 5300 of them instead of individual fans representing players. The KFC outlets kept the Colonel Sanders statues indoors for the duration of the series to safeguard them against the Tigers fans. The statues that were left outside were bolted to the ground to avert a recurrence of 1985 events.
Unfortunately the Tigers were beaten by the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks reviving the rumours of the curse. After several unsuccessful attempts to get back the statue, Colonel was ultimately found in the Dotonbori River in March, 2009. The divers thought it was a large barrel or even a body.
The Hanshin supporters at the scene identified it as the Colonel statue’s upper body. Other part were found later but the left hand and glasses were not found. It was alleged that to lift the curse, the left hand and the glasses had to be found and put back on the statue. The hand and glasses were replaced and the statue returned to a KFC Japan. The KFC that originally owned the Colonel statue had long been closed therefore it was taken to a different KFC branch.