Episode 24: Randy and Harland


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What makes a baseball curse? A good story, certainly. A reputation for losing always helps. But the best ones revolve around a singular figure — a singular figure that’s dead. There needs to be that ghostly presence that floats above the stadium and the standings.

The Red Sox had Babe Ruth. The Cubs had that goat, and, to a lesser extent, Steve Bartman. But Bartman was a big Cubs fan. And he’s still alive. Babe Ruth won a load of championships with the Yankees — what reason would he have to curse the Red Sox? And goats are idiots. They can’t even comprehend complex emotions like revenge, and certainly not from the grave. No, a good curse needs a ghost with a grudge. A skeleton with a bone to pick. A good curse needs a figurehead.

Randy and Harland were born in Oklahoma and Indiana, respectively, over 60 years apart. It’s hard to definitively say whether or not they met, but it’s probably safe to say they never did. Yet their lives are inextricably linked. It is for a fairly silly reason, surely, but the silliness is almost part of the charm. It starts off like a war story: two strangers’ lives are ensnared in an historical event that takes place thousands of miles from their homes. But it’s not a war story. It’s a story about baseball and chicken and a river. And how all three can create specters that haunt a city for decades.

David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

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