Fans of Cleveland sports teams know all about curses and bad luck. Anyone who has watched our teams over the past half-century can attest to forces beyond our control intervening on behalf of the opposition leaving us dumbfounded and confused after gut-splitting losses in postseasons past.
The Cavaliers were burned by Michael Jordan so many times you would have swore he was Satan in sneakers. Even though the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964, they’ve never overcome the firing of Head Coach and founder Paul Brown two years earlier. The Indians may be the only team in town with multiple curses to overcome. First there was Bobby Bragan who allegedly put a curse on the team the day he was fired (although Bragan denied this). Then there was the curse of Rocky Colavito, the beloved outfielder who was traded to Detroit by Frank Lane. The Indians of course overcame all of this to break a 40-year post season drought only to become the first team in history to take the lead into the bottom of the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series, and lose (I’m preaching to the choir here so we don’t need to relive the details).
Whether or not you believe in curses, hexes or the maloik, its hard to argue with all of this history of coming so close only to be left standing at the altar empty-handed. If we’ve learned anything over the years its that if you do something bad to someone else, its going to come back to you and more.
Take the case of the San Francisco Giants. They have not won a championship since they left New York (again, we’re not going over the gory details of the ’54 World Series win over the Indians) in 1957. Many believe the Giants are plagued by the curse of Eddie Grant. I can hear you now, "Who’s Eddie Grant?"
Grant, who began his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1905, played a more prominent role with the Giants in a big league career that spanned 992 games. In 1917 when World War I was declared, Grant enlisted and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. On October 5th, 1918 he led a mission to try and rescue the famous "Lost Battalion" in the Argonne Forest of France. Grant was severely wounded by enemy fire and died four days later.
On Memorial Day in 1921, representatives from the armed forces, baseball and Grant’s family unveiled a monument in center field of the Polo Grounds in New York, paying tribute to Captain Edward L. Grant. Over the years the plaque became the focal point of Memorial Day events at the Polo Grounds.
In his book "The Doughboys," author Laurence Stallings wrote that whenever legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, himself a veteran, went to the Polo Grounds, "the figure of Eddie Grant was always there, ghostly in the outfield."
Over the years Indians fans have seen countless replays of Willie Mays amazing over the shoulder catch of Vic Wertz’s deep drive to centerfield at the Polo Grounds. The next time you watch, look closely and you can see the plaque just beyond the fence.
Neil Hayes of the Contra Costa Times, recently wrote, "The memorial came to represent more than just a long-forgotten ballplayer. Players walked past the 5-foot-high memorial on their way to and from the field. Fans exiting the stadium through the center-field service gate passed the memorial, often pausing to read the words "Soldier, Scholar, Athlete" on the bronze plaque."
After the Giants final game in New York, Grant’s plaque was stolen and then later recovered but, eventually disappeared for good. Five years ago, according to the Great War Society and the Western Front Association, they approached Giants ownership with an offer to replace the plaque honoring Eddie Grant at SBC Park in San Francisco. The Giants declined the offer.
The following season San Francisco blew a game 6 lead and eventually the World Series against the Angels. The next year they were upset in the first round of the Divisional Playoffs by Florida when Jose Cruz, Jr. dropped a fly ball in the 11th inning in the pivotal game 3.
Before the start of this season the Giants finally relented an erected a replica plaque that now hangs near an elevator at the Lefty O’Doul entrance gate at the recently renamed AT&T Park. It may be too little too late but, at least its something.
Enjoy your Holiday with the family and take some time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to make our lives so rich.