Contrary to what many believe, the Curse of the Colonel, Japanese baseball’s most famous and enduring urban legend, was sparked when the Hanshin Tigers won the Central League pennant in 1985 — not the Japan Series.
As the story goes, after Hanshin clinched that season’s pennant on Oct. 16, a group of Tigers fans gathered at the Ebisu bridge in Osaka’s Dotonbori district to celebrate the team’s first title since 1964. As part of the celebrations, fans resembling the players jumped off the bridge into the river below. There was no suitable doppelganger, however, for bearded American slugger Randy Bass, Hanshin’s best player. The quick-thinking revelers solved the issue by instead hurling a statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders, “borrowed” from a nearby KFC, into the murky depths instead.
This was the beginning of the curse, similar to how the Boston Red Sox deciding to sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919 sparked the famous Curse of the Bambino in MLB. The Tigers won that season’s Japan Series, but the club’s fortunes soon sank as fast as the statue, with just two top-3 finishes and 10 last-place finishes in the ensuing 17 years. The Tigers did not win the pennant again until 2003.