Rubino: Curse of Barry Bonds about to lift after 20 years

  • ** FILE ** Pittsburgh Pirates' Barry Bonds slugs his 31st home run at Chicago's Wrigley Field in this Sept. 19, 1990 photo against the Chicago Cubs. Bonds, now with the San Francisco Giants, has 712 career home runs. (AP PhotoJohn Swart)

Of course we don't believe in curses. We're intelligent and educated and living in the 21st century. Even our phones are smart.

But if we're baseball fans, well, we might not believe in curses, not deep down, but we do like to tell and listen to stories about curses. We do like to perpetuate the sport's legends and myths and, yes, the curses, because it's all good clean, harmless fun, that's why.

You know about the Curse of the Bambino. The Boston Red Sox had won the World Series three times in a five-year span with Babe Ruth, then sold him to the New York Yankees and waited 85 years for another Series title.

The Cleveland Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948 and I call that the Curse of Chief Wahoo, the team's embarrassing mascot and wildly politically incorrect logo of an insanely grinning Native American.

The Chicago Cubs have the Black Cat Curse of 1969 and the Steve Bartman Curse of 2003, although neither fully accounts for the fact they haven't won a World Series since 1908. Still, the Cubbies sure do seem cursed.

The Giants went more than five decades and transplanted themselves 3,000 miles between World Series titles and I call that the Curse of the Staten Island Scot. The Giants traded Bobby Thomson just two seasons after he hit one of the most famous homers in baseball history to win the 1951 National League pennant. Yeah, they went on to win the Series in 1954, the season immediately following the trade, but then had to wait 56 years for another, and only after Thomson, at 86, had died that summer.

And the Pittsburgh Pirates, wrapping up a four-game series in San Francisco today, are under a spell of their own, one that has a direct connection to the Giants.

It's the curse of Barry Bonds.

It's got nothing to do with a World Series championship drought, although the Pirates have one of those, too, their last title coming in 1979. The Curse of Barry Bonds goes deeper, in a profound, elemental way. It goes not to the glory of a championship but to the basic dignity of a winning season.

The Pirates haven't had one of those since 1992, the last year Bonds donned a Pittsburgh uniform before signing as a free agent with the Giants. Twenty consecutive losing seasons is more than bad luck or bad baseball or bad front-office decisions, more than the random indifference of the universe.

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