The curse of Colonel Sanders

The ghost of KFC’s Colonel Sanders has haunted a Japanese baseball team since 1985.

Colonel Sanders statue
Ogiyoshisan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a few players in today’s post: the famous bridge over Dōtonbori Canal in Osaka, Japan; the ghost of Colonel Sanders, the white bearded mascot of KFC; former Oklahoma state senator Randy Bass; and the baseball team the Hanshin Tigers. I promise that this will all make sense soon.

In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Championship Series – the greatest accolade for a Japanese baseball team. In Osaka local sports team victories are celebrated by jumping off a famous bridge over the Dōtonbori Canal. The bridge in question is one of the city’s major tourist destinations because of the historic and colourful illuminated advertising billboards that surround it. When I visited this bridge – back when international travel was possible – there was a sign asking people to please not jump off it, even in celebration.

(A note for my American friends, winning the Japan Series is like winning the World Series, and Dōtonbori is like Times Square.)

The Tigers’ 1985 victory was at least in part due to the efforts of their star first baseman, Randy Bass. Bass had an indifferent career in the American Major Leagues, but when he moved to the Hanshin Tigers in 1983 he became the team’s heavy hitter. The team made the finals for the first time since 1964 and their fans went wild with joy and celebration.

(Randy Bass would later go on to become a state senator in Oklahoma, but that’s not so important for this story.)

At the bridge in Dōtonbori, revellers gathered. For each member of the victorious Hanshin Tigers team, a fan who looked like that team member volunteered to jump off the bridge and into the canal. There was just one problem: no-one resembled Randy Bass. The fans grabbed a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside a nearby KFC restaurant and threw it in.

Now, Randy Bass does not look much like Colonel Sanders. They’re both Caucasian, and they both have beards, and that’s about it. Nevertheless, the statue went into the drink, and the curse descended. Since 1985, the Hanshin Tigers have never won another Japan Series.

The fan superstition is that the ghost of Colonel Sanders, angry at the desecration of his effigy, has blocked the team’s success until such time as it could be restored. Divers actually fished the statue out of the canal in 2009 and put it on display (that’s a picture of it above). Alas, the statue is still missing a hand and its glasses and so the curse persists to this day. The Tigers have made the series finals three times since 1985, and have lost every time.

[Thanks to David S.]

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