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The Curse Of The Ted Williams Rookie Card: 1967

Short story By: Coolidge Templeton
Literary fiction


A middle-aged Hartford businessman rediscovers a missing card, right on the eve of Boston's return to the World Series.


Submitted:Jul 3, 2011    Reads: 39    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


It was now 1967. Hartford had changed in the twenty-one years since the Boston Red Sox had lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Many of the small businesses that had once adorned Blue Hills Avenue were now gone. The neighborhood had changed. The Jews, Irish, and Italians had moved out; black families had moved in to replace them. As Moe Greenberg drove his poppy-red Ford Mustang convertible down the hectic street, he could hear the sounds of Motown filtering through the air, emitted from the new hi-fi radios that were the new rage. Despite the crisp October breeze it was sunny; Moe pulled down the white convertible top in order to show off his groovy black interior. The sound of Stevie Wonder's hit song, "Uptight (Everything's Alright) blasted from his AM car radio. Moe's Mustang had a powerful 289-2V engine with automatic transmission and power steering. Far out, man.

Moe pulled into the driveway of his business and parked the car. He had changed as much as the city of Hartford in the past twenty-one years. His straight black hair was now thinning and greased back. His face had hardened; there were now small wrinkles around his eyes. His step was jaunty and cocky. His suit clung tightly to his lean, slightly muscular frame. A Rat-Pack Sinatra hat crowned his head and a Kool cigarette hung limply from his mouth. If Moe Greenberg wasn't the richest cat in Hartford he could at least look the part.

Several white ice-cream trucks sat parked in the lot of Moe's business. He was the owner of Greenberg's Ice-Cream, second in size in Hartford only to Good Humor. Moe had built up his business from only one truck; he now had eight trucks and twenty employees. Oh, he was far from rich. Operating expenses kept his profits low, and Moe had re-invested much back into the company. Still, he was doing pretty well. Moe was negotiating a deal which would allow Greenberg's Ice-Cream to be able to operate in the Bloomfield area, and he was hoping to break into other Connecticut markets as well.

Moe had come far from the days when he had wheeled and dealed with Charlie Reilly. His old irish pal was now a famous comedian, and was featured in a hit television series. Hadn't even dropped Moe a postcard; that was gratitude, Moe thought to himself. Mow had never played another game of stickball after that fateful night in 1946; his baseball dreams had faded into bittersweet memories. But he wasn't the sentimental type; the 50's and early 60's had merely been a backdrop to Moe's ambitious attempts to rise to the top. A soldier, a saleman, a dealer; he had been all of these and more. There had been little time for him to follow the Boston Red Sox and indeed, there had been little to follow.

Boston had fallen on hard times in the past twenty-one years; the Curse of the Bambino did indeed seem to be working its black magic upon the fortunes of the Red Sox. Team after team had failed to make the playoffs. In the meantime, the New York Yankkes continued to dominate Major League Baseball. The Yankees won five World Series titles in a row; they had premier players like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. Ted Williams remained with the Sox, finishing his great career in the early 60's. But Boston seemed fated to remain in obscurity.

But then came this year, 1967, and with it came the Impossible Dream. managed by Dick Williams and anchored by both triple crown winner Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg, the Red Sox had reached the World Series. suddenly, people were excited about the Red Sox again, both in Massachsetts and in Connecticut. Red Sox fever was sweeping Hartford, yet Moe Greenberg remained aloof. He could never forgive them for breaking his heart back in 1946.

As Moe approached the office building, he noticed two of his employees leaning carelessly against the side of one of his trucks. The first man was a short, somewhat stocky young man with light coffee skin, a thin mustasche and an afro. He had a sullen, almost menacing air about him. The second man was older, lanky, with dark ebony skin. He had a friendly, open manner. He was casually munching on an Almond Joy candy bar. His name was Jeff Peterson; he had worked for moe almost from the very beginning. The short youth was a more recent hire. he went by the name of Bill Turner. As Moe came closer to the pair he noticed a small cigarette-looking object extending from Turner's fingers. It was a marijuana joint.

"Stay cool, Jeff," the young man said to Peterson in silky tones. "It ain't the heat, brother. It's just the man," he said with a smile. Turner took a deep drag from his joint. He exhaled slowly and carefully, making two puffs of smoke follow one another in strange-looking circles.

"Ah, man, don't pay this funky cat no attention, Mr. Greenberg," Jeff said, attempting to diffuse the tension. "He's all show and no go, you dig?"

Moe's arms were crossed as he gave his two employees a cold stare. "I'm not paying you guys to blow your minds," he said. "We got maybe two weeks of sunny weather left, and then the season is over. Can you dig that, Turner?" Moe asked the younger man.

Turner's eyes closed into two slits. "I don't go by that name no more, Mr. Greenberg. Dig, the name's Ali Fakir now," he informed his employer.

"Ok, Mr. Alley Faker, have it your way," Moe replied. "But I need you to finish your route." he added.

Bill Turner stepped away from the truck. He flung the joint to the ground, grinding it slowly under his foot. Then without another word he climbed into an ice-cream truck, started the engine and drove away. Moe and Jeff watched him for a moment, then turned away.

"That is one angry young man," Moe stated. "I don't want to let him go, but he just might force my hand," Moe shook his head sadly.

"Ah, he full of that Malcolm X jive," Peterson replied. "Brother ain't bad at heart. Just need a purpose, you dig?" he said.

Moe looked down at his watch. It was getting late. "You finish your route yet?" he asked the older man. "Oh, yeah. I sold all my ice-cream hours ago," Peterson responded.

"You're the best, Jeff," Moe said with a smile. "Keep up the good work. Well, I have some paperwork to do," he said, turning to go to his office. But Jeff Peterson had more to tell him.

"Hey Mr. Greenberg. You got a young son, don't you?" he inquired. Moe turned back, a puzzled look in his eyes.

"Yes, he's about one-years-old now. What about it?" he asked.

Peterson smiled. From under his flower-patterned shirt he pulled out two items. They were comic books. "Spider-man and Captain America," he told his boss. "The little cat will love them. You ever like the comic books, Mr. Greenberg?" he asked his boss.

Moe smiled for a moment. "Not my scene, Jeff. I used to love the Red Sox," he admitted.

Peterson's eyes lit up at this. "No jive? Wait a minute!" he dug into his pants pocket. "I got these here Red Sox cards. Here," he said, handing his employer both the comic books and the cards. Moe shook his head.

"No, you keep them, Jeff. My son's too young for that stuff," Moe said.

But Peterson would not be dissuaded. "You give these to the little brother," he insisted. he handed them to Moe. Then he hopped upon a motorcycle which was parked right there at the curb. Before Jeff Peterson pulled away he yelled to Moe, "Don't give up on the Sox, you dig?" he shouted. He then sped off toward Blue Hills Avenue.

Moe watched the vanishing figure a moment. "Yeah, I dig," he said quietly to himself. He rolled up the comics and stuffed them and the cards into his pockets. Then he silently walked to his office.

Later that evening, Moe pulled into his driveway at home and parked his car. He looked at his house. The blue paint had begun to peel away from the surface of the two-story building. The other houses on Blue Hills Avenue didn't look much better. There were fewer children playing games in the streets and more vagrants and drug dealers. Moe examined the side of his house. He hadn't painted it since ma had died. He viewed the lawn to his left. He noticed that his sister Tracey's flowerbed had become covered with weeds. After she had gone to school in Boston she had never returned.

"I'd better get this place cleaned up," Moe said to himself. "No one will want to buy it in this condition."

The hallway was dark, but as Moe opened the front door which led to the kitchen a warm light greeted him. A young red-haired woman of about twenty years of age was busy cooking at the stove. She wore a beehive hairstyle and a rather short skirt.

"Hey, whadya say, baby?" Moe greeted his young wife. She turned from the stove and kissed her husband. "How did it go today, Moe?" she asked. Moe loosened his tie, pretending not to hear the question. He peered into the steaming pot.

"Don't crush my matzo balls," they both said at the same time. Kelley laughed. "Jinx, you owe me a Coke," she said, punching Moe lightly on the shoulder.

The sound of Smokey Robinson's new hit, "I Second That Emotion" breezed in from the living room. Suddenly, a short old man with a bald head and black horn-rimmed glasses stormed into the room. He was holding a small boy with dark blonde hair in his arms. The boy was drinking happily from a brown bottle.

"Pop, that's crazy!" Kelley exclaimed. She snatched the bottle from her son's hands. "How could you give a one-year-old beer?'

Pop looked defiantly at his young daughter-in-law. "He wanted it," he declared. "Whatever Benny wants, Benny gets," he informed her.

Kelley sighed with frustration. "He wanted root beer," she declared with exasperation. She took Benny from Pop and brought him over to the sink. Over his protests, she washed his mouth with water.

Pop went over to the stove and took a peek. "The Irish girl's making matzo soup. I guess she cook it with Guinness beer," he said with sarcasm.

"Pop, give it a rest," Moe sighed. They all sat down to supper. Kelley lit the sabbath candles. Moe didn't help. He just assumed that she could figure the Jewish stuff on her own.

"I got a telephone call from my daughter Tracey today," Pop informed them.

"That is nice," Kelley replied. She smiled as she wiped Benny's mouth with a cloth handkerchief. "I haven't seen her since our wedding. How is she?" Kelley asked.

Pop looked across the table at his son, speaking to Kelley but never taking his eyes from Moe. "How should she be?" he replied with a rascal grin. "She's a teacher. Went to college. And my oldest son Joseph is a successful doctor," he said. he paused for a moment. "And Morry...he's a bum!" Pop shouted, slamming his hand down upon the table for emphasis.

Moe had heard this too often to even pay attention to his father. He smiled, wiped his face with his white handkerchief and kissed Benny on the head. Moe then went silently into the living room. He turned off the radio. It was a long, wooden contraption with a record player hidden in one of its drawers. Mow found a copy of the Hartford Courant and sat down on the plush sofa. He began to read.

It might as well as been named The Red Sox Courant. The paper was saturated with articles concerning the World Series being played. Boston might have the pitching ace Jim Lonborg, but the St. Louis Cardinals possessed the amazing Bob Gibson. He had pitched a brilliant game in the series opener. The Cards had won this game 2-1. But Boston came back in the second game with a solid perfomance by Jim Lonborg and the twohome runs hit by Yaz. The cardinals had won the third and fouth games with another pitching gem by Bob Gibson. Things looked bleak for Boston.

But then the Impossible Dream stayed alive! In game five. Jim Lonborg faced the Cardinals, pitching with a bad cold and a lucky horseshoe in his back pocket. He dazzled the Cardinals and it was a 3-1 victory for the Red Sox! In game six, the Sox got off to an early lead when Rico Petrocelli homered over the Green Monster in the second inning. St. Louis responded with two runs in the third. Then Lou Brock of the cards singled Julian javier home, and scored himself when Curt Flood singled to left field.

But back came the Red Sox! The lead would be exchanged several times in the game. In the eighth, St. Louis loaded the bases, but a great catch by Boston's Yaz helped to shut the Cardinals down. Reliever Gary Bell got the save, and the Boston Red Sox were one game away from winning the championship!

Moe shook his head with disbelief. Twenty-one years later and it was a seventh game championship between Boston and St. Louis again? Could so many years have passed since then? And here was a new hero for the Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski. Was he the new Ted Williams? Could the Red Sox break the curse?

Kelley walked into the living room with Benny in her arms. She fed him from a plastic bottle, and he lay contentedly in her arms. Moe glanced at Benny's feet; his eyes almost bulged from his face. Benny had red socks on his little feet! It was a sign! But did God send such signs to ice-cream truck owners? Well, why not? No one had believed in Boston as Moe had in the past. Could he believe again?

"I want to talk to you, Moe," Kelley's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I saw an ad in the newspaper this morning. A secretary job," she said, her eyes glittering with excitement. "I took typing in high school, and I always wanted to work in an office. My sister could come and keep an eye on Pop and Benny. It would only be four hours a day for two days a week," she informed her husband.

"Huh?" Moe replied. He hadn't really been listening. His mind was still on the World Series. He put the paper down and began to give Kelley his undivided attention.

"A secretary job, Moe," Kelley repeated, a little annoyed. "It's only part-time. My sister would come and watch Benny and Pop. I really want to do this," she said with determination.

Moe stood up from the sofa. For the second time that day, he crossed his arms across his chest. "Are you kidding me, baby?" he said. "I make the bread in this house. You gotta family to take care of, same as my Ma did. That's an important job you already got" he informed her.

Kelley's Irish face flushed red; her eyes sparkled like fire. "You sound like Pop. But this is 1967. and I'm your wife, not your servant," she declared. She stroked the side of Benny's head. Her features softened. "Come on Moe; you're my old man, not from old man from Squaresville. Can't you see how important this is to me?" she said with pleading soft eyes.

Suddenly, Pop burst into the room, sporting a cotton sweater and depression-era brown shoes. "What this I hear?" he demanded. "The goy shiksa wants to work? Oy!" he threw his hands downwards in Eastern European fashion. "Morry, if your ma hear this now...back to coffin she would go," he dramatically stated. He crossed his arms in an identical fashion to Moe's.

Moe turned his anger upon his father. "Always got to interfere, don't you Pop?" he responded. "Kelley's done a great job taking care of both you and Benny while I'm at work. But do you appreciate it? You put Joe and Tracey upon some throne, but Kelley and I are the ones taking care of business here. I love you Pop, but don't be a schmo," he said. Moe turned to Kelley. "You want that secretary job, you got it, baby. Moe Greenberg calls the shots in this house," he declared.

Kelley was silent, but her face glowed with pride in her husband. She reached over and kissed Moe. Pop turned, throwing his hands up in disgust. "For this I come from old country..." he muttered. he retreated to the safety of his own room, where he could watch his little black-and -white television set.

Moe squeezed Benny's little foot as he regarded his sock. A thought suddenly came to him. "Oh, I forgot," he said. Moe pulled something from his pocket. It was the rolled up comic books. "Jeff at work gave me these for Benny," he showed them to the little boy who giggled at the colorful pages. Then, Moe also remembered the cards. he pulled them from his pocket and examined them.

"Jose Santiago, Lew Burdete, Gary Bell...wait a minute!" Moe said. he let the other cards drop to the floor. He studied the card in his hand, carefully turning it over with disbelief. "It can't be...no, this is too weird!" he laughed out loud. What a strange day it had turned out to be!

"What is it, baby?" Kelley asked in concern. "You're scaring me with this scene," she said anxiously.

Moe showed his wife the card. "This is my Ted Williams rookie card. The same one I threw away twenty-one years ago," he offered an upturned hand to his wife. "Give me some skin,,,this means the end of the curse," he said with joy.

"I don't understand," Kelley said.

"You will baby...oh, you will!" Moe said as he rushed over to turn on the black and white Zenith television set that sat in the living room. There had to be some news about game seven; it was being played at that very minute. Moe switched the knob from channel to channel. There were only three stations; there had to be some news concerning the World Series. Moe paused a moment at channel three. President Johnson was talking about victory in Vietnam. Yeah, tell it to some goy schmuck, thought Moe. He switched the knob to channel eight. It was some special about the Beatles and their new album, Sgt. Pepper. Yada yada, thought Moe. Get to some real news!

Kelley peeked at the card that was still clutched tightly in Moe's hand. He handed her the card, then took Benny in his arms and tenderly rubbed his back.

Kelley was still confused. "I don't understand. I know you have told me about the curse of the Bambino. But this is just a copy of that Ted Williams card you had as a boy," she said with skepticism.

"Copy? Take a closer look," he said, pointing to a brown spot on the back of the card. "See? That is where that schmo Charlie Reilly stained it with his stupid Almond Joy candy bar. Baby, this is the exact card back from the dead to give me luck," he said eagerly. Moe looked again at the Zenith set. He would have to get a color set one of these days!

Moe switched the set back to CBS. Walter Cronkite was announcing the news of the day. His grandfatherly voice filled the living room. "The Boston newspapers had declared in the headlines, 'Lonborg and champagne', predicting a victory in game seven. Well, the champagne belonged to Cardinal Bob Gibson today, as a struggling Jim Lonborg gave up ten hits and seven runs to a surging St. Louis offence. This was Gibson's day. He finished the series 3-0. With a 7-2 loss, Boston's Impossible Dream ends one game too early, as the St. Louis Cardinals win the 1967 World Series. And that's the way it was," he commented from the black-and-white screen.

Kelley placed a hand on Moe's shoulder. She touched his back lightly in sympathy. Moe quietly walked over to the set and turned it off. He went into the bedroom, placing the now-sleeping Benny in his bed. Moe kissed his head, saying goodnight. He walked over to his old bedroom and entered it.It was silent and dark; Moe used it now as an office. He crossed to the window, clutching the card in his sweaty hands. He reached over and closed the blinds. He walked over to his wife. There were no tears in his eyes this time.

Moe had a bittersweet smile upon his face. "Fooled me twice. But I like that Carl Yastrzemski. Could be a Red Sox great some day," he predicted. The couple went to bed as night fell upon Hartford.

The next day, Moe sold the Ted Williams card to a dealer. He put the money into his ice-cream business. Moe would show Pop, when he became the richest cat in hartford. He would show Pop.

And the card passed from one dealer to another, out of Connecticut and out of Moe's thoughts.





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