It was morning in America. It was 1986; Ronald Reagan was president, and people were once again walking on sunshine and starting to feel good. Hartford was no Boston or New York City, yet the 1980's had been good for this small New England City. The economy was booming, and downtown Hartford was bustling with financial and social activity.
But Blue Hills Avenue had not been invited to this party. it was a poor relation, looking into the window wistfully but never invited inside. Sleuss Drug Store stood decaying on a discarded parking lot, the grass sprouting up through its cracks. Drug dealers stood on the street corners, openly plying their trade. Rap music blared from oversized boom boxes. Graffiti adorned the walls of the many abandoned houses. The residents of Blue hills Avenue were not walking on sunshine. And they were not starting to feel good.
Moe Greenberg's ice-cream business had failed by the 1970's. Ultimately he couldn't compete with the deep pockets of the larger companies. All of his trucks had been sold, and his office building had become a crack house. Moe no longer lived on Blue Hills Avenue. After his pop died, he moved his family to neighboring West Hartford, an affluent suburb of the city. Kelley had divorced Moe; she moved out to California to start a new life for her and Benny. Moe had lived alone for many years, until the teenaged Benny had returned to Connecticut to live with him. Everything in Moe's life had changed save for the Boston Red Sox. They never changed.
The 1970's had brought more grief to Red Sox Nation. 1975 had seen Boston win the pennant with such stars as Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk and Dewey "Dwight" Evans. Even old Carl Yastrzemski was stil around for the ride. Boston faced the Cincinnati Reds, playing one of the best World Series of all time. The high point for Boston was Game 6. When the game went into extra innings, Carlton Fisk made a famous shot off of the left field foul pole and over the Green Monster. The Red Sox won this game in spectacular fashion, but Cincinnati won Game 7 and the Championship.
Then there had been the 1978 disaster. The Red Sox had been almost 15 games ahead of the New York Yankees in July; by September 10th however, the two teams were tied for first place. To settle the tie, a one game playoff was held at Fenway Park. The low point for Boston was the seventh inning, when Yankee Bucky Dent hit a three-run-homer over the Green Monster. The Yankees won the game 5-4, going on to win the World Series. The Red Sox would go on to eight more years of obscurity. The Curse of the Bambino had only gotten stronger.
Moe Greenberg was now an antique dealer. he sold his wares in various flea markets around the Greater hartford area. His appearance had changed much in the past twenty years. He had become bald; the salt-and-pepper wisps on the side of his head were all that remained of his once-glorious dark hair. Moe had grown a beard; it gave him a sort of dignified appearance. He had a small pot belly, though he still remained thin. He stayed lean through constant energy and movement. His fashionable suits had given way to lod jeans, sneakers, and faded T-shirts. His once beloved Mustang had been replaced with a rusty Ford Escort. Moe had not become the richest cat in Hartford.
But Moe was still a good small-time dealer; he knew his customers well. When someone wanted an old obscure item, Moe never failed to find it for them. He would give them a fair price, though he wasn't afraid to make a decent profit when the opportunity came. Most of the older dealers were jealous of Moe; they tended to regard this type of business as a mere hobby. But Moe was always the first person to arrive at the flea market and the last one to depart. He would drive around the streets of Hartford and West Hartford searching for merchandise. One man's junk was another man's collectible.
Today was Moe's day to work at Raul's Flea Market. It was located at the end of Blue Hills Avenue, just bordering Bloomfield and Hartford. It had once been a kosher restaurant that Moe's parents had loved to frequent. It was a varied group of people who shopped at his market place today. A young lady wearing leg warmers and a neon shirt carelessly examined Moe's merchandise. A young man with a mullet hairstyle and two-toned jeans rifled through his record albums. The girl was platinum blonde; the gel in her hair made it stick up high in the air.
"Wow, these books are totally wicked," she exclaimed. "Tito, you gotta check out this biography of Madonna," she waved the paperback at her friend. "It is so phat!" Tito, visibly annoyed, took a fleeting glance at the book. "It's gnarly, babe," he commented. "Just chill a second, ok?" He pulled out a Michael Jackson album. "Uh, sir," he motioned to Moe. "This album is rad. How much you want for it?" he asked the older man.
Moe sized up the young man. A pink, sleeveless shirt. Definitely not an Einstein. "I see you got good taste, young man," Moe commented. "That is Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. How about eight dollars?" he offered. The young man's eyes rolled. "That's bogus, dude," he replied. He turned to his girlfriend. "Let's go, Buffy," he demanded.
Moe crossed his arms. Appearances could be deceiving; the young punk was shrewd. "Hey young fellah," Moe said to the boy. "Hold on a second. The price isn't written in stone," Moe said as he tore the price the surface of the album cover. "It's written on cheap paper. Talk to me," he said.
Tito nodded his head. He made a short motion at the album. "I'm thinking it's worth two bucks. Take it or leave it," he said. Moe threw up his hands in exasperation. "That's not too rad, dude," he replied. He smiled at the young couple. Both kids laughed. Buffy indicated the book in her hands.
"You're bodacious, Pops," she said with a smile. "What can you sell me this for?" she asked. Moe paused for a moment. He closed his eyes and pursed his lips for effect. "Hmm...Madonna, eh? Well, like she says, it is a material world...ok, I got it!" Moe said, snapping his fingers. "I'll sell you both the book and the record for eight dollars. And from my lips to God's ears, you are making a killing," he said.
Tito shook his head. But Buffy liked Moe's salesmanship. "C'mon, Tito, it's a good deal,"she said. Buffy opened her purse. She gave Moe a twenty. He handed back twelve dollars to the girl. Moe placed both items into a paper bag. "My name is Moe. Thanks for your business, come back anytime," he said, shaking both of his customers' hands for emphasis. They laughed again. "Thanks, Moe," they said. They waved goodbye and wandered to another table.
Moe grinned with satisfaction. He had found both of those items in a garbage pail at the end of someone's driveway. That was eight dollars pure profit. The sound of Bananarama's "Venus" drifted over to Moe's booth from a boom box at the other end of the flea market. That girl Buffy was Venus, thought Moe. Kind of looked like his ex-wife Kelley in the face.
"Nice little deal you made there, Greenberg," a tall, bulky man with gray hair and cruel eyes commented from an adjacent booth. "But then, you Jews are always good at making deals, ain't you?" he said with sarcasm.
"Never take sides against the family, Fredo," Moe replied. "We all gotta make a living, Micelli," he added.
Micelli grunted. "Yeah, I saw that Godfather fil, too. A good New York film. You're familiar with New York, ain't you Greenberg?" he asked mockingly. "That's the city that kicks your Red Sox asses every year," he said with malice.
Moe crossed his arms for the second time that day. "Not this year, Micelli. This year's gonna be different. We got Roger Clemens pitching for us. This is the year we break the curse," Moe declared.
Micelli grinned with venom in his eyes. "Yeah, that's what you Red Suckers say every year. Well, I'll tell you what, Greenberg. The New York Mets are gonna wipe the field with you losers tonight. Boston always chockes in the end," he laughed.
A young black girl approached Micelli's booth, gingerly examining his sports cards. Micelli snatched a card from her hands, then pushed her away from his counter. "Get away girl, I got no time for shoplifters," he said with anger in his voice.
Tears came into the eyes of the young, coffee-skinned girl. Moe marched over to Micelli's booth, and despite the taller man's height he grabbed Micelli by the shirt, shoving him backwards. "Pretty tough with a young girl, ain't you, New York boy?" Moe challenged the bigger man. "Why don't you pick on me? I'll kick your ass back to the Bronx!" he shouted.
Micelli smoothed his own shirt., then gave Moe the finger. "You ain't worth my time, jewboy. I got better things to do than to hang out here with you clowns. When the Mets win tonight, I'll be thinking of you, Greenberg," he promised. Micelli turned and fled the flea market.
"Damn coward," Moe said to himself. He turned to the young black girl. "You ok, honey?" he asked with concern. The young girl smiled. She suddenly pointed at Moe with recognition. "Say, ain't you Moe Greenberg?" she asked. "My dad used to work for you. His name was Jeff Peterson. I'm his daughter, Bridgette," she informed Moe.
Moe smiled with surprise. "Well,...what do you know?" he said. "I really miss your dad," he said with sadness. Jeff had died in the early 1980's. His friend Bill had quit Moe's ice-cream business and joined the army. He had died in Vietnam.
"Thank you, Mr. Greenberg," Bridgette replied.
"Call me Moe, Bridgette," he replied. "So, you like sports cards, huh?" Moe asked.
"Oh, yeah," Bridgette said. "Big time! I especially like the Red Sox," she said emphatically. "I can't wait for Game Six tonight in the World Series. Boston has to win...Roger Clemens is pitching!" she said with enthusiasm.
Indeed. Roger Clemens was starting in Game Six. Debuting with Boston in 1984, Clemens had won 24 games in 1986. And indeed, the Boston Red Sox had returned to the World Series. Behind the solid pitching of Clemens and the bat of Wade Boggs, the Red Sox had won the pennant. They now faced a dangerous foe in the New York Mets, who had finished with the best record in baseball. They had such stellar players as Daryll Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez.
Though the Red Sox had won the first two games, the Mets had come back and crushed Boston in the next two games. But the Red Sox had returned in Game five with pitcher Bruce Hurst and won. With a 3-2 Series lead, the Boston Red Sox were in an excellent position to win the Championship and break the Curse of the Bambino. They only had to win tonight's game.
Moe had renewed his interest in the Red Sox after the 1967 loss. It was now an annual ritual to celebrate Boston's success in April, only to see them collapse every August. Though he didn't like other people scoffing at his team, Moe would scoff at them himself. They were like an old shirt that he couldn't bring himself to throw away. The thing was that he didn't believe in the Boston Red Sox anymore. Faith is not only important for the churchgoer; it is what sustains a sports fan through all the hard times. Moe would pull for Boston, cheer them on, but he really didn't believe that they were going to win it all in his lifetime.
And so, Moe nodded his head to Bridgette, agreeing that this was going to be the magic night. Bridgette thanked Moe, then turned to leave the market. She suddenly paused though, and returned to Moe's booth.
"Word, Moe," she said. "I was just wondering if you wouldn't mind selling somethin' for me," she asked. Moe smiled. He wondered if Bridgette had any old records. He loved to sell records. "Sure, Bridgette," he replied. "You got any albums at home? I'll sell them for you at a good price," he informed her.
Bridgette shook her head. She pulled some cards from her pocketbook, handing them over to Moe. "There's some Mork and Mindy cards, a few baseball cards you might like," she told him.
Moe examined the cards. "Yeah, Bridgette," he said. "I can sell these," he informed her. Moe regarded the baseball cards. "Reggie Jackson, he's good. George Brett...yeah, these are pretty good. Hey, wait a minute!" he said with surprise.
There was an old, battered card among the pack. For a moment, Moe thought he was having a dream. This couldn't be...
"What the matter, Moe?" Bridgette asked. "Ain't that old Red Sox card worth anything? I'm sorry it ain't fresh," she apologized. Moe was flabbergasted. "I'm not sentimental. I don't believe in coincidences or magic, but..." his voice trailed.
"You like Ted Williams?" Bridgette asked.
"Honey, he was my favorite," Moe replied. "The greatest Red Sox hitter of all time. He gave up baseball to serve his country in World War two, then came back and served the Red Sox for the rest of his career," Moe said, a bit misty-eyed. "But this is the same card. See the brown spot? The actor Charlie Reilly made that spot. My card has come back to me. Where did you find this?" he inquired.
"Oh, some young dude traded it to me,"she said. "You can sell the others, but since the Ted Williams one is special to you, you keep it," she said with a smile.
Moe hesitated. "Bridgette, I think your dad gave me this same card years ago. Or maybe I was wrong. Anyway...if it is the same card, you should have it," he told her.
Bridgette was very quiet. She had tears in her eyes as she shook her head. "Naw, if my dad gave it to you, then you got to keep it. You treated him right, and he never forgot it. You keep this card in honor of my dad," she said.
"Bridgette.." Moe began. but it was no use. Bridgette had run out of the flea market. Moe looked again at the card. Was it his old card? But there could be no doubt. It had the same brown stain in the same exact spot. Did magic really happen?
Moe was interrupted by the appearance of a heavy-set youth wearing parachute pants, A Duran Duran T-shirt and spiky hair. The youth bore a striking resemblance to Moe. It was his only son, Benny.
"Yo, dad," Benny said. "How you do today?" Moe regarded his son. "Yo?" he asked. "Are you the Swiss Miss, yodling up in the Alps?"
Benny was flustered. "I..." he stammered.
"Well, come and help me pick up," Moe told his son. He began to put away various items. "You're one hour late, Benny. You're a schmuck...the biggest," he said with derision.
"Always gotta put me down, don't you Dad?" Benny's eyes flashed with anger. "Well, I got a headline for you, 'Benny Greenberg, Donkey-Kong champion of West Hartford'," he declared. Benny began to help his father.
"Video games, fantasy crap," Moe said. "You are two years out of high school and still no college major. You're cousin Jan is a certified accountant. You are a certified bum," Moe declared.
They picked up the merchandise in silence. There was tension in the air. But then Moe turned to his son with a softened expression. "You think Clemens is gonna win, tonight?" he asked.
"To the max, Dad," Benny replied happily. Clemens is incredible! He will hold the Mets to no runs," he predicted.
Moe was skeptical. "He didn't look so great in Game Two. Still..." his voice trailed. He wanted to believe. He examined the card once more. It had all come full circle. The Ted Williams card. The World Series. His dreams of success. Maybe it all wasn't too late...
An older man approached Moe. He had a mustasche, a faded leather jacket and a felt beret on his head. His voice had a soft Spanish accent.
"Hey, Mr. Greenberg," he said. "You deliver that table you sold me, no?" he asked.
"Hey, Sanchez," Moe replied. "You got a good deal. I 'll deliver it next week."
"Good, yes," Moe's longtime customer agreed. "But I need it delivered tonight. I got guests coming," he informed Moe.
Moe's eyes rolled back. "OK, Sanchez," he said. "Twenty dollars for the delivery charge."
The older man nodded his head. "But you deliver it now," he told Moe.
Benny looked nervously at his father. "Dad, Game Six is starting in ten minutes. We are gonna miss it," he said.
Moe made up his mind. "Ah, we got plenty of time," he said, then turned to Sanchez. "Give me the directions, we'll be there in five minutes," he promised the older man.
Sanchez gave the directions, then left the market. Moe and Benny found the table and carried it to Moe's car. They found Sanchez's place with little difficulty. It was just opposite the lot where Sleuss Drug Store had been. Moe parked the car, and the two men lifted the dining table, carrying it up the steep slope of the front steps. The apartment was cramped, the smell of chicken and saffron permeated the air. Children were running and screaming afoot. A large-screen television set was anchored in the living room, where Sanchez wanted the table placed. Moe wiped the sweat from his brow as he leaned against the table.
"Looks nice in the room, huh?" Sanchez asked.
"Oh, yeah...it's a quality piece," Moe answered. "I almost gave it to you," Moe said absent-mindedly.
As Moe and Benny caught their breath, they noticed the baseball game being played on the television set. Benny couldn't take his eyes off of the game. Moe made small talk with Sanchez. "Nice apartment," he commented. "I used to own the house across the street."
Sanchez looked surprised. "No, really? Well, I guess it changed a lot since you lived here," he said.
"Yes, much has changed," Moe agreed.
Game Six blared from the speakers of the large set. Boston had taken an early lead.
"You like the Red Sox, no?"Sanchez asked Moe.
Moe looked back at the man. "Yes...since the 1940's. This could be the year," Moe commented.
"Si, si," Sanchez nodded his head. "They got Curse of Bambino, huh?" he asked.
"Well, I don't know about a curse. They have had some bad luck," Moe admitted. Moe and Sanchez got into a long argument about the rivalry over the years between New York and Boston, as Sanchez was from the Bronx. In the meantime, Benny was watching the game. Clemens asked to have himself taken out at the top of the eighth, complaining of a blister. Gary Carter tied the game; it went into extra innings.
Red Sox batter homered at the top of the tenth. Wade Boggs scored and Boston was up 5-3. Suddenly, the championship was one out away. This was it...the end of the Curse!
Moe suddenly noticed what was happening on the screen. He rushed over to the television set to confirm it. All of his hopes were to be fulfilled; he couldn't believe it. Believe! That was what he had to do. He pulled the Ted Williams Rookie card out and held it to his heart.
"C"mon Red Sox, this is it," he said as he stroked the card. "I believe...I believe," he repeated.
But then, Gary Carter singled. Kevin Mitchell pinched hit, singling to center. Shea Stadium roared with approval. Mets batter Ray Knight was down 0-2, and the Red Sox were one strike away.
Then Knight singled into center field. Mets left-fielder Mookie Wilson fouled to bring the game and championship back to one strike away. And then, the Curse of the Bambino struck. A wild pitch by Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley hit the backstop. Mitchell scored and Ray knight advanced. Then Mookie wilson hit a slow ground ball up the first base line. First baseman Bill Buckner let it pass through his knees. Ray Knight scored and the Mets won the game.
Benny looked at his father with sympathy. "There's still one game left," he said lamely.
Moe closed his eyes. They had come so close. "No," he declared. "They can't win now. "Hurst is too tired to pitch again, and they have no one left. No, this was it," he stated. He stared at the card. Now he was certain that it was the same card that he had gotten from Charlie Reilly all thosws years ago.
"I jinxed the Red Sox three times with this card. But why? How could their greatest player have jinxed them?" he asked.
Sanchez placed a hand of sympathy on Moe's shoulders. "It wasn't card, Moe. It was fate," he declared.
Moe was tempted to tear the card in half. Then he spotted two of the small boys playing with action figures. He handed them the card.
"Here," he said to the surprised boys. "Take this as a gift."
"Gracias," one of the boys told Moe with a smile.
Moe and Benny walked silently down the front steps of the Sanchez home to Moe's car. Moe looked around at his old neighborhood. He saw ghosts and shadows, all that was left of his life. He turned to his son. He was about to make a hurtful comment, then stopped as he remembered his own father. He decided to end the circle there.
"Maybe they can win tomorrow, you never know," Moe offered,
Benny's eyes went wide with home. "You think so, Dad?" he asked.
Moe's voice was warm as they climbed into the car. "Oh, sure. The Red Sox are like us jews. They don't win, but they keep on trying their best. That is the point of the game..." his voice trailed off.
And father and son drove down the dark lonely street. They talked excitedly about Game Seven. The Red Sox would lose that one of course, and the New York Mets would win the 1986 Championship. Though Moe and benny were disappointed, they were right in front of the television set the next spring, to watch Opening Day. Moe wouldn't live to see his beloved Boston Red Sox finally win the World Series in 2004, defeating their old rivals the St. Louis Cardinals, after first defeating the New York Yankees. The Curse was finally broken. As Benny watched them win he remembered his father. and he wished that he still had the Ted Williams Rookie card...
© Copyright 2016 Coolidge Templeton. All rights reserved.