Obama and Crist by Tampa Bay Times
The Red Sox victory in this year's World Series represents far more than one team defeating another. In taking the decisive game before a packed house at Boston's beloved Fenway Park, the Red Sox victory finally put to rest a 95-year old scourge known as "The curse of the Bambino." For the uninitiated -- and in brief -- "the curse" goes back to 1918 -- the last time the Red Sox took the pennant while playing at Fenway. That year, the Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs in 6 games, the last being a 2-1 victory before a crowd of 15,238 deliriously happy fans. The hero of that series was the team's best pitcher, the 23-year old Babe Ruth. Shortly after the series ended, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 plus a $300,000 loan which he used to invest in a new Broadway play. Prior to Frazee's sale of Ruth, the Red Sox had been one of the best teams in all of baseball. Following the sale, the Sox would be also-rans for most of the next 8 decades, while the Yankees . . . well, they became the fabled "Bronx Bombers," playing in "The House that Ruth Built," and fielding a lineup forever known as "Murderers Row."
Hence, the "Curse of the Bambino."
(Note: There is an urban legend that Frazee used the $300,000 loan to invest in the musical No No Nanette. In reality, No, No, Nanette didn't make its debut at Broadway's Globe Theatre until September 16, 1925 -- nearly 6 years after Frazee sold Ruth to the Yankees. What Frazee did invest in was a play called My Lady Friends, which, in reality, did serve as the basis for the oft-reprised musical.)
From the moment Frazee sold Ruth to New York, Red Sox fans began reviling the Yankees with a moldering passion worthy of the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Jets and the Sharks . . . or Florida Republicans (and some Democrats) and former governor Charlie Crist. Make no mistake about it; there are many, many people in the Sunshine state who truly detest Charlie Crist. His original sin? In 2009 he was photographed hugging Barack Obama when the new Democratic president visited the state. I repeat: he was photographed hugging President Barack Obama. To the true believers of the Florida GOP -- those who see any deviation from their ultra-conservative orthodoxy as an act of utter heresy -- Crist's embrace of the nation's 44th president was more than heretical; it was downright treasonous. At the time of his welcoming embrace, Charlie Crist -- then a Republican -- was considered a shoo-in for the senate seat held by George LeMieux. But in the time it takes to say "Out, out damn spot!" Crist became as much of a Judas to Florida Republicans as Harry Frazee had been to Red Sox fans 80 years earlier. Soon, Crist changed his party affiliation to Independent, came in second in the 2010 senate race (where he received better than a half-million votes more than third-place finisher, the Democrat Kendrick Meek), and went on to support Barack Obama for reelection in 2012. While attending last year's White House Christmas Party, Crist displayed the form he used to switch his registration again, becoming a Democrat. And tomorrow, November 4, 2013, he will be announcing his candidacy for governor -- and the chance to unseat his successor, the deeply unpopular Rick Scott.
To be certain, Crist's entry into the gubernatorial race will present both political and instinctual problems for Democrats as well. To many Democrats, Charlie Crist is a politician who lacks any principle -- short of being elected. And goodness knows, as a member of the Republican party, he was elected to a lot of different posts: Florida State Senate (1992-2000), Commissioner of Education (2001-2003), Attorney General (2003-2007) and finally, Governor (2007-2011). Throughout his nearly two decades in elective office Governor Crist was a hard man to pin a political label on. A strong supporter of gun rights and charter schools, he opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, staunchly supported environmental measures meant to save the Everglades, and opposed then-Governor Jeb Bush in the highly-charged case of Terry Schiavo. Since leaving the governor's mansion, Crist has come out in favor of same-sex marriage, a measure he opposed in years past.
Unlike Governor Rick Scott who has a fairly narrow comfort zone, Charlie Crist is man who truly enjoys hanging out with the masses. He is one of the best retail politicians in the business. Back in the days when he was a member of the Florida Senate, I was invited to give the daily invocation. Upon finishing the opening prayer, I was escorted through the chamber by my good friend Senator Walter "Skip" Campbell, who proceeded to introduce me to many of his colleagues. One of them was Charlie Crist, who engaged me in no more than a minute's worth of small talk. I remember him being both pleasant and approachable, and brandishing a real, non-politician's smile. Amazingly, two days later I received a hand-written note from Senator Crist telling me how glad he was to have made my acquaintance, repeating a few words from my invocation, and ending by letting me know that if there was ever anything he could do for me, just ask. I remember saying to myself "Now there's a politician with a future!"
Although he is nearly 24-hours away from making his official announcement, Charlie Crist is already the front-runner to capture the Democratic nomination. Former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich has been out campaigning for the nomination for more than a year. Senator Rich is one of the most honorable, ethical and results-oriented political leaders in Florida. But despite having traveled the length and breadth of the state and logging in more than 120,000 miles on her car, she has scant name recognition and little money in the bank. By comparison, Charlie Crist has almost universal name recognition here in Florida and will easily be able to raise the millions upon millions of dollars necessary if he is to defeat Rick Scott a year from today. I can't see too many Republicans voting for Charlie; that would be the equivalent of a Red Sox fan rooting for the Yankees. As for Democrats, the question will undoubtedly be which is stronger: loyalty to the Democratic Party and those who have long toiled in its vineyards -- like Nan Rich -- or the obsession with getting Rick Scott out of office.
The fact that the Red Sox finally captured the flag while playing at Fenway doesn't necessarily lessen Boston's hatred for the Yankees; it does, however, make it a whole lot less important. In the same way, Charlie Crist's entering the gubernatorial race likely won't lessen Republican hatred of him one whit; it could, however, gain him a whole lot of new friends and supporters who want to see Rick Scott sent back to the minors.
And by the way, anybody know what Charlie Crist's first job was upon graduating law school?
He was counsel for Minor League Baseball . . .
-2013 Kurt F. Stone