|Saturday, February 23
Sunken piano could be music to Sox fans' ears
BOSTON -- Red Sox fans will go to any depths to break the Curse of the Bambino.
On Saturday, a group went to the bottom of a suburban Boston pond in search of Babe Ruth's piano, which, the story goes, was tossed into the water by the slugger in 1918.
The group hopes to refurbish the piano and play it again, just as the Babe did in 1918, the last time the Red Sox won a World Series. A season later, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, who have since won 26 championships.
"Once we bring this up, the Red Sox will win," Sudbury historian Lee Swanson said.
The search is sponsored by the Restoration Project, a rehabilitation program for adults with mental illness and head injuries. It received a search permit from the state -- Willis Pond is state property.
If the piano is positively identified, an excavation permit would be needed to retrieve it.
"We're confident we can save it and play it again," said Kevin Kennedy, a local upholsterer who volunteers with the group. "Wouldn't that be something? The last person to play this piano was Babe Ruth. Who knows -- it could end up at Fenway Park."
Five divers tried a blind search Saturday because visibility was poor, said Chris Hugo, who works with the state Board of Underwater Archaeological Research. They didn't locate the piano but said they'll return with a "sub-bottom profiler," a sonar scanner to get through sediment.
Organizers say they have proof the piano is there. On Dec. 22, Hugo used an infared camera and identified a "rectangular shape with wiry weeds" at the bottom, 15 feet below the surface and near shore.
The piano story has been local legend ever since Ruth rented a cottage near the pond in 1917 and 1918.
Kennedy heard the stories after moving to the area last year and investigated. If indeed the piano was there, he thought, he could refurbish it with help from the Restoration Project.
It would be a way to exorcise a baseball demon in the name of charity, said Kennedy, who calls himself "your average frustrated fan."
But first, they had to find the piano. Enter historians Swanson and Curt Garfield. Garfield wrote "The 100-year History of Sudbury," in which he identified Willis Pond as the resting place of Ruth's piano.
Still, Kennedy wanted more proof.
He called the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum -- a block from Camden Yards in Baltimore -- and spoke to director Greg Schwalenberg, who found a photo dated "winter 1917-1918" showing Ruth posing at the cottage.
Next, they found a letter in the archives of the late historian Ralph Sheridan, a friend of Ruth's from nearby Maynard, describing how Ruth often "sang around the piano with friends," Kennedy said.
The letter also described a 15-foot incline from the lake to the cottage -- a perfect launching point.
If excavated, the piano would be state property, but the Restoration Project would have preservation rights. State guidelines require that the group outline how it would conserve the piano and how it would pay for it. The nonprofit group says it will hold fund-raising events.
Ruth was drawn to the pond, Swanson said, because several teammates lived nearby. The area, he said, soon became a hotbed of illegal drinking for Boston gangsters during Prohibition.
By that time, Ruth was leading the Yankees to World Series victories. Many Boston fans believe their beloved Red Sox have been cursed ever since.
"I certainly believe there's something going on," Kennedy said. "In 80 years, we haven't had a championship in Boston in baseball. Perhaps we can eliminate whatever this is -- whether it's a curse or a psychological block."