The ghost of John Wilkes Booth is apparently quite busy these days. In addition to haunting two major opera houses, countless Ouija boards, and the location where he was hanged, the spirit is also said to be haunting a Washington baseball team. The ghost is said to be interfering subtly with the league’s teams.
The game of baseball can trace its roots back to Town Ball played in the United States as a variant ball and stick. Other versions of the game, such as Rounders were actually played by Abraham Lincoln himself as the game continued to gain in popularity during his term in office. There was even a myth attaching Lincoln to the game as he spoke to Abner Doubleday. In the myth, Lincoln turned to Abner and said, “Don’t let Baseball die.” Perhaps this story is what brought about this tongue in cheek claim that John Wilkes Booth was trying to disrupt the game.
While the specifics are rare, Booth has been the focus of a blame game that he has been thus far unable to play defense on. But Booth isn’t alone in Baseball lore. In fact, Philadelphia has been the source of another major legend, that of Billy or William Penn who is said to be responsible for the mysterious coincidences resulting in the failings of several sports teams coming out of Philadelphia.
William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia made a verbal contract with the city administrators that no building would rise above the town’s city hall, atop which rested a statue of Penn himself. The agreement was honored until 1987 when a new skyscraper was erected and dwarfed the city hall with Penn’s statue on it. As the city’s sports teams had enjoyed several years of big wins, when they suddenly all started running into a string of bad luck, the statue was considered. It was eventually lifted only after a miniature figurine was placed atop the new tallest building in the city and in 2008 the Philadelphia Phillies won the world series.
The San Francisco Giants also had a “hex” placed on them causing them to lose 50 years in a row as a result of the “Krukow Curse.” Every year the team essentially does the opposite of what announcer and former team member Mike Krukow says will happen with some regularity.
So it seems John Wilkes Booth isn’t alone in being blamed for a team’s woes. And perhaps it is just a team’s passing tongue in cheek response to something amusing and unexplainable. But while it may not necessarily be John Wilkes Booth’s ghost effecting the players on the field, is the legend itself having an effect? Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport with curses following teams, pre-game rituals becoming almost religious in their iconography, and symbolism as deep as the nation’s capital. And John Wilkes Booth is probably a likely scapegoat for team woes. If baseball is one of the nation’s favorite pass-times, then who better to blame for a bad season than a presidential assassin?