Tuesday night, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came one slow roller away from adding himself to New England’s long list of sports bogeymen. Kimbrel’s inability to throw strikes consistently in the ninth inning of Boston’s American League Divisional Series against the New York Yankees was the stuff of nightmares.

This one had a happy ending. Many other times, we haven’t been so lucky.

Here in New England, where Stephen King spins his tales, and before him HP Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson, we know there’s things of which to be afraid. We know sinister forces can turn popups into home runs and routine ground balls into panic attacks.

These are the stories we tell around campfires or on windy fall nights. Halloween is approaching, and we know the sports monsters are real …

• Some say on a cool October afternoon 40 years ago, just before he stepped onto the Fenway Park grass, Bucky Dent met the devil at the Rathskeller, a bar in nearby Kenmore Square. There, they say Dent sold his soul for the thing so many men crave. Power. Not the power that makes nations tremble or captain of industry cower. No, Dent needed just enough power to push a lazy fly ball over Fenway’s Green Monster.

Our Puritan ancestors surely would have thought Dent a witch. Modern science would have you dismiss that claim with talk of launch angles and wind, but know this: Before lifting that Mike Torrez pitch into the netting above the Green Monster that day 40 years ago, Dent had 22 career home runs in approximately five full seasons. After, Dent hit 17 home runs in six more seasons.

Did Dent’s one at-bat power surge have diabolical origins? Forty years later, from Providence to Presque Isle, Dent’s name still evokes a curse word.

• Bill Buckner was a strong ballplayer, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who stoically took the field game after game and did his job. Buckner was the epitome of professional, even after the injuries started.

A tweaked muscle here. A stiff knee there. Mookie Wilson’s ground ball was right at Buckner. The veteran first baseman had fielded balls like this hundreds of times, maybe thousands, in his long major league career. But when Buckner tried to get in position to make the play, something held him back…

Was there really a voodoo doll found in the underbelly of Shea Stadium that night? Did it really have a crudely drawn 6 on its back, the number worn by Buckner? Was there really one pin still jutting from the doll’s lower back?

• David Tyree had such an unassuming professional football career, some wonder if he was real at all. Going into the 2008 Super Bowl in February, Tyree’s season was practically an illusion. Playing for the New York Giants, Tyree made four catches in the regular season. Yet he had three catches in the Super Bowl. The one everybody remembers, the one that was so illogical, the one that could only be made with supernatural help, came late in the fourth quarter, as the Giants were driving for what would be the go-ahead touchdown.

Closely covered by New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, Tyree leapt and caught the Eli Manning pass by pinning the ball to his own helmet. It’s a catch a man probably couldn’t make, but a ghost?

Tyree never caught another pass in the NFL. It’s as if he just … disappeared.

But that’s just superstition, right?


Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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