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Baseball is the most superstitious of sports. From players refusing to touch the foul lines and fans who don't move during rallies to pretty much everything Turk Wendell ever did, the game is steeped in routine and ritual. It's why Wade Boggs had to have chicken before every game, and why he took exactly 150 groundballs during infield practice -- everyday.

The great thing about superstition in sports is that it makes explaining a loss or failure a lot easier. If he needed to, Turk Wendell could always chalk up a bad outing to, say, not eating enough black licorice. Larry Walker could think he struck out because he didn't take his practice swings in a multiple of three.

Of course, when losses and disappointments start adding up in colossal numbers, superstition berths something horrible: the curse. After all, if a goat getting kicked out of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field isn't responsible for the Cubs mighty struggles, what is?

Well, when you thought you'd heard it all -- when you thought you'd seen the most bizarre and ridiculous sports curses around -- this little nugget arrived courtesy of baseball-crazy Japan:

Japanese baseball fans in Osaka hope to have lifted "the curse of Colonel Sanders" when a statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken founder rose from the sludge of a local river after a quarter century.

When the city's Hanshin Tigers won the national championship in 1985, ecstatic fans hurled the fast food icon into a river to honour their team's bearded US slugger and home run king Randy Bass, saying he resembled the Colonel.

Baseball lore in the western city recalls how the drunken supporters "liberated" the bespectacled figure from a restaurant and threw him from a bridge into the grey waters of the Dotonbori river, hours after their first ever victory.

Since that crazy night the team's fortunes have sunk as fast as the life-sized statue. The Tigers have failed to sign promising rookies and never won another national championship, in a streak of ill fortune that has become known as "the curse of Colonel Sanders" across baseball-obsessed Japan.

And there you have it, Osaka. Twenty-three years of baseball futility had nothing to do with bad personnel or bad management; it was all a result of a night of revelry that left KFC's founder submerged in a river.

With the Colonel (who, by the way, wasn't really a colonel) safely back on shore -- if you consider missing his feet, a hand and his spectacles, "safely" -- maybe the Hanshin Tigers' nightmare is finally over. Perhaps "the curse of Colonel Sanders" is finally lifted. One can only hope.

Japan baseball fans hope to lift "Col Sanders' curse" [AFP]

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