By Tim Wiles
The Red Sox may have won it all last night, but back in 1976, they suffered through a losing streak so intense that they looked outside the foul lines for some help – from an honest-to-goodness witch.
From April 29th to May 11th, the Sox, reigning American League Champs, lost 10 in a row. According to a Peter Gammons article in the Boston Globe of May 12th, a local media outlet, Channel 4, reached out to Laurie Cabot, the official witch of nearby Salem, Mass.
Cabot had been designated Salem’s official witch by Governor Mike Dukakis, in honor of her work with special needs children, according to her official website. Cabot still resides in Salem, where she operated a witchcraft shop for nearly 40 years, and also taught witchcraft at Salem State College, Wellesley College, and Harvard, according to a 2012 article on Boston.com.
The Globe article quotes a Channel 4 source saying that Cabot “would be at the ball park for the purpose of coordinating the energy of the Sox players.” An article the next day featured a photo of Cabot, her long dark hair encased within a Red Sox cap, on the field “laying some good vibes” on Bernie Carbo’s bat.
“I hope she puts a hex on my bat that will make me go on a hot streak for six months,” said Carbo.
Carlton Fisk was not so enthusiastic, saying “It’s weak. The players don’t appreciate it. It’s making a joke of the game and it’s not funny.”
But whether or not Cabot was effective, the team quickly turned around, coming from behind to defeat Clevealnd in 12 innings, with Carbo and Fisk both contributing a hit and an RBI. The Red Sox went on to win eight of their next nine.
Carbo’s wish for a six-month hot streak did not come true, as he hit .235 that season, 29 points below his career batting average. A closer look at the numbers, though, indicates that Cabot may have been an inspiration, at least. Carbo hit .273 in May and .291 in June before suffering through a .200 July performance. He bounced back to hit .296 in August.
You can make up your own mind about whether the Sox won those eight games on their own, or whether they got an assist from the Official Witch of Salem Massachusetts. But, as Casey Stengel famously said, “You could look it up.”
Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum