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Despite having ending his professional sports career over 20 years ago, state Sen. Randy Bass remains a celebrity in Japan. When a Colonel Sanders statue meant to represent his likeness emerged from the Dotonburi River in Osaka this week, positive memories were sparked for fans of the Hanshin Tigers, and Bass was once again in the news in Japan and around the world.
Before embarking upon the most successful run of any American in Japanese professional baseball, Bass had a lengthy career in the Major Leagues. From 1977 to 1982, Bass played for Minnesota Twins, the Texas Rangers, the Kansas City Royals and the Montreal Expos. After signing with the Hanshin Tigers in 1983, Bass would go on to win four straight league batting titles and two consecutive triple crowns.
After Bass’ play sparked the Hanshin Tigers to a national championship in 1985, fans crowded the Osaka streets in celebration. The statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot was taken from a nearby restaurant and thrown into the river in celebration, as fans thought Bass resembled the Colonel. Having not won another national championship since 1985, some fans of the Hanshin Tigers have attributed their championship drought to the “Curse of the Colonel”. With the statue having been retrieved, both Tiger fans and Sen. Bass hope the “Curse” will be lifted.
“Fans had dressed up to look like other members of the team, but they had no one who looked like me,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “So they grabbed the Colonel Sanders statue from the Kentucky Fried Chicken by the stadium, put my jersey on it and threw it into the river where it’s been lost for 24 years.”
The “Curse” has become such a staple of franchise lore that fans have repeatedly made unsuccessful expeditions to find the statue. Some fans have made offers of forgiveness to other Colonel Sanders statues in hopes of breaking the curse. On Wednesday, workers discovered the statue while constructing a walkway in the Dotonburi area.
“I’ve been back to Japan every year since I retired in 1988 and on every trip it’s always been “The Curse of Colonel” that the fans feel has held the team back,” Bass said. “Now that they’ve found the Colonel, the curse is over and it’s time to put your money on the Tigers. It’s history for the Tigers to find the Colonel, and it great for the fans.”
The recovered statue may be donated to the home stadium of the Hanshin Tigers.