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Pond Searched for Babe Ruth’s Piano

November 15, 2002

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SUDBURY, Mass. (AP) _ The search is on for Babe Ruth’s piano, thought to be at the bottom of a pond and perhaps the key to breaking the legendary curse that plagues the Boston Red Sox.

John Fish of American Underwater Search and Survey combed the surface of Willis Pond on Friday with an advanced magnetometer, which can detect metal and pinpoint its location.

He got ``seven or eight″ hits on objects that could be the piano the Babe is said to have pitched into the pond, said Eloise Newell of the Restoration Project in Sudbury, which is sponsoring the search.

Fish will analyze the data, along with topographical information about the pond bottom, and determine which objects are most likely the piano. Paul Murphy of M. Steinert & Sons piano retailers and restorers in Boston said he’s agreed to help Fish determine which metal objects are most likely part of a piano.

Divers will return later to check out the most promising spots. The final answer may not come for some time, Newell said.

The ``Curse of the Bambino″ is said to have begun when the Red Sox sold the Babe to the New York Yankees in 1920. The Red Sox haven’t won a World Series since.

But some note Boston’s World Series drought began even sooner than that _ after its last championship in 1918. The Babe was said to have tossed the piano in the offseason after that year.

Newell believes retrieving the piano will end the curse.

``Absolutely,″ she said.

Newell said she hoped to use the piano’s discovery to draw attention to mental illness, saying both the curse and mental illness come with an undeserved stigma. The Restoration Project is a rehabilitation program for adults with mental illness and head injuries.

Fish, who is looking for the Babe’s piano for free, has taken on projects with far more importance, including the search for pieces of TWA Flight 800 after the plane crashed off New York in 1996.

He also assisted in the search at Ground Zero for the black boxes of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.

Fish’s efforts are the fourth search for the piano.

The Babe vacationed at the cabin during the offseason in 1917 and 1918. It’s not clear how the piano might have ended up in the pond, though theories abound, many involving the Babe’s legendary fondness for alcohol.

One theory is that Ruth tossed it in as a display of strength. Another holds that he was frustrated because the piano was out of tune and got rid of it. A more quaint theory has the Babe moving the piano onto the frozen pond because a singalong he was hosting for area children became too crowded in his cabin. He’s said to have left it on the pond, where it eventually fell through the ice.

A group of boys are said to have spotted metal from the piano in 1957 after three years of drought lowered the pond’s water level. The piano’s presence in the pond is also recorded in a written history of Sudbury.

Newell is confident that Fish will answer the questions, once and for all.

``If he can’t find it, it just can’t be found,″ she said.

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