It's a barstool of dreams

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

The Tampa bar near Legends Field was a hole in the wall. Illuminated by two TVs the light shone only when the door opened, someone coming or going, allowing sunlight through the portal.

"Diet Coke? What kind of ball writer are you?" snorted the big guy who pulled up the stool alongside me.

Without looking, I mumbled an answer.

"I'm just hangin' around since the boys headed north, but I'll be there for the first pitch tonight," he said.

Turning to look at the man beside me, I stammered: "Why, it's you ... No. 3."

"Well, it ain't Edgar Renteria," the ghostly figure said. "I thought that was a nice touch ... Renteria wearing my number for the Cardinals last fall, making the final out in the World Series to let the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino after 86 years."

I asked the bartender for a drink for Babe Ruth. The barkeep said: "Get who a drink? You're alone."

The big man beside me explained that not everyone can see him, then pounded his fist on the bar and bellowed: "Order a beer and some whiskey -- the good kind -- and slide it to me."

The 2005 season starts tonight at that big remodeled stadium in the Bronx. A young Babe Ruth was once credited for building the original one. Ruth's old Yanks face his old Red Sox and, for the first time since 1918, Boston begins as the defending champs.

"People in Boston had suffered enough, what the heck, give them a bone," the Babe said. "George Steinbrenner never invites me to Yankee Oldtimers Days any more ."

But you're ...

"Hall of Fame players never die. We just get called up to another league. Don't you know anything? Now what was I saying?"

You said you thought it was time for Boston to win, that you had something to do with it?

"Remember Game 4, the Sox down 3-0, Mariano Rivera on the mound. He has never blown a save. Dave Roberts is on first, the Sox are a strike away from being swept. Roberts steals and if Jorge Posada's throw is two feet to the second base side, Roberts is out. I made sure it wasn't."

You moved the ball?

"Naw, it was a burp," he said. "I couldn't help it after 14 Fenway franks and 11 Sam Adams. I saw how excited the fans were and thought what the heck."

Boston went on to win that game in the 12th inning on a David Ortiz homer.

So, did you have anything to do with Game 5, a 5-4 Boston win?

"Sure. Rivera always blows back-to-back saves," he said. "How about the 13th inning when Tim Wakefield almost threw his fourth passed ball with Gary Sheffield on third? You think the ball bounced and hit Jason Varitek because he is lucky?"

And Game 6 when the Sox won 4-2 to force a seventh?

"I whispered in Alex Rodriguez's ear to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove, but I didn't know the umps would get it right," he said. "Game 7, I just watched, I had nothing to do with that."

He also said he has nothing against Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds.

"Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry cheated with their spitballs and Ty Cobb, well no one speaks to him," the Babe said.

"They cheated, but who doesn't in baseball."

His plans for this season besides watching more ball?

"Well, Frank Chance, Kiki Cuyler, Gabby Hartnett and Hack Wilson want me at Wrigley, but no way. Why? I like Cubs fans and I didn't mind Al Capone. But Frank Nitti cut me off once at a speakeasy, so I ain't doing Chicago any favours."

Well, the curse is over.

"Maybe for the Red Sox. There are 29 other ones still living," he said.

"Buy me another one and I'll tell you about the Curse of Domingo Martinez after the Blue Jays traded him."


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