FEATURE: Curse of Sophie Continues to Hang Over Miami Marlins After Seven Years
By Allison Testrake
MIAMI (Special to TSD) Though no one in the Miami Marlins organization will officially or freely admit it, the Curse of Sophie has been haunting the ball club for five years. There have of course been supposed curses on baseball teams in the past like the Curse of the Bambino on the Boston Red Sox and the Curse of Billy Penn on the Philadelphia Phillies. Both of those curses have been lifted over the past few years as both ball clubs have won championships. The Billy Goat Curse that sits like a dark cloud over the Chicago Cubs continues to this day, as the Northsiders haven’t played in a World Series since 1945, and haven’t won one since 1908.
Conversely, the Curse of Sophie is relatively new, but apparently packs a powerful wallop. Personally, I’m not much into curses, but this one admittedly has an intriguing backstory.
The following is from a Wikipedia entry:
The curse got it’s start when Sophia Panatakis, was visiting from Greece. She was staying with relatives in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a short distance from Sun Life Stadium.
Her nephew George Banos, was a freelance photographer who had requested a media credential to take photos for a book that author Marv Becker was writing on expansion in baseball. On Tuesday, September 2, 2008, Banos had arrived at the park with his parents, sister Mary, brother Michael and Aunt Sophie. George had arranged for tickets for his family to see the Marlins host the Atlanta Braves. But when George went to Media Will Call for his credential, he was told it wasn’t there. George explained the situation, but apparently to no avail. He wound up having to leave his camera equipment in his van, and had to buy a single ticket as close to his family as was possible.
When it was explained to his Aunt Sophie what had happened, she became outraged. The game was a slugfest and was tied 14-14 going into the ninth inning. As Sophie’s rage for the Marlins grew, so did her wrath. It was then when she put the curse on the team. The Braves scored two runs in the top of the ninth, and the Marlins went down quietly in the bottom of the inning, losing 16-14.
Afterwards, the 77 year old Sophie claimed she had placed what the Greeks call the “mati” or curse on the team forever, for putting her nephew in such a difficult position. Banos was later fired from his photography assignment by Becker. Sophia Panatakis returned a week later to her village of Valtesiniko, Greece vowing to never lift the hex.
I contacted Clive Whitford, a renowned, semi-retired baseball historian who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“It’s been kind of downhill from there really,” the bespectacled 63 year old opined regarding the 16-14 game. “The team may have some gifted athletes and talented players and even coaches, but the problems lie more directly within the organization itself. Even before the Sophie curse took hold, the team’s had a long history of confounding decision making over the years — like the Mermaids for example. It is widely considered poor form to have cheerleaders in baseball, yet the Marlins ignored this unwritten mandate and proceeded with this ill conceived in-game entertainment snafu which draws the ire and chuckles of opponents league wide. Practically every promotional concept fails. You’ve got among the worst concessions in baseball, abysmal attendance, and a team mired in near the bottom of the standings. Up until their move into the new facility, they led baseball in rain delays. Every instinct this team has, has proven to be the wrong one, concrete evidence, in my humble opinion, that the hex is alive and well, and will follow them wherever they go.”
A rumor that has circulated recently, is that the team has reached out to George Banos to make things good, as perhaps a display of good public relations. The team denies this. But if it is true, is the effort really more about getting Banos to approach his aunt to lift the curse?
“Why should the Marlins dignify any of this curse stuff with a response,” said MLB Public Relations executive Mike Teevan. “All the team cares about is getting on with the business of baseball.”
Apparently, for those who believe in such things, the Curse of Sophie will go on and on. For the rest of us, it’ll make for entertaining reading or something to be bandied about when something strange happens to the Marlins, while we throw salt over our shoulders — just in case.