Curse of the Colonel refers to an urban legend regarding a reputed curse placed on the Japanese Kansai-based Hanshin Tigers baseball team by deceased KFC founder and mascot Colonel Harland Sanders. The curse was said to be placed on the team because of the Colonel's anger over treatment of one of his store-front statues.
In 1985, much to Japanese people's surprise, the Hanshin Tigers faced the Seibu Lions and took their first and only victory in the Japan Series, largely due to star slugger Randy Bass, a gaijin (foreigner) player for the team.
The rabid fan base went wild, and a riotous celebration gathered at Ebisubashi Bridge in Dotonbori, Osaka. There, an assemblage of supporters yelled the players names, and with every name a fan resembling a member of the victorious team leapt from the bridge into the waiting canal. However, lacking someone to imitate MVP Randy Bass, the rabid crowd seized a Colonel Sanders (like Bass, the Colonel had a beard and was not Japanese) plastic statue from a nearby KFC and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy.
This impulsive maneuver was to cost the team greatly, beginning the Curse of the Colonel. Urban legend has it that the Tigers will not win the championship again until the statue is recovered.
In 2003, the Tigers had an unexpectedly strong season. Their chief rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, lost their star player, Hideki Matsui, while the Tigers gained a pitcher Hideki Irabu, who had returned from playing with the Texas Rangers. The Tigers won the Central League to qualify for the Japan Series, and many newspapers speculated that the Curse of the Colonel had finally been broken.
Fans were enthusiastic about winning the Central League, and repeated the celebratory leap into Dotonbori Canal. However, instead of the individual leapers representing the players, over 5,300 fans plunged into the canal.
Many KFC outlets in Kōbe and Ōsaka moved their Colonel Sanders statues inside until the series was over to protect them from rabid Tigers fans The newly replaced Colonel Sanders statue in the Dotonbori KFC branch was bolted down to prevent a repeat of the incident.
The Tigers lost the Japan Series, this time to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so the curse is presumably intact.