Did a lovely Queen Anne home in Larchmont ignite the most famous curse in sports and the birth of a baseball dynasty?
The 5,554-square-foot house — whose many amenities include a fully updated country-style kitchen with an original butler’s pantry — once belonged to Harry Frazee (1880-1929), the Boston Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season, giving rise to “The curse of the Bambino,” Ruth’s nickname, and adding a particularly juicy chapter to one of the longest and greatest rivalries in sports.
After that trade, the Red Sox fortunes plummeted. The team would not finish above .500 until 1934, would not win another pennant until 1946 and would not win another World Series until 2004 — the third-longest drought in MLB history. The Yanks’ trajectory was the exact opposite as they have gone on to become the most successful franchise in North America (although Bosox fans can take comfort in the knowledge that the Sox have won more World Series than the Bombers in this still-young century).
Frazee — who was also a theatrical agent, director and producer — sold the robust, rascally, Rabelaisian Ruth to the Yanks because he needed cash to fund his Broadway musical, “No, No, Nanette.” Or so the legend goes. And, in the words of the 1962 film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” But historians now agree that Frazee has gotten a bum rap. “No, No, Nanette” didn’t open until 1925, (although its nonmusical predecessor, “My Lady Friends,” did bow on Broadway in December 1919). The brilliantly talented Ruth was a handful. And Frazee’s trade options were hampered by World War I, which had depleted rosters and American League rules. It appears Frazee’s hand may have been forced. (Or maybe he was giving Ruth a chance to play for a team he wouldn’t have to carry by himself.)
Ah, but is it possible that a certain Victorian — with its glass-enclosed wraparound front porch, lordly porte cochère, coffered and plaster ceilings and stone fireplaces — played a role in the intrigue? It’s interesting that Frazee bought his Sound Shore home, which sits on .70 acres, just a few months after unloading the Babe for cash. (He lived there from 1920 to 1924.) What is certain is that Frazee’s ties to the Great White Way made him more of a New Yorker than a Bostonian. He needed a home that was, in the words of the George M. Cohan musical, “Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway” — and a short stroll to the train station. With its original butler’s pantry, formal dining room and seven bedrooms and five and a half baths — now all restored and updated — the house must’ve been ideal for entertaining his Broadway pals on weekends.
Clearly, Frazee thought so, because he later sold it to playwright Daniel Kussel (“The Party’s Over”). Kussel deeded the house to his mother and to his brother Milton, who lived there for 47 years.
Today, the house is on the market for $2,993,000. And Frazee is a permanent resident of another Westchester community, being buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, not far from the Gate of Heaven grave of … Babe Ruth.
For more, contact Arlene Gibbs at 914-420-3344 or Arlene.Gibbs@Juliabfee.com.