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The curse of the colonel

Colonel Sanders, a dirty canal, and a deepening Japanese baseball mystery.

There is another superstition surrounding the Tigers that has particular resonance during these troubled times: on the rare occasion when Hanshin wins championships, the Japanese economy grows. A Tiger economy, if you will.

The Tigers first two Central League wins were in 1962 and 1964 — just as the Japanese post-war economic miracle went into overdrive, finishing the decade with average annualized growth of over 10 percent. Shortly after the 1985 Series win, the now infamous bubble economy began its accelerated drive skywards.

It took another 18 years for the Tigers to reach the Japan Series, winning the Central League in 2003 — the year that marks the end of the post-bubble slump known as ‘the lost decade.’ Even the then finance minister, Heizo Takenaka, was cheering for a Tigers win, saying it would “Change the economic landscape in Japan.”

Still under the spell of the curse, they lost the Series, but the Japanese economy began a growth spurt that lasted until the current slowdown.

So what are Japan's baseball gods saying now?

The benchmark Nikkei index jumped nearly 14 percent in the two weeks since the Colonel was rescued. And hope, a familar feeling to baseball fans worldwide this time of year, is springing eternal. At least with Tiger fans.

Hiro Takayama, for one, is in no doubt as to the importance of recovering the Colonel. “The curse is broken now they’ve found the statue. The Tigers are sure to win the Central League and the Japan Series this season and then business is bound to start improving too."

As for the real Randy Bass? 

He's now a Democratic state senator in Oklahoma, who now resembles Colonel Sanders even more than he did in his glory days with the Hanshin Tigers.

More GlobalPost dispatches from Japan:

Japan's sumo scandals

Monks venture into bars and rap