Orphaned at age 14, Joseph J. Lannin migrated from Quebec City to Boston in search of work in the 1880s. The ambitious youngster landed a job as a bellhop at the Adams Hotel in Beantown, where he learned about real estate and the commodities market by listening to wealthy patrons. A true rags-to-riches story, Lannin successfully invested his savings and eventually built an empire of hotels, apartment buildings and golf courses.
Though a skilled lacrosse player himself, Lannin became a devoted baseball fan and with his fortune, was able to buy the Boston Red Sox in 1914. That same year, he also purchased the rights to a promising young lefthander named Babe Ruth from the International League’s Baltimore Orioles. Under Lannin’s reign, the Bambino was assigned to the Red Sox farm club in Providence for a short period, where on a road trip, Ruth would belt his first professional home run at Hanlan’s Point in Toronto.
After The Sultan of Swat was promoted to big club, the Red Sox would capture World Series titles in 1915 and 1916. But because he considered himself too much of a fan, Lannin decided to sell the team to Harry Frazee after the second championship. It was Frazee who would then sell Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920, initiating an 86-year championship drought for the Red Sox that superstitious supporters attributed to “The Curse of the Bambino.”