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Chad Curtis and the curse of the 1998 New York Yankees
One of the best teams in baseball history has been plagued by arrests, drug addiction, and suicide
The team at a happier moment.
The team at a happier moment. (Doug Pensinger /Alls/Getty Images)
T

he 1998 Yankees are one of the most hallowed teams in Major League Baseball's history. Not only did they sweep the World Series, but won 114 games, a franchise record that at the time was the American League record, too. Tom Verducci at Sports illustrated wrote back then that the team was "the perfect tongue-and-groove fit of their parts, as subtle as a wine's bouquet. It was a team you had to see to believe."

Unfortunately, the 1998 team's performance off the field is now what needs to be seen to be believed. This week, outfielder Chad Curtis was sentenced to prison for child abuse, but there's been an unusual amount of trouble plaguing the 1998 team. Here are the alums bearing what has become something of a curse for the 1998 New York Yankees:

Chad Curtis


(Vincent Laforet /Allsport/Getty Images)

While not the strongest member of the 1998 Yankees by any means, Chad Curtis had his moments, going two for three in his one appearance in the American League Division Series. The 1999 postseason was much stronger for Curtis, but unfortunately no one will think of his walk-off home run against the Atlanta Braves without also calling to mind his recent conviction for child abuse.

Yesterday, Curtis was sentenced to seven to 15 years for inappropriately touching two 15-year-old girls on their buttocks and touching and kissing a 16-year-old girl's breast while volunteering as a coach at a Michigan high school. Curtis has maintained "that the three girls lied, while calling himself a Christian servant," according to TIME.

Chuck Knoblauch


(Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect/Getty Images)

One of the most reliable and beloved members of the Yankee dynasty, Chuck Knoblauch helped the Yankees win the 1998 World Series with his strong skills at second base and a team high of 31 stolen bases. It was the first of three consecutive World Series he would help the Bronx Bombers snag.

Things went downhill after the 2001 season, though. Knoblauch joined the Kansas City Royals in 2002, but failed to earn a contract for 2003. Far worse, though, in 2009 he was arrested for allegedly hitting and choking his common-law wife after a night of heavy drinking and Xanax. He was ultimately convicted for domestic assault.

Though Knoblauch moved to Houston, he apparently made an odd return to New York in which he drunkenly hit on women on the G train while wearing chef pants.

Darryl Strawberry


(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Between drug rehab stints, soliciting a prostitute, and jail time, an entire article could be devoted to the problems that have plagued Darryl Strawberry (and many, many have). While considered a top player of the 1980s and 1990s for both the New York Yankees and Mets, he might be the most troubled baseball player of that era. Even before joining the Yankees, he had a cocaine problem, but his legal troubles seemed to pile up after the 1998 World Series.

In 1999, he was arrested in Florida for soliciting sex from a policewoman posing as a prostitute and was discovered to have cocaine on him. In 2000, he drove to see his probation officer after taking painkillers, and then proceeded to black out, rear-end another car, and try to drive away before being arrested. From 2000 to 2003 he intermittently abused drugs, violated his parole, and served prison time. And for unclear reasons, in 2005 he filed a false report that his SUV was missing. To make matters worse, during many of these years he was also battling colon cancer.

But things may be looking up for Strawberry. He met his third wife at a narcotics treatment center, and the two have been ordained ministers, opening The Darryl and Tracy Strawberry Christian Recovery Program in Longview, Texas. "I love the game, he said, "but I love the Bible more."

Hideki Irabu


(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, there is no such happy ending for Hideki Irabu. Although he entered the American baseball world in 1997 with excitement bubbling around him, he ultimately failed to live up to high expectations.

The 1998 season was a career best for Hideki Irabu, going a solid 13-9 for the Yankees and pitching 173 innings. But things were never easy for him on the team. Owner George Steinbrenner made fun of his weight and called him a "fat toad" the next season. After he was traded to the Montreal Expos following the 1999 season, he only played three more.

Apparently, his greatest disappointment, though, was his wife leaving him in 2011. After taking their two young daughters with her, Irabu committed suicide in their Rancho Palos Verdes home at the age of 42.

Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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