Thousands of New Yorkers will stream into Yankee Stadium for Opening Day this week, allowed to fill 20% of the seats thanks to relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
Jake Curzon, 10, an avid Yankees fan from Illinois, thinks the legendary Babe Ruth — and a letter Jake wrote to him at the height of the pandemic last year — might have had a little something to do with it, in a spiritual sense.
"I know Babe Ruth is an angel now, and he is looking down on us, all the Yankee fans and New York," Jake said in a telephone interview from his home in South Elkin.
Jake’s note to Ruth, written the day after the canceled Opening Day of 2020, eventually wound up at The Bambino’s grave in Westchester County. It expressed disbelief that the baseball season was off.
"Would you ever imagine this would happen?" Jake said in the letter. "The sport you loved is canceled. For the spring and maybe summer."
The letter, which eventually made Jake a media star of sorts in his hometown, came about after his mother, Jolene Curzon, had her son and three other children begin writing letters to friends and relatives to pass the time during the early days of the pandemic.
"He decided, 'Let's write a letter to Babe Ruth,'" she recalled.
Ruth was something of a mythical figure for Jake. His grandfather Edward Curzon, who had worked at the old Polo Grounds, would regale the youngster with tales of Ruth's career. Ruth died Aug. 6, 1948, at the age of 53 and is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne.
Jake wrote in clear lettering on a sheet of school notebook paper. "My family loves the Yankees. My Papa worked at the Polo Grounds when he was young. Maybe you have met him in Heaven? … And he loved watching you play.
"We hope this virus ends soon."
Jake’s mom sent the letter to her sister-in-law in Westchester, who attempted to enter Gate of Heaven Cemetery to place the letter on Ruth’s grave. She couldn't get in, but some groundskeepers offered to take the letter, along with Jake’s picture of him wearing a Yankees cap, to the grave site.
"It was sort of sweet, a little boy's perspective," Jolene Curzon said of the note.
The letter, encased in a protective plastic sleeve, stayed by Ruth’s grave throughout the summer and into the fall among all sorts of other memorabilia left by fans: dozens of baseballs, baseball bats, some caps, American flags and some crucifixes.
Jolene Curzon doesn’t know if the letter survived the winter, and cemetery officials couldn’t be reached Wednesday. But it got a short television plug on the CBS Evening News last June, and the publicity made him a celebrity back home.
"When I got back to school the next day, everyone said, ‘Jake, that is awesome, I saw you on the news,'" he recalled.
Dan Curzon, Jakes’s father, said his son is such a Yankees fan that his room is like a sports museum and includes a baseball card of Ruth.
The family likely won't get to Yankee Stadium this year, but Dan Curzon said he might take Jake to Chicago when the Yankees play the White Sox.
"Oh, that would be awesome!" Jake said.