The "cursed" 1919 contract that shipped Babe Ruth from Boston to the Bronx sold at auction in New York for a staggering $996,000, delighting its new owner -- a die-hard Yankees fan -- and a hunger-relief group designated to receive a financial windfall from the sale.

"I was prepared to pay almost whatever it took," said Pete Siegel, head of Manhattan-based Gotta Have It Collectibles, after his winning offer.

The crowd at Sotheby's burst into cheers when the final hammer came down after 15 minutes of intense bidding. The five-page typed contract recorded the unprecedented deal blamed for dooming generations of Red Sox fans to heartbreak as victims of "The Curse of the Bambino."

The price was nearly double the presale estimate for the Dec. 26, 1919, contract, signed by owners Harry Frazee of the Red Sox and Jacob Ruppert of Yankees, and nearly 10 times the $100,000 cost of purchasing Ruth.

It was a deal that had lasting repercussions in both cities. The Red Sox, with Ruth, had won the World Series one year earlier. They wouldn't taste a title again until last year, when "The Curse" finally was broken with their World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

In between, the Yankees won 26 championships while Boston suffered some of the most agonizing defeats in baseball history. Ruth went on to become one of the most dominant and recognizable figures in all sports.

"This, to me, is the most important sports document," said Siegel, who had no immediate plans for the contract other than to keep it in a safe place. "Besides sports, it crosses over into American history. It has a lot going for it."

Proceeds from the sale were donated to the hunger-relief organization America's Second Harvest, which provides food for 23 million low-income Americans each year. The contract was previously owned by Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein.

* WORRELL RETURNS: Tim Worrell returned to the Phillies, five weeks after leaving the team for personal reasons.

The right-handed reliever soon will begin a rehab assignment that could last about one month, before joining the bullpen.

"I wanted to thank my teammates, the media, the fans and the Phillies organization for their understanding while I sorted things out in my life," Worrell said. "I'm glad to be here today and especially with a chance to help win a championship for the city of Philadelphia."

Worrell, who was the setup man for closer Billy Wagner, had a terrible start to the season, giving up 22 hits and 12 earned runs in 11 innings. He was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in 14 games, before going on the DL on May 6 with psychological issues.

Phillies GM Ed Wade said Worrell could be back for a series against Pittsburgh that starts on July 4, though he might return earlier or later.

* MILESTONE: San Francisco's Omar Vizquel played in his 2,179th game as a shortstop Thursday, passing Dave Concepcion for sole possession of sixth place on the career list. Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio holds the record of 2,581.

* FOND REMEMBRANCE: Red Sox Manager Terry Francona reflected on his days as a player with the Cubs in 1986 as he sat in the dugout in Wrigley Field.

"Here in baseball it's coming home, even if you're not. I love that part of it. There are going to be people out in the bleachers who have told me I stink for 20 years."

* REDS' MILESTONE: Cincinnati's three-game sweep of Tampa Bay was noteworthy. The Reds' 34 runs were their highest total for a three-game home series since 1898 against the New York Giants.

* BOO HOO: Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said he has no problem with fans booing him, though the jeers have lessened since the team started winning. "It doesn't matter to me. It makes me better. It gets my motor running," Manuel said. "They say things that me laugh. I was booed as a player. I was booed in Japan."

-- From News Services

A contract dated Dec. 26, 1919, transfers the ownership of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.