At the time Randy Bass (an Oklahoma-born baseball player and an exceptional hitter) was on the Hanshin team. It was widely thought that his playing was what led the team to win.
When the Hanshin Tigers win a game their fans tend to jump into the Dotonburi. It's the happy thing to do. On this auspicious night someone must have recognized that Colonel Sanders looked a whole lot like Randy Bass and thus the statue's fate was sealed.
Here is the Colonel.
Here is Randy Bass.
The workers at the KFC that night say that the mob was chanting "Bass! Bass!" as they ripped the Colonel out of the ground and carried him away.
Afterwards, despite the many attempts to search for the effigy, it was never recovered. Rumors began to spread -- some say it dissolved, others that it was sighted in the Philipines. The most popular rumor, though, was of Colonel's Curse. This started when after the tossing the Tigers suffered an 18-year losing streak.
But all that ended yesterday.
A scuba diver found the missing Colonel and he was pulled to safety. Yes, he was minus a couple hands, and his glasses, oh, and his lower torso. But found nonetheless. And after 24 years in the mucky river he's still smiling!
Edited to add:
They found his bottom half and a hand! The city of Osaka is elated. Their baseball team -- now realizing the curse is broken and they have to start winning games -- not so happy.