They have a goat in their past and a monkey on their back.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, ending an 86-year drought and also ending the famous “Curse of the Bambino,” initiated by the 1919 trade that sent Babe Ruth from Boston to the rival New York Yankees. In 2005, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series, ending an even longer dry spell of 88 years and also ending their own dark-period jinx. Known as the “Curse of the Black Sox,” it was linked to the fixed World Series play of the 1919 Chicago team.
Two curses down, one to go.
There can be NO DOUBT that everyone who’s following baseball right now, and who is somewhat of a fan, has heard about the curse tied to the National League Chicago Cubs. In today’s media-driven news, it follows the Cubs like questionable emails follow Hillary Clinton and bad behavior and bad hair follow Donald Trump.
Curses! Foiled again!
The Cubs’ own curse has a little more sting to it than the Sox’s curses did. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908…108 years ago. But even more painful to the Cubs’ faithful is the fact that their team hasn’t even made it to the World Series since 1945. That’s 71 years ago. (The two Sox teams had brushes with World Series crowns during their dry spells.)
To put the Cubs’ woes in context, a wide-eyed, hopeful 10-year-old who listened to the Cubs on the radio in 1945 is now a cranky, frustrated 81-year-old, waiting since then (the end of World War II!) for the Cubs to get back to the Fall Classic.
Most baseball fans who don’t call Illinois home know little about the curse, nor should they. It has pretty much belonged to the Chicago team on the North Side and their smattering of fans nationwide (Chicago expatriates) for a lifetime.
So what happened in 1945?
The Curse of the Billy Goat
The year was 1945 and the Chicago Cubs were up two games to one—in the World Series—against the Detroit Tigers. The first three games were in Detroit and the rest of them were going to be at Wrigley Field because travel restrictions related to WWII were still in effect.
Showing up to attend Game 4 was a gentleman named William Sianis: Cubs fan and owner of the Billy Goat Tavern Inn. He had bought two tickets: one for himself and one for his goat, Murphy.
Yes. A real, live billy goat. It’s not clear whether Mr. Sianis gained access to his seats or not, but at some point he was asked by ushers to leave his goat outside of Wrigley Field.
Also unclear is why he thought he could bring his goat. In a way, he was ahead of his time: A handful of stadiums these days have bring-your-dog games. But I bet goats are still excluded.
Sianis didn’t like the idea of his goat being shut out of the game. Again, who knows why. Legend has it that Sianis argued his case that day, all the way up to the top—to Mr. Wrigley, the team owner himself, who said something along the lines of “the goat stinks” as the reason the pet wasn’t allowed.
Sianis could have simply cursed his luck or cursed the fates, but instead he chose to curse the team.
Here’s what he said: “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.”
The Cubs, who were up 2-1 in the ’45 Series, lost the next two. They eked out a 1-0 win in Game 6, but lost Game 7 by a score of 9 to 3. It was the last time they would be in the World Series.
That was 71 goat-stinking years ago. In the years, the decades, that followed, the Cubs struggled more than they succeeded. They had just 15 winning seasons between 1946 and 2003, a span of 57 years. And over that time was a series of memorable low-lights.
It’s not simply that the Cubs haven’t made it to the Series—even when they came relatively close, something always seemed to go wrong.
The Cubs had a 9½-game lead in mid-August, but it slipped away. In a crucial series against the Mets, a black cat roamed onto the field and seemed to “curse” the team again. They wound up losing the league lead, and the pennant. The “Amazin’ Mets” went on to win their first World Series.
1984. The Cubs had the best record in the National League and were playing in the NL Championship Series for a spot in the World Series. Up three games to one in Game 5, they needed only eight more outs to take the pennant. But a costly error led to a loss, and the team lost the next two. The curse strikes again.
2003. Two words. Game 6. Two more words: Steve Bartman. But there was still that Game 7, and one more chance to beat the Florida Marlins (the Marlins!) and make it to the World Series. Didn’t happen.
Cubs fans, take note.
As of right now, the Cubs may or may not be on their way to the World Series (as of this writing, they’re up three games to two against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series). They are by far the odds-on favorites to make it to, and win, the World Series. They’re also the sentimental favorites.
Still, if they get by the Dodgers, they’ll have to face and defeat the American League champion and, oh yes, there’s that curse to get around. Remember that when Mr. Sianis uttered the Curse of the Billy Goat, he said the Cubs would never win another World Series.
Good luck, Cubbies. Your fans and (almost) the entire nation are behind you. And now it’s time to put the curse behind you too.