The Cubs and the curse of the billy goat

Monday, October 24, 2016

(Note: A scapegoat was a goat upon which the Hebrews placed the sins of the people in a biblical ceremony. Then, the goat was driven into the wilderness, to the great relief of the people.)

From 1876 to 1945 the Chicago Cubs were probably the most successful baseball franchise in the country. They had 51 winning seasons, 16 division pennants and 16 World's Series appearances. In that span, they won six World's Championships two World's Series titles, the last coming in 1908. That team was loaded with interesting characters, such as pitcher, Mordecai "3-Finger" Brown, Bonehead Merkle, and one of the great double play combinations of all time, Tinker to Evers to Chance. That winning tradition all came crashing down in the fourth game of the World's Series vs Detroit in 1945.

The Cubs entered that game with a 2-1 lead over Detroit, needing only two wins out of four to wrap up the title. In that game, Billy Sianis, a huge Cubs fan and the owner of The Billy Goat Tavern, a popular Greek restaurant, arrived at the game and bought two tickets, one for himself and one for his pet goat, Murphy, hoping to bring good luck to the Cubs. At the gate, Sianis was turned away, the attendant citing the "No Animals" policy. Billy appealed to owner P.K. Wrigley, who said he could come, but not his goat, "That goat stinks!"

Billy Sianis and his goat were outraged. Said Sianis, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more. They'll never win another World's Series as long as the goat is not allowed at Wrigley Field!" Apparently, the curse went into effect immediately, as the Cubs lost Game 4, and went on to lose the next two as well, to lose the World's Series. Billy Sianis sent owner Wrigley a telegram, "Who Stinks Now?" In the years since, the Cubs have developed the title of "Lovable Losers."

The Cubs have come close a number of times since 1945, but something always seemed to jinx them (the curse?). Consider: In 1969, just before he died, Billy Sianis lifted the curse, but apparently Murphy was still miffed. The Cubs blew a commanding August lead, and allowed the "Miracle Mets" to overtake them and capture the World's Series.

In 1973, Sam Sianis, Billy's nephew and new owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought a new goat, "Socrates," to Wrigley Field in a white limo, with signs saying all is forgiven. Again, the goat was denied entrance and the Cubs saw their sizeable lead evaporate by October.

In 1984, under new ownership, the officials at Wrigley Field invited Sam Sianis to bring his goat to Wrigley Field, to lift the curse. The Cubs won the first two games of the National League Championships, needing just one more win to go to the World's Series. When the game moved to San Diego, Sam Sianis waited for the invitation to take the goat to San Diego. It never came. The Cubs, instead of winning, allowed the Padres to sweep the next three games.

The scene was repeated in 1989, when again the goat was left behind, allowing the San Francisco Giants win four games to one for the NL Championship.

Despite having some really fine teams, something always seemed to go wrong with the Cubs at the end of the season, leaving many to blame the Curse of the goat.

In 2003, the Cubs had a 3-0 lead, and were leading the Florida Marlins three games to two in the 6th game of the National League Championship Series. In the 8th inning, Marlin's second baseman, Luis Castillo hit a foul ball just into the stands. Several spectators attempted to catch the foul ball, and one fan, Steve Bartman got a hand on the ball, deflecting it enough that Cub's outfielder, Moises Alou missed the catch. It would have been the second out, the Cubs just four outs away from their first National League title since 1945, and a trip to the World's Series. Instead, the Marlins went on a tear, scoring eight runs in the inning, winning the game 8-3. The next day the Cubs were eliminated from the Championship Series.

Poor Steve Bartman. He received hate mail and phone calls. He had to change his phone number. He resisted moving out of town because of a really good job, but in the years since has kept a low profile, refusing all interviews. He's still a Cub fan, but has not been back to Wrigley Field.

Adding to the mystique of the "Curse of the Goat", there are some 42 players who played for the Cubs, who have played in the World Series in the years after they left the Cubs.

There have been innumerable attempts to lift the curse; among these:

Four times Sam Sianis, nephew of Billy Sianis has escorted a goat to Wrigley Field, attempting to break the curse.

In 2003, the Chinese year of the goat, fans brought a goat to Minute Maid Stadium, the home of Cubs Division Rival. the Houston Astros. When they were denied entrance with their goat they unfurled signs proclaiming that they were reversing the curse of the goat. That year the Cubs won their division, but lost out to the Marlins, following the Steve Bartman incident. The Marlins went on to win the World Series against the Yankees. Further indignity, two years later the Astros went to the World Series, losing to the Cub's crosstown rivals, the White Sox.

In 2004 the Bartman baseball was electrocuted. Then the heap of string remaining was boiled in a stew and served to customers at Harry Caray's (longtime Cubs announcer) popular downtown Chicago restaurant.

In 2008 a Greek Orthodox Priest sprayed holy water in and around the Cubs dugout in an attempt to lift the curse. It was not immediately effective.

In 2011 an organization called "Reverse the Curse," began to distribute goats in developing countries, attempting to aid poor families with goats for milk and cheese, as a means to lift them out of poverty and aid the children (and hopefully lift the curse.)

In 2012 a group of five Cubs fans, "Crack the Curse", set out on foot from Mesa, Arizona (the site of the Cubs Spring Training) to Wrigley Field in Chicago, with their goat, "Wrigley" whom they believed would break the curse. Along the way they raised $100,000 for The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Facility.

It would appear that some of these measures are starting to work (along with better players and better management). This year the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL Championship. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the first game of the 2016 World Series, they will face the Cleveland Indians (who seem to have a curse of their own, dating back to 1948, the era of Rapid Robert Feller, the "Heater from Van Meter.")

So phase one in the process of expunging the Curse of the Goat has been accomplished. If the Cubs can prevail and win the World Series this year, it would seem that at long last they might consider the Goat Curse a closed issue. We wish them well.

Source: The Curse of the Goat, www.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: