The Cubs’ Curse, With a Twist

By Lisa Welz
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For more than 70 years the Chicago Cubs have lived under “The Curse of the Billy Goat.” Despite fervent hopes, fueled by a young, energetic team with a new manager and prediction made in the movie “Back to the Future” that the Cubs would break the curse and win the World Series in 2015, the season ended with the now-traditional “Wait ‘til next year” mantra.
According to BillyGoatTavern.com, the curse happened on Oct. 6, 1945. The Cubs were about to play game four of the World Series and were leading the Detroit Tigers, two games to one. The last four games, of which they only needed to win two, were to be played at Wrigley Field.
It was at that game, they said, “A local Greek, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern and a Cubs fan, bought two tickets to game four. Hoping to bring his team good luck he took his pet goat, Murphy, with him to the game. At the entrance to the park, the Andy Fran ushers stopped Billy Goat from entering saying that no animals are allowed in the park. Billy Goat, frustrated, appealed to the owner of the Cubs, P.K. Wrigley.”
Having no idea what would come next, “Wrigley replied, ‘Let Billy in, but not the goat.’ He asked, ‘Why not the goat?’ Wrigley answered, ‘Because the goat stinks.’ According to legend, the goat and Billy were upset, so then Billy threw up his arms and exclaimed, ‘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.’”
And so the curse was born. And the long history of trying to lift the curse began. First, Sianis, in 1969, claimed he was satisfied and the curse was lifted, to no avail. Then, in 1973, his nephew, Sam Saianis, the new owner of the tavern, tried to lift the curse by bringing the goat to Wrigley Field in a limo and given a red carpet entrance to the park.
Sadly, the tavern reported, ushers at the entrance once again denied entrance to the goat, this time named Socrates, a descendent of the original goat, Murphy. A repeat attempt in 1984, when the Tribune Company, new owners of the Cubs, invited the goat and Sianis to walk the field. This time the goal was achieved, but 31 years later the curse seems to live on.
This year, the curse of the goat was given a new face, thanks to its original name, except it wasn’t fuzzy, nor did it have horns. It came to life in the form of the New York Mets player, Daniel Murphy, an infielder with a hot hitting streak who not only hit a big homer in every game of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs this year, but had 13 runs for 18 hits in the post season.
Asked what he made of the whole curse thing, Murphy said, “Is that the name of the goat? Is that what it is? Somebody told me that today…What do I make of that? A unique coincidence.”
It does lead to the question, What now? Will the Cubs have to invite Daniel Murphy, together with the Billy Goat, to a red carpet event next year to attempt to lift the curse that has taken on far more importance in the minds of fans than William Sianis ever dreamed of? Or is it all just a bunch of so-called malarkey?

Black cat

The 1969 Cubs team was thought to be one of the greatest ever with a team roster that included legends Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams. Then, in September, they blew a nine game lead to the Mets in what sports writer Anthony McClarren, writing for the New York Daily News wrote was “One of the most infamous pennant collapses in history.”
Was it just a bad day, simple poor luck, or something more? Superstitious folks believe that a black cat, who ran onto the field during play, and ran around Ron Santo as he was standing in the on-deck circle, was instrumental. The cat then slunk under the stands and was not seen again.

Bartman

Murphy isn’t the only name Cubs fans detest. Just utter the name Bartman and see what reaction you’ll get. A grimace. A glare. Maybe a phrase not to be repeated around kids. Is Bartman a curse on the Cubs history and to its future? Unlikely, but what he did is certainly a reminder to other fans to keep their hands to themselves until a foul ball is well out of range of any player trying to catch it.
The day it happened, Oct. 14, 2003, it wasn’t just any game being played, but a playoff game against the Marlins, where the Cubs were just one playoff game away from the World Series. The fated moment happened when left fielder Moises Alou seemed to climb the wall in an attempt to catch a ball.
He almost had it, and most people think he would have caught it if not for a 26-year-old man from Chicago’s north suburbs, Steve Bartman. Just as Alou’s mitt was about to snag it out of the air for a second out, Bartman reached out and deflected the ball. What could have stopped the momentum the Marlins had found that game instead led to the Cubs’ collapse as the game unraveled despite the three to zero lead. Once again the Cubs lost.
For protection from the irate fans, Bartman was escorted away by security. Later he apologized to fans, saying, “”There are few words to describe how awful I feel and what I have experienced within these last twenty-four hours. I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”
On Feb. 26, the ball at the center of the incident, dubbed the “Bartman Ball” was blown up after three pops of light and one loud bang. The media spectacle, was organized by Harry Caray’s, who bought the ball for $113,824 and hoped the action would lift the curse off the Cubs team.
According to USA Today writer, Mike Dodd, “Hollywood special effects expert Michael Lantieri engineered the destruction, which he said was carried out with a combination of heat, pressure and high explosives. He drilled a tiny hole in the bottom of the ball to place the explosives inside and attached shock-tube detonators on the outside…The pre-explosion setup looked like something from Frankenstein’s lab in a grade B Hollywood movie. The ball sat in a bullet-proof tank in front of three pipes topped by softball-sized metal balls ‘just to make it look good,’ Lantieri said.”
Dodd quoted Alou at that time as saying, “I don’t care about the ball. That wasn’t the reason why we lost.” No Cubs player, nor Bartman, was present when the ball was destroyed.

Moving on

There are other minor events over the years that some will claim are curses, but really read as stupid errors made by baseball players who are human and will make mistakes no matter how much they practice or who the coach is.
Even so, the fans this year cheered their team on, even when it was clear they were not going to advance, and after that final game against the Mets, the players came on the field and showed their fans some love. Then they disappeared into the locker room to regroup and begin planning their strategy for next season. After all, next year is going to be their year, the one where the curse is broken and they win the World Series.