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Chicago Cubs Legendary Curses

file:chicago cubs logo.svg

The Black Cat, The Goat and Steve Bartman

Still Torture Cubs Fans

Boston and the White Sox both won it all recently. So why can't the Cubs? Is it front office ineptitude, bad play on the field, or the curse of a long dead Billy Goat?

By the early 40s, Cubs fans were growing frustrated with their favorite team's repeated failures in the Fall Classic. On the other hand, although the team hadn't won a World Series in 35 years, they had won National League pennants in that time; surely this was no spooked team. But soon, all of that would change. It would change when an angry Cubs fan would hit the team with the Curse of the Billy Goat.

The Goat Man Begins the Pennant Drought

Cub pride was at its height in 1945. The war was over, the boys were coming back, and the players wanted to put forth their best efforts for the eyes and ears of their country's returning GIs. On top of that, more than 200 regular players would be filtering back into the Major Leagues after their service in World War II. This fact of life meant that a lot of the men palying in the World Series in 1945, may not even have a job in a '46 or '47. There was plenty of motivation to play all out.

The Cubs took two of the first three games, winning behind brilliant shutout pitching performances by Hank Borowy and Claude Passeau. Then came Game 4, a change of fortunes, and (perhaps) the birth of a curse.

As the story goes, Billy Sianis, who owned a nearby tavern, had two tickets to Game 4. For some reason, Billy decided to bring along his pet goat, whose name was Murphy, and whom Billy had restored to health when Murphy had fallen off a truck and then limped bleeding into Billy's tavern.

At the game, the goat wore a blanket with a sign pinned to it which read "We Got Detroit's Goat". Sianis and the goat were allowed into Wrigley Field and even paraded around the playing field before the game until ushers intervened and led them to their seats. Security initially allowed Billy and his goat to watch the contest. In the fourth inning, however, after receiving complaints about the animal's odor, Cubs owner Philip Wrigley ejected both man and goat.

The Cubs lost the game and later lost the Series.

Sianis was outraged at his ejection and supposedly put a curse on the Cubs, decreeing that they would never play in another World Series at Wrigley Field. They never have. Incidentally, Sianis and his sons opened a chain of restaurants across the country under the franchise name The Billy Goat Tavern.

The Curse Lives On - A Black Cat in the Dugout

After almost 25 years near the bottom of the standings, the Cubs finally fielded a winner in 1969. The team included Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins. They were managed by Leo Durocher. With all of that Hall of Fame talent, these Cubs seemed an unbeatable squad. At one point, they had an 8 1/2 game lead in the division.

By September 9, however, the Cubs lead had dropped to just one and a half games ahead of the Mets when the teams met in Shea Stadium. Midway through the critical game, fans at Shea Stadium surreptitiously released a black cat onto the field. For reasons known only to the cat, it made a beeline for Ron Santo as he stood in the on-deck circle. The cat cast a haunting glare at the All-Star third baseman, then headed for the Cubs dugout, where it stared down the Chicago players as it skulked back and forth, the whole Stadium watching, amazed at this odd turn of events.

Well, the Cubs lost the game and then completely collapsed in September. They posted an 8-17 record for the month and lost the East to Mets by eight games.

1984 saw more heartbreak as the Cubs won the National League East but fell to the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs won the first two games, but the Padres roared back, taking three straight from Chicago. Game 4 ended when the Padres Steve Garvey hit a walk-off homer. Game 5 was irretrievably damaged when Cubs first baseman Leon Durham committed a bad error that Cubs fans don't need to hear about again.

Almost twenty years passed before anything really weird, or really heartbraking happened to the Cubs. Then, the 2003 playoffs came around.

One Poor Fan Tries to Catch a Foul Ball

Fast forward to the third year of the New Millenium. The Cubs had three of the best young pitchers in baseball with Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano. Their offense was led by Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa, the latter of whom had averaged .302, with 57 home runs and 135 RBI from 1998 through 2003.

Looking tough all the way, the Cubs won the National League Central, beat the Atlanta Braves in the National League Divisional Series and then took a 3 games to 2 lead over the young and inexperienced Florida Marlins.

By the time there was one out in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6, the Cubs held a 3-0 lead. Mark Prior was pitching a playoff masterpiece, having struck out 6 and surrendered just three hits up to that point in the game. A victory and a long awaited trip to the World Series seemed secure. But nothing is secure in baseball.

With Juan Pierre on second base, Florida's Juan Castillo hit a long fly ball down the left field line. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou ran the ball down and stretched his glove towards the top of the wall, but his attempt to make a classic play was impeded by the hands of a fan named Steve Bartman.

Now, Steve Bartman is a lifelong Cubs fan who, by all accounts, wanted his team to reach the World Series as badly as any Chicago fan at Wrigley Field that night. No one has ever accused him of intentionally intefering with Alou. But he did intefere unintentionally, that is for sure. When Castillo's fly ball sailed toward his seat which was located just a few feet parallel to the left field line, Bartman was watching the ball and not Mosies Alou. Alou was also watching the ball and leapt for it, seeming to have a good shot at reigning the ball in. But Steve Bartman got to it first, catching the ball right above Alou's out-stretched glove. 40,000 fans in the Stadium moaned as if undergoing a dental procedure. Alou called for an inteference call. Neither got any relief.

When play was restored, it was clear that the gaffe had given the Marlins' new life, and had somehow knocked the snot right out of the Cubs. It wasn't just Prior's fault, either. It was everyone. That entire team collapsed in front of a television nation that had taken their story to heart. Before the top of the eighth inning was over, the Cubs had given up eight runs and trailed 8-3.

They fell again the next night, losing the ultimate game 9-6, and adding a little more credibility to the Curse of the Cubs.

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