“The Curse of The Billy Goat” is perhaps American sports’ greatest superstition. None other can boast a story like an animal being denied entry into a ballpark for a World Series game due to its stench and it made the Boston Red Sox’s “Curse of the Bambino” seem like a blip on the radar by outlasting it 22 years (108-86).
Before the 2016 Cubs exorcised Wrigley’s demons, the Titanic both sank AND was discovered at the ocean’s floor. America added four new states. Women weren’t able to vote yet. Sports broadcasts did not exist yet; not TV, not even radio.
No wonder the Cub’s victory parade was estimated to be one of the ten biggest gathering of humans in one place… ever. That’s a lot of time to build up negative energy to release. Indeed, its finally time to move on and no longer be “lovable losers.”
But before we do, here’s one last reminder of… 15 Things The Chicago Cubs Want You To Forget About The Curse
15 The Dead Goats
You think the stench of the original billy goat, Murphy, denied entry because of his odor to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, was bad?
In 2013, Chicago Cubs security workers opened a box addressed to team owner Tom Ricketts delivered anonymously to Gate K of Wrigley Field on Waveland Avenue, only to discover the severed head of a goat inside. Similar incidents occurred in both 2007 and 2009; dead goats were found hanging on the Harry Caray statue outside the stadium.
Even upon finally putting the curse to bed last season, one Cubs’ World Champion, Pedro Strop, celebrated by posting a somewhat disturbing photo on Instagram of him posing with a dead goat head on a platter, with the words “Well Done, goat for history, eating the Goat!”
14 The Curse Was Actually Just A Joke
According to Cubs historians Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, the “Curse of the Billy Goat” actually began as a joke. Local sportswriters would frequent the Billy Goat Tavern, owned by Billy Sianis, the man who famously tried to get his bar’s mascot into Wrigley Field by buying him his own ticket. Legend has it Sianis, when denied entry, supposedly 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 joke inside the “friendly confines” of the tavern became that such an absurd incident had possibly “cursed” the Cubbies, and Sianis, ever the publicity seeker, who may never have actually said any of those things in the first place, simply played along.
13 The Real Curse May Have Been Racism
P.K. Wrigley inherited two businesses from his father, the chewing gum company bearing his name and the baseball team playing in a field bearing his name, running both until his death in 1977. During his time as owner of the Cubs he ran one of the regularly worst teams in baseball. In 1947 for instance, the year Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and helped lead them to the World Series, Wrigley’s baseball team was 69-85 and towards the bottom of the National League. They wouldn’t reach a .500 record until 1952 and wouldn’t have a winning record again until 1963.
They finally added two black players in 1953 including “Mr. Cub” himself, Ernie Banks, but by then names like Campanella and Newcombe had dominated the league for years with Robinson in Brooklyn and Mays was roaming center for the Giants, leaving Chicago with a competitive gap they wouldn’t overcome for decades. Another cursed team, the Boston Red Sox, perhaps not coincidentally were the last MLB franchise to hold-out in adding an African-American ballplayer, not doing so until 1959.
12 The Curse Of The Bambino Didn’t Just Belong To The Red Sox
Speaking of those Red Sox, sure they may have traded the greatest baseball player of his generation (at least amongst white major leaguers), but at least they never had to suffer the indignity of losing a World Series to Babe Ruth’s Yankees. Amongst his more notorious legends of dominant power at the plate, in 1932 Ruth famously allegedly called his shot before smashing a home run in Game Three of the World Series. What most people don’t remember however, was that the pitcher was Charlie Root, the team he was pitching for was the Chicago Cubs, and the location was none other than the soon-to-be legendary Wrigley Field.
Root argued that Ruth was simply pointing out there were only two strikes with one to go when he pointed two fingers towards center field. The Yanks swept the Cubs in one of the few World Series appearances they would get in their 108-year-streak without a title.
11 Before There Was Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, there was Mark Prior and Kerry Wood
Yes, only about a decade before young Cubs with names like Bryant, Rizzo, and Schwarber were making Chicago buzz with anticipation that so many quality young bats this might finally break the curse, there was a squad that excited in a mirror opposite manner. 2003 saw the Cubs break spring training with a staff anchored by 22-year-olds Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano, 26-year-old Kerry Wood, as well as “elder statesmen” 28-year-old Matt Clement and 30-year-old Shawn Estes. Between them, they started all but eight games in a season that saw the Cubs five outs from making the World Series (more on that later.)
The fearless hard throwing Wood once pitched a 20 strikeout/one hit shutout masterpiece that was “Clemens-esque” and Prior was frequently compared to Tom Seaver, commanding the strike zone and showcasing classic form in his delivery. Each stood 6’ 5” and over 200 pounds, as ideal pitcher specimens as there ever where. But just three years later, in 2006, each man would start their last major league baseball game (Prior was out of baseball with arm problems and Wood, fighting his own injuries, was permanently moved to the bullpen.) Pitch limits would quickly become a norm in baseball to avoid such tragic loss of talent, a lesson learned from just another cursed moment in Chi-town.
10 Daniel Murphy Proved Back To The Future II Was Just A Touch Too Optimistic
Its easy to forget that in 2015, Cubs fans were watching one of their best shots at ending the curse fade in front of their eyes at the mercy of a man named… Murphy. As the New York Mets second baseman with the first name of Daniel took a stranglehold on the National League Championship, leaving the Cubs in his wake in a four-game-sweep in which he hit .529 with four home runs, it was hard not to draw a direct line to the name of the billy goat whose denial from Wrigley Field had cursed the team over a century earlier. His name? Murphy.
Sadly, Marty McFly found himself in a reality that would not come true when he traveled to 2015 in the 1989 film release “Back To The Future II” and the Cubs won the championship.
9 They traded Lou Brock and let Greg Maddux walk.
On June 16, 1964, Chicago Daily News sportswriter Bob Smith wrote “thank you, oh, you lovely St. Louis Cardinals. Nice doing business with you. Please call again any time.” Smith was celebrating the trade completed the day before that, amongst others, brought one the National League’s best pitchers, Ernie Broglio, coming off an 18-8 season, for an up-and-coming 24-year-old outfielder named Lou Brock, hitting just .251 at the time. Brock would go .348 with 33 stolen bases the rest of the season, eventually joining the 3,000-hit club and establishing a then-record of 938 stolen bases in his long and storied career.
But at least the Cubs didn’t know what they had in the young prospect. Greg Maddux won the Cy Young Award as the ace of the staff in 1992, going 20-11 with a 2.18 ERA. Sure, it was a career year, but Maddux had won at least 15 games in each of the previous four seasons and was still only 26. General Manager Larry Himes put forward a competitive offer but couldn’t close the door, and the Atlanta Braves jumped on the opportunity. Three consecutive Cy Young seasons and a World Series ring later, it was clear that Chicago had lost a chance to hold onto one of the best of not only his era, but an all-time great.
8 For Theo Epstein, This Was Just Deja Vu All Over Again
Sure, Theo Epstein might be Fortune Magazine’s “World’s Greatest Leader” for leading the Cubs’ to breaking their over century-long curse, but Chicago was simply riding on the coattails of its similarly down-on-their-luck baseball cousin, the Boston Red Sox.
Epstein was just a 30-year-old unknown wunderkind GM in 2004 when he broke 86 years of futility for the NY Yankees’ punching bags, while the Cubs would later need a 5-year, $18.5 million contract offer to land his premium services. He also delivered a second title to Boston in 2007, results that he may not meet in his term in Chicago (time will tell.) And, of course, Epstein grew up just down the street from Fenway Park. Bringing a championship to a long suffering fan base is something to take immense pride in, but to bring a championship to your own home town’s long suffering fan base? As they say in the MasterCard MLB commercials: “priceless.”
7 The Cardinals-Cubs Rivalry Isn’t Even Close
Cubs fans are reveling in their third World Series championship and with the team favored to repeat its title in the 2017 season its perhaps easy to forget that the rival St. Louis Cardinals have won it all a National-League-high eleven times. Kris Bryant is the reigning NL MVP, yes, but the Cardinals have nearly double the total players to be honored with baseball’s highest honor, to the tune of 20 such occasions to the Cubs’ 11. Even when Sammy Sosa smashed Roger Maris’ 37-year-old single season home run record to the tune of 66 dingers in Cubs’ blue in 1998, Mark McGwire launched 70 in the same season donning Cardinals’ red.
The one place the Cubs have bragging rights is in regular season head-to-head match-ups, with a career record of 1207-1156 against the Cards. That only adds insult to injury however, as it clearly hasn’t translated to much success where it counts, bringing home a title to Chi-Town.
6 They Got So Desperate They Thought God Might Intervene In A Baseball Game
Reverend James L. Greanias, a Greek Orthodox priest and avid Cubs fan, was brought into Wrigley Field for Game 1 of the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. He said a prayer and sprinkled holy water in the home dugout, which may seem like an odd mix of baseball and religion except for the fact that Greanias’ possessed a Cubs’ banner just below a wooden cross on his office door at St. Iavokos Church in Valparaiso.
Sadly, God did not come through for the Cubbies, who were swept in three. To add insult to injury, Team Chairman Crane Kenney would later call the ritual “one of the dumbest things” he had ever done, and claimed that Greanias had offered to bless the field as a way to get playoff tickets. The reverend had a different account. "Kenney told me he wanted a Greek Orthodox priest because [William] Sianis was Greek," said Greanias, in reference to the man who tried to bring the infamous goat into Wrigley Field. "In fact, I thought it was a joke at first.” Sadly, it wasn’t.
5 Sammy Sosa Was A Cub, Despite Club Efforts To Convince You Otherwise
He is the career record holder for home runs hit in a Chicago Cubs uniform with 545. Third in RBIs with 1414. Only nine others have even played more total games for the franchise than Sammy Sosa, who starred pretty much from his first game in 1992 through his last in 2004, making six All-Star teams along the way and winning the 1998 National League Most Valuable Player award.
Yet, perhaps the greatest living player in team history was conspicuously absent from the march to the 2016 World Championship, watching the games instead from Paris, France, where he was exploring real estate options. While other prominent players associated with the steroid era have found their way back into baseball, Sosa remains exiled, a part of baseball history that the Wrigley management apparently wants us to forget. To make matters worse, as spring training was just getting under way earlier this year, Sosa conducted a bizarre interview in which he claimed he “put Chicago on the map” and compared his plight being ostracized over his still unproven link to steroids to “Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem.” It seems unlikely the team will change their stance with that kind of rhetoric coming from one of their all-time greats.
4 Move Over Bill Buckner, Leon Durham Also Had A Ball Go Through His Legs
The Cubs should have known 1984 would go wrong for them when they took the risk of allowing a billy goat onto the field for Opening Day. They finished the season with a NL-best 96-65 record however, giving them home-field advantage heading into the NLCS matchup with the San Diego Padres. After winning the first two at home and then losing two on the road, it all came down to a final Game 5 back at Wrigley. Ace Rick Sutcliffe was on the hill clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the 7th Inning with a runner on second base when Tim Flannery slapped his first pitch through the legs of first baseman Leon Durham, tying the game up. The Padres scored three more times in the inning and went to their first World Series, while the North Side fans went home in what would prove to be legendary Cubs star Ryne Sandberg’s best shot in making it to the Fall Classic.
3 The Cursed Animal Obsession Also Included Cats
On June 4, 1969, the Chicago Cubs held a 8 1/2-game lead over the second-place New York Mets. Featuring a middle of the order combination of future Hall-of-Famers Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and a 38-year-old Ernie Banks seemingly poised to finally make his first postseason appearance (in the inaugural year of the League Championship Series), and another Hall of Fame inductee as the ace of their pitching staff in Fergie Jenkins, things looked very good for the North Siders.
But on September 9, the lead had dwindled to 1 1/2-games. Santo stood in the on-deck circle in Shea Stadium that night when a black cat walked between him and the visitor’s dugout. They would lose the game and the division to the eventual World Champion “Miracle Mets.”
2 Steve Bartman Was Still Receiving Death Threats In 2016
In undoubtedly the ugliest intrusion of a curse related incident into real life, diehard Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman reached for a souvenir foul ball, as so many do, but inadvertently kept it from landing in left fielder Moises Alou’s glove in Game Six of the 2003 National League Championship Series. Alou didn’t help matters by jumping up and down in disappointment, calling extreme attention to Bartman’s gaffe. He had to be escorted from the stands for his own safety, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s ensuing error was forgotten as perhaps the bigger reason the team, five outs from a World Series appearance, blew their lead against the Florida Marlins and subsequently lost Game Seven to be knocked out of the playoffs.
To his credit, Bartman remained in the Chicago area despite receiving death threats for over a decade to come. He has also turned down financial opportunities, according to his longtime friend and spokesperson Frank Murtha. "He is classy and has risen above this," Murtha said. "The character that he has and the kind of person that he is reflects well on him.”
1 They weren’t just cursed in their pursuit of a World Series, they truly defined the term “Lovable Losers”
They may have been “lovable” but perhaps more than any Major League franchise with such a long history, and certainly more than the similarly cursed Boston Red Sox, the Cubs have frequently been “losers.” During their 108 years of misery, the team went over a decade without a winning season twice, including 16 straight years from 1947-1962. They not only held baseball’s longest streak without a title, but its longest streak without a World Series appearance of any kind, last making it in 1945, the year World War Two ended. In fact, since that season the team has only finished in the top half of their league or division 13 times. 13 times in 71 seasons.
They are like to make it 14 times in 72 in 2017. That is, assuming there isn’t a new curse lurking in the shadows.
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