One word that is arguable the most synonymous with summer, is baseball. Mystery meat hot dogs are flung to sweaty folks in the stands, and overpriced beer is guzzled by the pint, in an attempt to stave off the radioactive heat waves. The Chicago Cubs are leading the NL Central, currently. They had a stellar post season last year, and they have been considered the best team going into 2016, but does it really matter? No other team can hold a candle to how much heartbreak the Cubs have delivered to their fans. Some believe they will never win another World Series again, or even attend one for that matter. Is fate really predetermined? Are we merely specks of dust floating in the wind? Next question, will they finally make it to the playoffs and perhaps win? Hark! Is that the bleating of a goat I hear?
The Chicago Cubs are one of the oldest teams in the league, with their original formation in 1876. 1876? That was only 11 years after the Civil War ended, just to give you the proper perspective. The Cubs’ home, Wrigley Field, has bared witness to some of the greatest moments in sports history. One moment in particular is possibly THE greatest moment in baseball history.
It was 1932, the 5th inning of game three of the World Series. The Cubs were hosting the New York Yankees that year. Tensions were high and the crowd was absolutely hostile. New York Yankee, Babe Ruth stepped into the batter’s box. Not only were the fans heckling him, the Cubs themselves were literally stepping out of the dug out to throw shade at the Sultan of Swat. Within minutes, Ruth had two strikes against him, with one to go. More heckling followed. In an act of defiance, Ruth pointed two fingers to the center field bleachers, calling his shot. The pitch came, followed by the crack of the bat, sending the ball straight into the center field bleachers. Even though Ruth was wearing the stripes of a New York Yankee, moments like these have solidified the controversial history of the Chicago Cubs. Moments, that have divided baseball fans for over a century. If it wasn’t for the heckling of Cubs fans and players, would The Great Bambino have felt compelled to call his shot?
That wasn’t the first time that Babe Ruth was associated with another team’s demise. The Boston Red Sox were apparently haunted by the Curse of The Bambino, due to the fact that they didn’t win a World Series for over 80 years after trading him to the New York Yankees in 1920.
Babe Ruth aside, more controversy stacks against the Cubs and their reputation. They have been to the World Series a total of 12 times since the 1800s, winning only two back to back titles in 1907 and 1908. Fast forward to the 1945 World Series with the Chicago Cubs facing the Detroit Tigers. 1945 is perhaps the most controversial year for the Cubs. At that time, they had 7 appearances in the World Series since they won their last title in 1908, giving them a losing streak of 37 years. They lost again that year, and they haven’t made an appearance since. So, what is so significant about that, and why haven’t they been to the World Series since, you ask? It’s because of a man and his goat.
For those who are not in the know, the Cubs are cursed. Those who ARE in the know, can now roll their eyes in recognition and or disbelief. As I said, it was 1945, que the wavy time travel transition.
It was… 1945. World War II was still raging, with The Cubs having a decent season of 98-56, and the Detroit Tigers having a worse one of 88-65, still winning their pennant. The talent pool that season was dismal due to the fact that many MLB players went off to fight the war. Both the Tigers and Cubs fielded teams that would have been considered sub-par prior to the war. Author, Warren Brown called it the “World’s Worst Series.” Sports writer, Frank Graham jokingly referred to the series as “the fat men versus the tall men at the office picnic.” Due to limited resources, the first 3 games were played at Briggs Stadium and the final four games were played at Wrigley Field.
It was game four at Wrigley Field, Billy Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought his pet goat with him to watch the game. The odor of the goat was so strong that fans began to complain. Sianis and Murphy (the goat) were asked to leave. Sianis was so outraged that he allegedly declared “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” which some believe that he meant that the Cubs would never win another World Series. The Cubs lost that game 4-1, which contributed to the Tigers winning the World Series, with a 4 game lead over the Cubs’ 3. Billy goat coincidence or not, the Cubs haven’t attended a World Series for 71 years since.
It’s been 107 years since the Cubs have won the World Series, which is the longest championship drought in all four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB). The Cubs last World Series title was won before the other three leagues even existed. Hell, even their last World Series attendance predates the formation of the NBA. This drought is so well known that the Cubs have been called “The Lovable Losers.”
So, are these Lovable Losers, in fact, cursed? The attempts by fans to break the curse over the decades only seem to have solidified such lore. Billy Sianis’ nephew has been brought out onto the Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times, once in 1984 and 1989, where the Cubs won their division each of those years. In 1994, they brought him and the goat out to stop a losing streak and in 1998 for the Wild Card Play-In game, in which they won. In 2003, a group of Cubs fans attempted to bring a goat into the stadium of the Cubs’ rival, the Houston Astros. When they were denied entrance, they unfurled a scroll and read a verse, proclaiming that the curse had been lifted. The Cubs won the division that year and lost out on a spot in the World Series by just five outs.
To add insult to injury, during that same game, another incident was stacked onto the Cubs history when a fan attempted to catch a foul ball, deflecting it from the Cubs’ outfielder, Moises Alou. If he had caught it, it would have been the second out in the inning, which would have brought the Cubs only four outs away from winning their first pennant since 1945. Furthermore, a Greek Orthodox priest attempted to lift the curse by spraying holy water in the Cubs dugout. And recently, five competitive eaters attempted to break the curse by eating a 40 pound goat in 13 minutes.
So can we really put all blame of the Cubs’ fate on some cloven hoof mammal? I’m not a betting man, but I would say no. If you dig further into what makes the Cubs tick, you will find many broken cogs. Some fans called the Chicago Cubs a “play thing” of the Wrigley family. William Wrigley Jr., who owned the team prior to WWII, cared more about the team’s performance, unlike his son, P.K Wrigley, who cared more about the state of the field itself over the evolution of the Cubs. Another devastating blunder brought by P.K, was that he didn’t invest in a strong affiliated minor league system, deeming such things as immoral. For many years the Cubs’ owners were not interested in investing money for better scouts, facilities, players, managers and coaches, which contributed greatly to the victory drought. To later owners such as Tribco, the Cubs were merely a broadcasting piggy bank, and it is said that, Tom Ricketts, the current owner has been making necessary investments to improve the franchise, which could be one of the contributing factors to the team’s improvement since 2011.
When it comes down to it, when you push back the cobwebs of myth and history, you will find that it has been the ugliest creature of all time to blame, money. So fear not Cubs fan, there isn’t a goat-like monster hiding under your bed. Put away your garlic and crucifix, it was just a bad dream. Cheer on your lovable losers with your stomachs painted brilliantly and your banners held high, but maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t hurt you to eat a goat taco, just in case.