Curse of the Billy Goat
The Curse of the Billy Goat is a sports-related curse that was placed on the Chicago Cubs in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at the Cubs' home ballpark of Wrigley Field because his pet goat's odor was bothering other fans. He was outraged and declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more," which has been interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have not won a National League pennant since this incident and have not won a World Series since 1908.
Origins of the curse
The exact nature of the curse differs in various accounts of the incident. Some state that Sianis declared that no World Series games would ever again be played at Wrigley Field, while others believe that his ban was on the Cubs appearing in the World Series, making no mention of a specific venue. Sianis’ family claims that he dispatched a telegram to team owner Philip K. Wrigley which read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.” Whatever the truth, the Cubs were up two games to one in the 1945 Series, but ended up losing Game 4, as well as the best-of-seven series, four games to three. The curse was immortalized in newspaper columns over the years, particularly by syndicated columnist Mike Royko, and gained widespread attention during the 2003 postseason when Fox television commentators played it up during the Cubs-Marlins match-up in the 2003 National League Championship Series. (According to an account in the Chicago Sun of October 7, 1945, the goat was turned away at the gate, and Sianis left the goat tied to a stake in a parking lot and went into the game alone. There was mention of a lawsuit that day, but no mention of a curse.)
Attempts to break the curse
Sam Sianis, nephew of Billy Sianis, has been brought out onto Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times in attempts to break the curse: on Opening Day in 1984 and 1989 (in both years, the Cubs went on to win their division), in 1994 to stop a home losing streak, and in 1998 for the Wild Card play-in game (which the Cubs won).
In 2003 (incidentally, the Chinese zodiac's Year of the Goat), a group of Cubs fans headed to Houston with a billy goat named "Virgil Homer" and attempted to gain entrance to Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, division rivals of the Cubs at the time. After they were denied entrance, they unfurled a scroll, read a verse and proclaimed they were "reversing the curse." The Cubs won the division that year and then came within five outs of playing in the World Series, but were undone by the Florida Marlins' eight-run rally immediately following the Steve Bartman incident. The Cubs then lost the following game and with it the series. (The Marlins went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees). Further salting the wound, the Astros earned their first World Series berth two years later (they would be swept by the Cubs' crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox).
In another bizarre twist, it was reported that a butchered goat was hung from the Harry Caray statue on October 3, 2007, to which The Chicago Sun-Times noted: "If the prankster intended to reverse the supposed billy goat curse with the stunt, it doesn't appear to have worked." While the Cubs did win the NL Central division title in 2007 and 2008, they were swept in the first round of the postseason in both years: by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. The elimination by Arizona came on October 6, the same date that the goat appeared at Wrigley Field in 1945.
The act was repeated before the home opener in 2009, this time a goat's butchered head being hung from the statue. The act was futile as the Cubs were eliminated from postseason contention on September 26, 2009. Cubs fans have also brought in priests that have blessed the field, stadium, and dugout.
On April 1, 2011, a social enterprise called Reverse The Curse, dedicated to bringing innovations to poverty by giving goats to families in developing countries, was initiated. The goats provide the family with milk, cheese, and alternative income to help lift them out of poverty.
Alternative measures to lift the curse
According to three interviews with Sam Sianis, William Sianis' nephew, the Curse of the Billy Goat can be dispelled only by the Chicago Cubs organization's showing a sincere fondness for goats; allowing them into Wrigley Field because they genuinely want to and not simply for publicity reasons.
Former Cubs who won a World Series title elsewhere
Another factor that may play a role in the curse is the number of players (41 of them are listed below) who won World Series titles after leaving the Cubs. These players include Andy Pafko (who, coincidentally, played in the 1945 World Series as a Cub), Gene Baker, Smoky Burgess, Don Hoak, Dale Long, Lou Brock (whose first title was in 1964 after a mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals), Lou Johnson, Jim Brewer, Moe Drabowsky, Don Cardwell, Ken Holtzman, Paul Noce, Billy North, Fred Norman, Bill Madlock, Manny Trillo, Greg Gross, Rick Monday, Burt Hooton, Bruce Sutter, Willie Hernández, Joe Niekro, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Carter, Greg Maddux, Joe Girardi (as both a player and a manager), José Vizcaíno, Glenallen Hill (after his second stint with the Cubs; his title came in 2000 after a mid-season trade), Luis Gonzalez, Mike Morgan, Mark Grace, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Scott Eyre (whose title came in 2008 after he been traded from the Cubs during the season), Tom Gordon, Matt Stairs, Jamie Moyer, Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot, Ángel Pagán and, in 2013, Ryan Dempster, Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland were traded as minor leaguers (coincidentally, the former won a World Series ring with the Marlins team that defeated the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS). Tim Lincecum was originally drafted by the Cubs.
Popular fictional character Harry Dresden, wizard, discovered the "true" story behind the curse. Author Jim Butcher shared the tale in "Curses", included in the short story collection Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy by Ellen Datlow published in 2011. Wizard Dresden discovered the goat at Wrigley Field was actually Gwynn ap Nudd disguised as a goat, and the baseball fanatic King of the Tylwyth Teg issued the curse when he was not allowed to watch the game.
- Ferraro, Michael X.; Veneziano, John (2007). Numbelivable!. Chicago, Illinois: Triumph Books. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0.
- Bowen, Fred (17 July 2008). "For Cubs, a Swing at the Billy Goat Curse". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Adam Selzer (1 July 2014). Chronicles of Old Chicago: Exploring the History and Lore of the Windy City. Museyon Inc. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-9846334-8-7.
- Major League Baseball on Fox: Game 6 of 2003 National League Championship Series (television). Fox Sports. October 14, 2003.
- "The Curse of the Billy Goat". World Famous Billy Goat Tavern & Grill.
- "Woe is us ; A look at the curses". USA Today. October 16, 2004. p. C2.
- Toomey, Shamus (October 6, 2007). "Dead goat hung from Harry statue". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Svrluga, Barry (October 7, 2007). "Castilla Back With Rockies In New Role". Washington Post. p. D6.
- Sullivan, Paul (September 27, 2009). "CUBS 6, GIANTS 2; Eliminating the negative; Late hot streak minus Bradley is positive, but Cards clinch anyway". Chicago Tribune. p. 9.
- "Reverse the Curse".
- "Severed goat's head at Wrigley Field mirrors curse on Chicago Cubs". CNN. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- "Tim lincecum Minor League Statistics & History". baseball-reference.com.
- Jack Bales, "The End Of The Billy Goat Curse: Why Cubs Fans Should Let It Go," ChicagoSide, June 21, 2013. Bales argues that the curse is completely fictitious and was fabricated by Chicago journalists during the 1950s.