The Curse of the Billy Goat. It’s one of the most infamous legends in American professional sports. On October 22, 2016, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers and won the National League pennant for the first time since 1945, arguably breaking the curse. So where did this Curse of the Billy Goat come from anyway? Well, you can always sign up for our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour to learn more, but I’ll give you the story here as well.
I write this on the morning of November 1st, while the Cubs prepare to play Game 6 of the World Series tonight. It will be their first time ever playing in November. They’re trying to come back and win the final two games of the series, both of which are to be played in Cleveland. As the Cubbies prepare for this ultimate test, we look back on the history of the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Billy Sianis and his Cursed Goat
The Curse of the Billy Goat goes back to the last time the Cubs played in the World Series in 1945. Leading 2-1 against the Detroit Tigers, the Cubs were looking to take a decisive hold on the series in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. Instead, it wound up being the beginning of the curse.
Billy Sianis was the owner of the now famous Billy Goat Tavern, which we visit on the Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour. He was a big Cubs fan and decided to bring his pet goat, Murphy, to the game for good luck. The ushers refused to let Sianis and his goat in. The Cubs owner, P.K. Wrigley, said that only Billy could enter the stadium because “the goat stinks.”
What follows has been quoted in myriad different ways. The offended Billy Sianis is said to have thrown his hands up and said something to the effects of “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 Cubs lost every subsequent game in the 1945 World Series. Sianis supposedly sent Wrigley a telegram that read “Who stinks now?”
This launched a lifetime’s worth of futility for the Cubs. From 1945 on they became the “Lovable Losers.” Despite Hall of Fame players like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, they rarely even approached a winning season over the decades.
Infamous Moments from the Curse of the Billy Goat
When the Cubs did manage to put together winning seasons, they invariably met unimaginable twists of fate that seemed to confirm the curse.
In 1969, the year before Sianis died, the Cubs lead the National League for almost the entire year. But in a late season match-up against the surging “Miracle” Mets in New York, the curse struck. A stray black cat walked between the Cubs dugout and Ron Santo, their star player, while he waited to bat. The Cubs subsequently collapsed and the Mets won the NL pennant and the World Series.
It took 15 more years for the Cubs to get back into winning form. In 1984, they were up 2 games to 0 over the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series and needed only 8 more outs to clinch the pennant. But a fielding error by the first baseman led to a Padres rally. Seemingly seized by the lingering curse, the Cubs went on to lose the entire series.
The most infamous moment of all came in 2003. During Game 6 of the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were a mere five outs away from clinching the pennant. But a die-hard Cubs fan named Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball that could have been caught for an out. The Cubs were so shaken by the missed opportunity that they allowed the Marlins to score 8 runs in that inning and lost the subsequent Game 7.
Is the Curse Finally Broken?
Fast forward to 2016 and the Cubs have finally won the National League pennant and advanced to the World Series. I’m only a casual baseball fan, but even watching the game on TV I could tell that the atmosphere at Wrigley Field the night that they won was spectacular. One can only imagine what Wrigleyville will be like if the Cubs win it all. Interestingly, they won the pennant on October 22nd, the 46th anniversary of Billy Sianis’ death. If that’s not an omen, then I don’t know what is.
Debate lingers about whether the Curse of the Billy Goat is lifted with the Cubs going to the World Series. I’m sure Cubs diehards will still see the curse if the Cubs don’t win it all. Unfortunately, the odds of them pulling off two straight wins in Cleveland are not great. But no curse is easily broken. So maybe the Cubs have to take the hardest road possible in order to be champions?
EDIT: They really did it! It really happened! The Cubs won Game 7 of the 2016 World Series 8-7. It was a 10-inning instant classic and set millions of people into a delirium of joy. The curse is broken. The goat is dead. Long live the Cubs. See you on the Bar Tour!
-Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide