The Chicago Cubs have just won the 2016 World Series, their first since 1908 and ending the Curse of the Billy Goat once and for all.
The team made its first trip to the World Series since 1945. The franchise had not won the series in 108 years. While one explanation for that drought could have just been bad luck, the most popular explanation is the Curse of the Billy Goat.
The Cubs began their best chance to reverse the curse on Tuesday, October 25. They play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, a team with its own 68-year World Series win drought. The series didn’t start off well for the Cubs, who lost Game 1 and had no answer for Indians starter Corey Kluber‘s dazzling performance. They did make a comeback in Game 2, behind a great performance from Jake Arietta and chasing the Indians’ Trevor Bauer out of the game in the fourth inning.
In Game 3, the Cubs lost 1-0, with a Coco Crisp RBI being the only run in the game at Wrigley. Game 4 was a blowout, with the Indians beating the Cubs 7-2. The Cubs picked up one win in Wrigley with a 3-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 to force a Game 6 in Cleveland, which they easily won 7-2. On November 2, the Cubs beat the Indians in extra innings, 8-7. It could not have been a more dramatic game, as it was filled with several moments that had Cubs fans thinking, “Are we still cursed?” But when World Series MVP Ben Zobrist knocked in two runs in the top of the 10th, the Cubs’ hopes were rekindled. They allowed just one run in the bottom of the 10th and clinched the franchise’s third World Series title.
Read on to find out the origins of the curse, attempts to stop it and how it has stayed alive for 108 years.
1. The Curse Involves a Real Billy Goat, Whose Owner Was Asked to Leave Wrigley During the 1945 World Series
The legend of the curse begins on October 6, 1945, during game 4 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers. Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was at the game with his Billy Goat named Murphy (remember that name) and even had a ticket for the goat. He also draped a banner that read “WE GOT DETROIT’S GOAT” over Murphy.
Ushers asked him to leave because animals weren’t allowed in Wrigley Field. Even owner P.K. Wrigley wouldn’t let the goat enter the park. Sianis was so angry that he declared that the Cubs would never win another World Series. “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” is what Sianis supposedly shouted.
Another variation on the story is that Sianis and Murphy were actually allowed into the stadium. When it started raining, Murphy began to smell, so fans started complaining. Sianis was then kicked out of Wrigley and gave his famous curse.
Others say that Sianis sent a telegram to the Cubs’ office after the game. “You are going to lose this World Series…You are never going to win the World Series again because you insulted my goat,” the telegram reportedly read.
Although the Cubs were up 2-1 in the 1945 Series, they would end up losing game 4 and lost the series in seven games. This year’s World Series was their first trip to the Series since 1945. Between 1945 and 2003, the Cubs only went to the postseason four times and posted a .466 winning percentage.
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2. The Curse Could be Called the ‘Murphy Curse,’ Which Daniel Murphy Kept Alive in 2015
While “The Curse of the Billy Goat” sounds more fun than the “Murphy Curse,” that name applies as well. Aside from being the name of Sianis’ goat, the name “Murphy” pops up countless times in Cubs lore.
Who owned the Cubs in 1908, when they last won the World Series? Charles Murphy. Who was the GM of the 1969 New York Mets team that kept the Cubs out of the Series that year? Johnny Murphy. What was the name of the Padres’ stadium where the Cubs lost the 1984 NLCS? Jack Murphy Stadium. (UPDATE: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the Pirates played at Jack Murphy Stadium.)
Who played second base for the Mets in the 2015 NLCS that the Cubs lost? That was Daniel Murphy, who now plays for the Washington Nationals.
Thankfully for the Cubs, there’s no Murphy on the Dodgers. The Cleveland Indians, who the Cubs will play in the World Series, also don’t have a Murphy on their team.
The Cubs also have to hope that a black cat doesn’t cross their trails. A mysterious black cat ran past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle as the Cubs’ lead over the Mets eroded in 1969. Then, they missed the playoffs completely.
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3. Billy Buckner Wore a Cubs Glove When the Ball Went Through His Legs in the 1986 World Series
During the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Series in 2006, Billy Buckner’s infamous error in game 6 drew even more scrutiny. Although there were other factors that lead to the Boston Red Sox losing the series to the Mets (after all, there was a game 7), Buckner’s error usually takes the blame. What does one example of the Curse of the Bambino have to do with the Cubs?
Buckner played for the Cubs from 1977 to 1984, when the Cubs traded him to the Sox. Strangely, as ESPN discovered in 2006, Buckner was wearing a Cubs glove under his mitt when he made the error. Yes, two years after joining the Sox, he was still wearing a battered Cubs batting glove. A photo of Buckner wearing the exact same glove in 1985 also surfaced.
“I didn’t even realize I was wearing it,” Buckner told ESPN when asked about it, 20 years after the fact.
Therefore, Buckner was not only cursed as a Red Sox player, but also as a Cub. (That is, if you believe in curses.)
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4. Competitive Eaters Ate Goat Meat Last Year to Stop the Curse
Every time the Cubs make the playoffs, there are extravagant attempts to break the curse. For example, in 1998, Sianis’ nephew, Sam Sianis, brought a goat to Wrigley for the 1989 Wild Card tie-breaker game, which the Cubs won. (However, they were then swept out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Braves.)
The 2015 attempt to break the curse featured five competitive eaters eating 40 pounds of goat meat in 13 minutes as fans watched at Taco In A Bag on Chicago’s North Side.
“If it works, we’re the smartest people in Chicago,” co-owner Patrick Bertoletti told the Wall Street Journal.
It didn’t actually work, because the Cubs lost the 2015 NLCS to the Mets, as noted earlier.
There are more helpful ways to try to reverse the curse. Reverse The Curse Chicago urges baseball fans to donate dairy goats to impoverished families in the Caribbean. Heifer International is also running a campaign to raise money to send goats to families who need them. As Heifer notes:
Showing fondness toward goats is mentioned as a key to breaking one of the longest running curses in baseball. There’s no better way to do this than donating a goat and its nutrient-rich milk to a family in need.
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5. Another attempt to Break the Curse Involved Electrocuting the Steve Batman Ball
The event that appeared to prove that the Cubs were indeed cursed happened in 2003, when fan Steve Bartman went for a foul ball during game 6 of the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. Bartman batted the ball away, preventing Moises Alou from catching it. Although the Cubs would go on to give up eight runs and would lose game 7, Bartman was blamed for the team missing a chance to win the World Series. (To make matters worse, the Marlins would go on to beat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series.)
In December 2003, Grant DePorter bought the ball at an auction for $113,824 on behalf of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group. In February 2004, the ball was destroyed in a live television event, as The Associated Press reported at the time.
Michael Lantieri, an Oscar-winning special effects expert who worked on Jurassic Park, was even brought in to oversee the explosion. As you can see above, Lantieri electrocuted the ball until it was just a pile of string.
Today, Bartman has an agent, Frank Murtha. Last year, Murtha explained to the Chicago Tribune that he doesn’t see how interviews with Bartman will help. “He’s not the kind of person or personality that wants attention or needed attention before all this happened,” Murtha said.
In 1997, the famed Chicago writer Mike Royo wrote in the Chicago Tribune that owner P.K. Wrigley was the real reason for the Cubs’ misfortune, not a billy goat. He blamed Wrigley’s mismanagement, specifically his hesitation to add a black player to the Cubs roster. The Cubs didn’t sign a black player until 1953, seven years after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As Royko wrote:
Yes, blame for many of the Cubs’ failings since 1945 can be placed on a dumb creature. Not a poor, dumb creature but a rich one. I’m talking about P.K. Wrigley, head of the chewing gum company and the owner of the Cubs until he died in 1977.
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