The baby bears bested a goat and brought a championship to Chicago.
It was September 2016 and the Chicago Cubs were cruising toward a National League Central title with the best record in baseball and an insurmountable lead. The Cubbies looked like a sure bet for a pennant and World Series title. Yet their fans were panic stricken.
How could outstanding play lead to sleepless nights and cold sweats for Cubs fans? What was the cause of this windy-city woe? It was, quite simply, the curse.
The Curse at Work
To many fans, “the curse” was why the Cubs hadn’t won the World Series for the past 108 years. Despite coming close on occasion, they would ultimately fail. Consider the Steve Bartman incident — a Cubbie nightmare with its own Wikipedia page. Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series was being contested in the Cub’s home ballpark, Wrigley Field. The Cubs led three games to two over the Florida Marlins and were ahead 3-0 in the 8th inning — just five outs away from a World Series appearance. Luis Castillo of the Marlins lofted a foul ball, Moisés Alou of the Cubs was in position to catch it, when Bartman, a Cub fan, reached out and deflected the ball. The Marlins scored eight runs, won the game, and on the following day, won game seven. For Cub fans, this was another example of the curse at work. And the evidence justified their suspicions, with similar examples of bad luck having dashed Cub hopes for a title in 1969 and 1984.
The Legacy of the Goat
The incident that allegedly caused the curse occurred in 1945. The Cubs were in the World Series, having bested a field of war-weakened teams. William Sianis, owner of Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern (which would later be immortalized in the Saturday Night Live “Cheeseborger, Cheeseborger” skit) would bring his goat, named Murphy, to games at Wrigley Field. The story has it that during Game 4, Sianis and his goat were ejected from the ballpark, because his goat was stinking up the place. He sent a telegram to Cub owner Philip K. Wrigley that said the Cubs would never win the Series because his goat had been insulted. For the next 71 years, the Cubs, rather than the goat, stunk up the place.
No wonder Cub fans were wringing their hands come September 2016, but their lead held, and they clinched the division title with room to spare. But fan anxiety was far from over, as the curse hung like a pall. After winning the first two games of the DLCS division championship, they fell to the Giants in Game 3. And things went south quickly in Game 4, as the Cubs trailed 5-2 in the ninth inning. But somehow the little bears found their way home, winning 6 to 5 and going to the NLCS league championship against the Dodgers.
The Road to the Series
The NLCS turned bad in a hurry, and the Cubs had to come from behind again to win their ticket to the World Series, but win it they did. The World Series had come to Wrigley.
Some fans thought Cub management should invite a goat to the games to please the ghost of Murphy, but that was not to be, and after three games, the Cubbies were down to the Cleveland Indians, two games to one. In Game 4, the Indians clobbered the Cubs, leaving the hapless Chicagoans one game away from defeat, with the Series moving to Cleveland for the next two games. But Murphy must have been on hiatus, because the Cubs came through with two wins in Cleveland, and the Series returned to the friendly confines for Game 7. It couldn’t be easy of course, and the game went into extra innings, as Cub fans closed their eyes. But this time, the baby bruins were not to be denied, and at 11:47 pm on November 2, 2016, the curse of the goat was put to rest.
The fans, on the other hand, would not be put to rest, and thousands of them took to the streets of Wrigleyville, the neighborhood that is home to the Cubs. The party lasted ‘til dawn, and resumed two days later with 5 million fans pouring into the city for the victory parade. More than 100 years in the making, it was a victory celebration to top all victory celebrations, and it brought the city to a standstill.
You can credit the Series win to great pitching, the management of Joe Maddon and timely hitting. But some old-school Cub fans say Miriam Santiago was the difference. She carried holy water, a rosary and a lucky baseball with her throughout the playoffs. Finally, she brought a goat mask with dynamite in its mouth to Wrigley and let fans pose with it outside the ballpark while she prayed. The curse was broken.
-Home Run Hitter
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