The Chicago Cubs have not appeared in a World Series since 1945, when, legend has it, tavern owner Billy Sianis placed a curse on the team in retaliation for refusing stadium entry to his goat.
Going into Wednesday night's potentially decisive Game 4 of the National League Championship Series trailing the New York Mets 3-0, it seems the Cubs' "curse" is as strong as ever.
According to the Billy Goat Tavern's website, which is now owned by Sianis' nephew Sam, the tale goes as follows:
"The Cubs entered Game 4 of the World Series leading the Detroit Tigers 2 games to 1, and needing to win only two of the next four games played at Wrigley Field. A local Greek, William 'Billy Goat' Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern and a Cubs fan, bought two tickets to Game 4. Hoping to bring his team good luck he took his pet goat, Murphy, with him to the game. At the entrance to the park, the Andy Fran ushers stopped Billy Goat from entering saying that no animals are allowed in the park. Billy Goat, frustrated, appealed to the owner of the Cubs, P.K. Wrigley. Wrigley replied, 'Let Billy in, but not the goat.' Billy Goat asked, 'Why not the goat?' Wrigley answered, 'Because the goat stinks.'
"According to legend, the goat and Billy were upset, so then Billy threw up his arms and exclaimed, '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 were officially cursed. Subsequently, the Cubs lost game four, and the remaining series[,] getting swept at home and from the World Series. Billy Goat promptly sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley, stating, 'Who stinks now?' "
Seventy years later, the Cubs have yet to make it back to the World Series, and their fans have adopted the unofficial slogan, "Wait 'til next year."
The Cubs' curse is one of the most storied and enduring in baseball, along with the Red Sox's since-broken "Curse of the Bambino." That myth goes something like this: Babe Ruth, nicknamed "The Bambino," had been a star for the Red Sox from 1914-1919; when he was sold to the rival Yankees, the baseball gods leveled their punishment.
"When Babe Ruth was sold in 1920, the Boston Red Sox had won five World Series titles, more than any other major league team. Up to that point, the Yankees had never won one. However, since Babe Ruth arrived with the Yankees in 1920, this fabled franchise has been to the World Series 37 times and has won a staggering 26 times, including four titles with the Babe. The Red Sox, however, have had a far different outcome.
"After selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees, the Red Sox did not win another Championship for 86 years (until 2004). It was a period full of heartbreaks for everyone affiliated with the Red Sox — from the players to the ever-faithful fans. The causes were many — bad management decisions, unfortunate errors and an almost-ironic amount of incredible bad-luck."
Much was made of the curse's end, and since 2004, the Red Sox have gone on to win the World Series twice more, in 2007 and 2013.
However, lest you think sports curses are merely a fabrication by desperate and superstitious baseball fans, consider this tale involving the woes of the Australian national soccer team, called the Socceroos, and an erstwhile comedian, John Safran:
"The story begins in 1969, when the Australians were trying to qualify for the 1970 World Cup. The team had lost a play-off and was to face Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in Mozambique.
"Safran said: '[Soccer player] Johnny (Warren) told me that after the first game of that series, some of the players heard about a witchdoctor in Mozambique who said he could sort things out by putting a curse on the Rhodesians. They all said, "Yeah, cool, let's do it" and so the witchdoctor planted some bones near one of the goalposts and cursed the opposition.'
" 'The team won the next game 3-1 and the witchdoctor told the players he wanted $1000 for his services. "You owe me," the witchdoctor told them, but the players didn't have enough money,' Safran said. 'He warned them he'd reverse the curse and put it on Australian soccer.'
"The players left the country without paying up and Johnny sincerely believed that, ever since, Australian soccer has been cursed.
"The national team qualified for the 1974 World Cup but suffered a run of gut-wrenching defeats, topped off by the 1997 Iranian disaster and the tear-jerker in Uruguay four years ago. When Warren told him the story last year, Safran decided to go to Africa to do a story about the curse for his show John Safran vs God. The witchdoctor had died, but Safran found another who could channel him by going to the stadium at which the Rhodesia game had been played 35 years earlier.
" 'That involved us sitting in the middle of the pitch and he killed a chicken and splattered the blood all over me,' Safran said. 'I then had to go to Telstra Stadium with Johnny and we had to wash ourselves in some clay the witchdoctor had given us.' "
The antics apparently did the trick, as the team went on to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.