Pearls & Vodka

The Spirit of the Goat at Wrigley Field…

It was Game 4 of the 1945 World Series; the Chicago Cubs were playing the Detroit Tigers.  The folks at the entry gates began to smell a stench that was deemed unbearable.  As they were looking around for the source, up walked William Sianis, a Greek Immigrant who owned The Billy Goat Inn, a tavern nearby Wrigley Field.  Sianis had two tickets with him that day, one for him and one for Murphy, his pet goat.  The stench was identified as coming from Murphy.  Murphy wore a placard that day that said, “We Got Detroit’s Goat.”  The attendants at the gate tried to turn Sianis and Murphy away.  But he argued he’d purchased two box seat tickets and he deserved to use them.  They were allowed in the stadium reluctantly and unfortunately during the 4th inning, ushers arrived and said someone complained about Murphy’s odor and they were asked to leave.  William Sianis is credited with saying, “You are going to lose the World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again.”  At this point in history it had already been 37 years since the Cubs last won the Series.  William “Billy Goat” Sianis was right, the Cubs would not win that World Series.  They ended up dropping Game 4 and went on to lose the Series in Game 7.   [1]

As the years went by and the Cubs still had not won another Series, the management at Wrigley Field tried everything to break the curse.  The determination was so strong to rid the team of the hex they even had Sianis’ nephew Sam appear at Opening Day in 1973 and allowed him to bring along a goat from the lineage of Murphy, his uncle’s now infamous curse-inducing goat.  Sam declared that day at Wrigley Field, “The curse is lifted.”  Sam appeared with a goat at Wrigley again in 1984, 1989, 1994 and 1998, to no avail.  William Sianis himself rescinded the curse in 1979 as well.  When the Cubs actually made the Playoffs in 2008, they invited Reverend Father James L. Greanias, a Greek Orthodox priest, to Wrigley Field to spread holy water throughout the Cubs dugout.  They went on to lose the series 3-0 to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  [2]

What some may not know about the Cubs is they appeared in the World Series in 1906 and 1907 before winning it in 1908.  They went on to play in the World Series again six more times before the Sianis Curse in 1945.  The never appeared in the World Series again until this year, 2016, even after appearing in the NL Division Series 5 times since and the NL Championship Series 4 times since.  [3]

No one really knows if there is any such thing as a “curse” with potential to thwart history, but one thing is for sure, the Cubs struggled to overcome William Sianis’ words as they were proven true year after year, season after season.

The Chicago Cubs 2016 season was nothing short of miraculous, a true work of art, poetry in motion if you will.  And as a lifelong Cubs fan, it was everything I’d always dreamed of, and so much more.  With a record of 103-58 (.640) and finishing first in the NL Division history was being made.  President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer, The Ricketts Family (owners of the Cubs) and Manager Joe Maddon had assembled one incredibly talented lineup, bench and bullpen.  But the Cubs had talented players before.  This was the 145th season for the Cubs, and actually their 100th year at the storied Wrigley Field.  They finished the season in October with the best record in Major League Baseball and won the NL Central title by 17.5 games.  The Cubs went on to defeat the San Francisco Giants in the NL Division Series, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.  But they had been there before.  In fact, in 2015 they played the Dodgers for the NL Championship Series as well, but lost.  This time was different though.  This time they actually won.

The World Series started just as many Cubs fans are used to, with a loss to the Cleveland Indians.  They came back and won Game 2.  And went on to lose Games 3 and 4.  Down in the World Series 3-1, most Cubs fans believed the curse was continuing.  But then on the backs of Jon Lester’s pitching they won Game 5.  And two days later, Jake Arrieta pitched an incredible game and they whooped the Indians 9-3.  Game 7 in Cleveland.  The place was packed with folks like Billy Murray and Lebron James in attendance.  The game started off looking good, the regular season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks who had clutched the NL Championship Series for the Cubs was on the mound.  Dexter Fowler led the game off with a home run to center field to give the Cubs and early 1-0 lead.  Hendricks held the Indians scoreless until the 3rd Inning. The Cubs were still up 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth, things looked good, the curse might finally be lifted.  And then after 2 outs, Maddon pulled Hendricks.  A few errors later and another pitching change the Cubs found themselves tied up with the Indians.  A tired Aroldis Chapman, who had pitched in three straight games, somehow found a way to hold Cleveland and force extra innings.  And then the rain began.  Now, 17 minutes later, the Cubs and Indians were back on the field to start the 10th Inning.  Things were definitely shifting the Indians way before the rain delay.  The Cubs found a way to score two runs, it was 8-6 and the Cubs made yet another pitching change, not once but twice.  On the second pitch that Mike Montgomery threw, with two outs already recorded, Michael Martinez hit a grounder to Kris Bryant at third base who scooped it up with a huge smile on his face and tossed the out to his buddy Anthony Rizzo on first and right then and there, the 108-year curse was over.  [4]

So why am I writing about this, it’s been a month since the Cubs won the Series?

The nostalgia of course.  The history.  The pride.  The reminder.  And the memories.  I grew up a Cubs fan.  I watched more games on WGN with my Dad growing up than I can even count.  I’ve made more memories with my friends at Wrigley Field than I can even remember.  I’ve owned more shirts, more hats, more baseball cards and more paraphernalia than I can even find today.  And why?  Up until this year they were cursed, never able to pull it off, frustrating and heart breaking.  They were America’s most unfortunate team.

But they were my team.  And they were my Dad’s team.  All throughout Chicago you will meet folks who will tell you that their Grandfather passed away just hoping for one Cubs World Series win before he died.  And in almost every city in America you will meet folks who tell you “Well, I’m a Cubs fan even though they never win.  I just always have been.”  They will go on to tell you of their family who passed down the love of the Cubbies to them, for me it was my Dad, for them it might be their Uncle, their Mom, their Brother, their neighbor.

For me the 2016 World Series win by the Chicago Cubs was not only the end of the curse it was the baseball moment I had waited almost 34 years to see.  And victory is never sweeter than when you have waited a long time to experience it!