Steve Matteo/AP
Billy Goat wanders around the Billy Goat
Tavern in Chicago.

‘Cursed’ Cubs Look For a Scape Goat

October 02, 2008 04:13 PM
by Josh Katz
A priest and a goat arrived at Wrigley Field Oct. 1 to exorcise the team’s famous “Curse of the Goat,” one of sports’ most celebrated explanations for franchise futility.

Goat and Priest Descend on Wrigley

Prior to Wednesday night’s opening game in the National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rev. Father James L. Greanias, a Greek Orthodox priest, spread holy water throughout the Cubs’ dugout. The process took about 10 minutes. A cameraman from TBS, the network broadcasting the game, made sure to get the act on tape and it appeared on television before the first pitch.

Cubs’ Chairman Crane Kenney had asked Greanias to do the ritual, fearing that the team’s historic “Curse of the Billy Goat” could strike again this October.

In 1945, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, took his pet goat to Game 4 of the World Series against the Tigers, thinking it would bring the Cubs luck. But team owner P.K. Wrigley wouldn’t let the goat in “because the goat stinks,” he said. Sianis left, saying, “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,” according to The Billy Goat Tavern Web site.

The Cubs lost that World Series, and have yet to even appear in one since. It has now been 100 years since the Cubs won their last World Championship, in 1908.

Kenney thought he would do everything in his power to make sure his 2008 Cubs team, owners of the best regular-season record in the National League, would not fall victim to the Billy Goat in 2008. “He said, ‘I’m a devout Catholic, and I’m not superstitious, but if there is anything there, I want to take care of it,’” Greanis said Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports. Since Sianis was a Greek-American, naturally, the Cubs’ chairman thought it would be best to seek the help of a Greek-Orthodox priest.

But, as the Chicago Tribune notes, “The spreading of holy water in the Cubs dugout was nothing new. Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker was once given a gift of holy water from the Vatican from former Cubs media relations chief Sharon Pannozzo. Baker rubbed it on some of his players, including current Dodgers shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, in hopes the Cubs would receive help from on high.”

The priest wasn’t alone in trying to end the curse. Indiana restaurant owner Jim Gerodemos brought his goat Tito to Wrigley Field on Wednesday, holding a pair of tickets for himself and the goat. Although the crowd appeared “sympathetic,” according to the Peoria Journal Star, security would not permit the goat entry—the same scenario from 1945.

Gerodemos said, “Look at him! He’s a winner! He’s got a seat. He’s got to walk the bases.”

But despite the efforts of Greanias and Gerodemos, the Dodgers defeated the Cubs in Game 1 by a score of 7-2.

Background: The wide world of sports hexes

The sporting world is replete with lore on par with the Billy Goat of Wrigley, though the Cubs, at least at the moment, appear to be especially cursed. After the Red Sox broke their own supposed curse and won the World Series in 2004, ESPN assessed those sports teams whose curses remain intact. “To officially be cursed, a franchise cannot have won a championship in the last 25 years … and the franchise must have been in existence for all 25 years,” the article said. The Chicago Cubs took the No. 1 spot. The article was also written in 2004, a year before the Chicago White Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1917. The White Sox held the No. 2 spot on the list for the Black Sox curse of 1919 in which they threw the World Series; but now, the Cubs are that much more alone.

One of the most infamous sports’ jinxes of all time can be traced to the 1919 sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees. The Curse of the Bambino allegedly robbed the Boston Red Sox of the World Series until 2004.

A Red Sox fan from the Bronx tried to get the Yankees back for the Bambino curse this year, when the construction worker buried a David Ortiz Red Sox jersey at the third-base line of the new Yankee stadium. Not taking any chances of facing a similar fate to their American League rivals, the Yankees spent the money to have the jersey dug up in April.

In Philadelphia, the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers have all failed to secure a championship for the city since 1987, and some fans hold William Penn responsible. Through an informal “gentlemen’s agreement” in 1901, the Philadelphia government concluded that City Hall “would remain the tallest building in the city” with the statue of William Penn sitting atop it, according to an article in Cabrini College’s The Loquitur. But in March 1987, One Liberty Place was built, eclipsing City Hall as Philadelphia’s tallest building.

John Madden has had a great impact on football, but his video game has too, according to some believers. Snopes breaks down “The Madden Curse." A number of players who have appeared on the cover of the “Madden NFL” video game, released yearly, have ended up suffering serious injuries. For example, the 2002 cover featured Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who subsequently missed the last five games of that season due to a knee injury.

But an October 2006 article from Fox Sports argues that Boston’s Curse of the Bambino, Chicago’s Curse of the Billy Goat, Philadelphia’s Curse of Billy Penn and the Madden NFL cover jinx, are all figments of the public’s imagination. It points out that “The Cubs’ championship drought dates back to 1908, 37 years before the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ was placed.”

Related Topic: ‘America’s Most Miserable Sports Cities’


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