First things first
If you are a Cubs fan you most likely know about the Curse of the Billy Goat or at least heard about it in years past. You also may have an opinion about it and have realized by now that the curse was lifted in 2016.
In this post I will address the question, what is the Billy Goat Curse? and what has it meant to so many Cubs fans for so many years? I’ll also give my take on the curse and what it means to me.
Since my site is titled “The Goat Is Gone”, I wanted to make this topic my first post so readers will get a feeling about my passion for Chicago Cubs baseball.
How did the Curse of the Billy Goat start?
Wikipedia describes the Curse of the Billy Goat as “a sports-related curse that was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise in 1945, by Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis.”
The Chicago Cubs were playing the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series when William (Billy Goat) Sianis showed up at Wrigley Field on October 6th to see game 4 with his goat “Murphy”.
There are several versions or rumors of exactly how the incident occurred but when Sianis attempted to purchase two tickets for him and Murphy to enter Wrigley Field he was denied by usher personnel and turned away. Another version declared Sianis and his goat were allowed into the game and then ordered to leave in the 4th inning because the goat smelled bad.
Sianis made the statement, something to the effect, “Those Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. And with that, the Cubs did not win the World Series again until 2016 thus ending the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Who was William (Billy Goat) Sianis?
There are hundreds of interesting historical baseball stories. To this day I still find the Curse of the Billy Goat one of the most intriguing not only because it involves the Cubs but more so because William Sianis said the Cubs wouldn’t win again and that statement stood true for 71 years.
While doing my research for this post I wanted to find out more about Sianis, his goat Murphy, and the Billy Goat Tavern. To me, it’s important to know as much information about a topic as possible. Let’s find out more about William (Billy Goat) Sianis.
William Sianis was born in Greece in 1895 and moved to America in 1912. After Prohibition was repealed in 1934 he bought the Lincoln Tavern for $205. Not long after taking over the tavern a baby goat fell off of a truck near his business. Sianis took the goat in and named him Murphy, grew himself a goatee and renamed the Lincoln Tavern, The Billy Goat Inn.
Sianis relocated the tavern from its original location to a space between the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times in 1964. Today, the Billy Goat Tavern has 8 locations in the Chicago area and one in Washington, D.C.
Historians all seem to agree that Sianis was quite good at marketing. In fact, one of the billy goat curse versions had Sianis parading Murphy around the infield before game 4 of the World Series wearing a sign that read, “We Got Detroit’s Goat.”
William “Billy Goat” Sianis passed away on October 22, 1970, which was the same date in 2016 that the Chicago Cubs won their first pennant since Sianis declared, “the Cubs ain’t gonna win again”. That’s 46 years, which by the way is also Pedro Strope’s (Cubs relief pitcher) jersey number. Hum, is that a coincidence?
The Billy Goat Tavern Now
We know the history of how the Billy Goat Tavern was established, but, what about now? Does it still exist? The answer is yes and, wow, the restaurant is doing great.
The tavern now has nine locations. Eight in Chicago and one in Washington D.C. Check out the tavern’s website here.
The tavern also has another interesting Hollywood claim to fame. A skit titled “The Olympia Cafe” featured on Saturday Night Live was inspired by the Billy Goat Tavern. It turns out that this skit was one of Saturday Night Live’s most popular of all time.
What are some other signs the curse existed?
No one will ever know if what William (Billy Goat) Sianis said when he was asked to leave Wrigley Field on that October day in 1945 was really a curse, that’s why I added the question myth or truth in my post title.
There have been signs over the years that the Chicago Cubs (AKA “Lovable Losers”) were in fact under a curse:
1969 – In early June 1969 the Cubs had a commanding 8 1/2 game first-place lead over the second place New York Mets. Would this be the year the curse was broken? By September 9th of that year the Cubs were holding on to a mere 1/1/2 game first place lead over the Mets and then it happened again.
While Ron Santo was standing in the on-deck circle against the Mets at Shea Stadium a black cat walked between Santo and the Cubs dugout. Surely that must have been another sign of “The Curse”. Yes, that black cat allowed the Mets to overtake the Cubs and end up in first place that year.
1973 – The nephew of Billy Goat Sianis, Sam Sianis who was now the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern brought a goat named “Socrates” to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in an attempt to lift the curse. Sianis and the goat road to the game in a limousine and walked up to the gate at Wrigley on a red carpet.
The goat wore a sign stating, “All is forgiven. Let me lead the Cubs to the pennant”. Socrates, supposedly a descendant of Murphy was once again turned away from entering the stadium. And, you guessed it, the first place Cubs once again lost their lead and didn’t make it to the playoffs.
1984 – On opening day at Wrigley Field the owners of the Cubs, The Tribune Company, invited the goat into the stadium. This time Sam Sianis got to actually walk his goat onto the field and claim, “The curse is lifted”.
For the rest of the season, it appeared the opening day festivities with the goat might be working. The Cubs made it to their first Division title and postseason play in forty years. They were playing the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series and won the first two games of the series.
One game was all the Cubs needed to make it to the World Series. Then, the curse struck again, when a ground ball which should have been an easy play for first baseman Leo Durham went through his legs allowing the tying run to score.
The Padres went on to win that game and then also win the last two games in San Diego to move on to the World Series. “The Curse” was still alive and well.
2003 – Perhaps the most famous of all signs that “The Curse” still existed actually involved a fan along the left field line at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series and had a three games to two lead in the seven-game series.
One more win and they were in the World Series. This sign of “The Curse” occurred on October 14, 2003, in the eighth inning of Game 6. Needing only five outs to finally make the Series a foul ball was hit down the third base line. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou ran over to the left field wall, jumped to make the catch and fan Steve Bartman (there is enough information on Bartman available for another post), who was sitting on the front row, put his hands out to grab the ball denying Alou the catch.
You guessed it, the Cubs went on to lose that game and the series to the Marlins who went on to win the World Series that year.
What’s in the name Murphy?
Probably the most credible sign the Curse of Billy Goat is real is in the name “Murphy”. Let’s see how the word Murphy factors into this Curse. First, there’s Murphy’s Law. Wikipedia describes Murphy’s Law as, “an adage or epigram that is typically stated as anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
The fact that William Sianis named his goat “Murphy” probably had nothing to do with Murphy’s Law, however, it sure did start this whole thing off in a very strange way.
Fast forward 70 years to 2015 and here is the name Murphy spoiling things yet again. The Cubs really seemed destined to make it to the World Series. They got a Wild Card birth, beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one-game playoff and then beat
their biggest rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series, and continued on to play the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.
And then, it happened again. This time a player named Daniel Murphy tore the Cubs up in that series once again denying them a chance at the World Series. Murphy was named Most Valuable Player of that series.
Other notable “Murphy’s” along the path of “The Curse” were:
1908 – Charles Murphy was the owner of the Cubs. That just happened to be the last year the Cubs won the World Series.
1969 – The year the black cat walked in front of Ron Santo while he was in the on-deck circle, the General Manager of the Mets was Johnny Murphy and the Mets announcer was Bob Murphy.
1984 – The location where the routine ground ball went through the legs of first baseman Leon Durham was Jack Murphy Stadium.
How have people tried to lift or reverse The Curse?
2004 – The Steve Bartman foul ball incident in game 6 of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Marlins is probably one of the most talked about and reported fan interference plays in major league baseball history.
Because the Bartman incident continued to show signs that The Curse still existed, a partner in Harry Caray’s restaurant bought the ball at an auction for $113,824.00.
The new owner of the ball, Grant DePorter, had the ball displayed in Carey’s restaurant and asked customers to suggest the best ways to destroy the ball.
Then, on February 26, 2004, the Bartman ball was electrocuted into a pile of string.
2005 – When destroying the Bartman ball didn’t lift The Curse, Harry Caray’s Restaurant decided to use leftover parts of the ball and put it in sauce and pour it over spaghetti. That effort was to no avail as well as the Cubs finished that season in fourth place.
2008 – The Cubs actually had the best record in the National League in 2008. Before the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers started the Cubs had a priest sprinkle holy water in their dugout. They went on to get swept by the Dodgers in that series.
2015 – A group of local Chicagoans and local restaurant owners came up with the idea that they should eat a whole goat in the style of a hot dog eating contest somewhere in the city limits.
Five men ate the roasted goat in 13:22. One of the eaters was famed Coney Island hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi.
2016 – Finally, before the start of the 2016 National League Division Series, a local Chicago restaurant made goat sausage and gave it to fans free of charge outside Wrigley Field prior to the games. They also planned on doing the same before World Series games.
We all know what happened that year. Maybe that sausage reversed the curse.
My final thoughts on the Curse of the Billy Goat
There seems to be several versions of how the Curse of the Billy Goat first took place. At any rate those words,”Those Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more” sure started a long series of interesting events and signs that the curse might have existed.
Some people believe in things like this and others do not. For example, did Steve Bartman’s attempt at catching that ball really cause the Cubs to lose game 6 to the Marlins, or, did the overall play of the Cubs in that game cause them to lose?
I personally think The Curse existed in some form, however, with the World Series Championship in 2016 it was lifted.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment below and share on your own social media platforms. I will reply to all comments as soon as possible. I would really like to start a conversation with Cubs fans everywhere.