How Steve Bartman Ended the Curse of the Billy Goat and Helped the Cubs Win a World Series

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November 3, 2016 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas


The legend goes that during the 1945 World Series, Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was thrown out of Wrigley Field because his goat’s odor was bothering the other fans.  As a result of this perceived slight, Sianis cursed the Cubs by remarking “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”.  Now, Sianis was Greek which is importantly for three reasons: 1) It explains why he was so obsessed with his goat, as no other group of people are as obsessed with goats and lamb as Greek people, 2) Greeks are incredibly superstitious people, and 3) we also give in to emotional extremes with an unnerving ease.

Being Greek means that it’s very easy to let your emotions get the better of you.  It also means that we believe in curses, portents, and good luck charms.  When it comes to curses, there’s really only two real remedies.  You can either have the person who originally cursed you spit on you to break the curse, or you can just ride it out only the curse wears off.  Since Sianis has been dead for decades all the Cubs could really do was sit back and let the curse take its toll until it wore off.  According to Greek folklore, bad things come in threes, so if the Cubs were in fact a cursed team, there would have to have been three inexplicably outrageous acts that ruined their chance of winning a World Series.  It just so happened that three inexplicably terrible things have already happened to the Cubs that hindered their chances of winning.  That doesn’t mean that their guaranteed to win the 2016 World Series, just that in the even that they do lose, it won’t be because there’re cursed.  Much like Ebenezer Scrooge, they’ve experienced their three omens, and are finally on the other side of the curse.

The first such instance of the curse actually being a factor came in 1969, the first year since 1945 that the Cubs were actually good.  In late August, the Cubs were leading their division by about 7.5 games, with their first trip to the postseason since 1945 in their sights.  From August 14th to the end of the season, the Cubs fell to a record of 18-27, while the Mets, a team that had never finished higher than 9th place, went 38-11 to clinch the division and a playoff berth at the Cubs expense.  This epic collapse is best characterized by an incident at Shea Stadium during a mid September game between both teams where a black cat ran right in front of Cubs captain Ron Santo.  The Cubs wound up losing that game and finished the season 8 games behind the Mets.  A black cat running circling the Cubs team captain served as a foreshadowing of the bad luck that would befall the team for the last few weeks of the 1969 season.  Bad things happen to teams all the time, but the addition of a black cat, the embodiment of bad luck, makes it seem like bigger forces were at play here.

The second instance of the curse taking place was in game 5 of the 1984 NLCS, the Cubs first trip to the postseason since 1945.  The Cubs were the best team in the National League that year and looking to be in prime position to go to the World Series after taking a 2-0 game lead.  However, San Diego won the next two games to force a winner-take-all game 5 to face Detroit in the World Series.  Leading the game 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, a groundball that looked certain to be the second out went right through the legs of first baseman Leon Durham.  Because of that error, four runs would cross the plate that inning to give the Padres a lead that they would not relinquish.  Leon Durham was Bill Buckner two years before Buckner, causing his team to lose a playoff series.  Although Buckner and the Red Sox overshadowed the Leon Durham incident, it was still the second sign that the Curse of the Billy Goat was alive and thriving.[1]

The third and final manifestation of the curse would come in 2003, in the form of the Steve Bartman incident, something that’s been rehashed way too many times in the 13 years since.  We all know what happened, so there’s no point in going over the details again.  Honestly, with the way this guy was crucified by the entire city of Chicago and the media, you’d have thought it was Good Friday in the Philippines.

What we seen with all three manifestations of the curse is a sense of escalation.  In 1969, the curse prevented them from going to the playoffs; in 1984 it prevented them from winning their first playoff series since 1908, and in 2003 it cost them a trip to the world series.  In 1984, they were denied a playoff series victory, while in 2003, they won a series, only to be denied a trip to the World Series.  Depending on how you see it, the curse either actually relinquished a little bit, or became more severe.  But regardless of whether or a glass half empty of glass half full person, the Curse of the Billy Goat ended back in 2003, after the Bartman incident led to the curse running its course.

The Bartman incident was the third and final wave of miraculous bad luck that emanated from Billy Sianis’ curse.  After that, the Cubs were released from the curse.  Even though they didn’t win a World Series immediately after, it wasn’t because they were cursed, but because they were a bad team.  Think about it, in the 13 since the curse was broken, nothing inexplicably bad has happened to the Cubs.  Yes, they lost playoff series, but not by any miraculous stroke of bad luck.  Although Sianis’ goat was named Murphy, the surname of the 2015 NLCS MVP, it’s not like there were any forces at play preventing the Cubs from winning that series.  They never even held a lead through all four games, so it’s hard to blame a curse when you’re so thoroughly beaten.

The curse is over, it wasn’t broken, it had just run its course, so in a way it just sorta…stopped. It ended 13 years ago under the disguise of the most malevolent manifestation of the curse.  But Bartman was the vehicle for the Cubs emancipation from the curse.  He was the (unwilling) third, and final, bad thing to happen to the Cubs as a result of the curse, a curse inflicted on the Cubs by a Greek guy.  Us Greeks are very emotional and spiteful people.  As Cubs fans have unfortunately witnessed, it’s a very hazardous situation when the two intersect.  On behalf of all Greek Americans out there all I can say is sorry Chicago.  We promise not to let it happen again; you guys have been through enough.

[1] This is because Red Sox fans like to think that they have a monopoly on misery…even to this day.


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