Dan's Dugout: Cubs Crack Goat Curse • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Cubs Crack Goat Curse


The Goat Curse is over! The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series for the first time since 1945, ending the longest drought among the original 16 teams.

The curse began shortly after World War 2 ended in August 1945 and servicemen streamed back into the United States from the European and Pacific theaters.

cubsgoatcurseChicago tavern owner Billy Sianis, who had attended games at Wrigley Field with his pet goat,
was turned away when he brought the animal to the World Series that fall.

Even though he had purchased two tickets for the tussle against the Tigers, Sianis was stopped at the turnstile and told his goat would stink up the place.

Actually, that’s what the Cubs did for the next 71 years – until now.

Cubs fans blame Sianis, who placed a hex on the club, stating it would never reach the World Series again.

The team came close a few times but always found an opportunity to blow the opportunity.

In 1969, a black cat got loose at Shea Stadium, ran right in front of the Cubs dugout, and apparently helped a playoff-bound team crumble to the inexperienced Miracle Mets.

In 1984, when the Championship Series was still a best-of-five affair, the Cubs won the first two games at home, then dropped three straight in San Diego – giving up a late Steve Garvey homer in the fourth game and blowing a 3-0 lead in the finale after Ryne Sandberg knocked over the Gatorade in the dugout while Bull Durham’s glove was on the floor.

Then there was 2003, when the Marlins lost three of the first four in the expanded NLCS but came back to win the final three, including two at Wrigley with Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor on the mound. Yes, the infamous Steve Bartman game was part of that fiasco.

Last year, the Mets nailed the Cubs coffin shut with four fine pitching performances, sweeping a series

It's been awhile.

It’s been awhile.

Chicago had been favored to win.

Throughout the 71-year drought, the Cubs tried repeatedly to shake the hex. Ernie Banks, the two-time MVP who reached the Hall of Fame without reaching the World Series, paraded a goat around the bases before a game. Fans brought pets to “Bark in the Park” promotions. The concession stands at Wrigley even stopped serving GLTs on rye.

Maybe they should have tried good old white bread.

That’s what Joe Maddon used this summer when he coaxed his charges to 103 wins, easily the most in the majors and the most by a Cubs team since 1910. Chicago clinched its division title in mid-September, long before any other club, and finished 17 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, a perennial playoff team that just missed making the 2016 wild-card game.

Now the Cubs are in uncharted territory. They enter a World Series that matches Central Division champions but they face a Cleveland club that has not won a world championship since 1948. In fact, the Indians have had a mini-drought of their own, staying out of the Fall Classic since 1997.

Fans are getting restless

Fans are getting restless

Ironically, both clubs got there by acquiring lefthanded closers from the New York Yankees: Andrew Miller, the 2016 ALCS MVP, went to Cleveland while Aroldis Chapman went to the Cubs for the final two months.

The Series that starts Tuesday also matches managers with a penchant for innovation. Terry Francona deployed Miller early and often against Toronto in the ALCS, watching the lanky lefty mow down all but two of the 25 men he faced. Miller yielded only a hit and a walk while fanning 14 and putting zeroes on the scoreboard.

Francona also got by without three-fifths of his rotation, with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco unavailable and Trevor Bauer forced to depart in the fifth inning with a bleeding finger injured during horseplay with a toy drone. THAT will go down in baseball history as a record that can’t be broken!

Maddon, in the other league, was Mr. Mix & Match, playing MVP favorite Kris Bryant at both infield and outfield corners because he didn’t want him get bored just sticking to third base.

Maddon moved his men like a chess master, dressed them in zany travel outfits, and kept them loose and

Joe Maddon's club won 103 games, its best since 1910

Joe Maddon’s club won 103 games, its best since 1910

laughing all summer. It helped that front office wunderkind Theo Epstein, half Maddon’s age, added such pieces as Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward over two winters of checkbook diplomacy.

Subtracting Lackey and Heyward from the rival Cardinals was a steal equivalent to subtracting Joe Biden and Michelle Obama from the Democratic Party.

It was no surprise that Javier Baez, one of the most versatile Cubs, wound up sharing NLCS MVP honors with Lester, the lefty with the microscopic ERA.

Both teams made quick work of their opponents, with the Indians plucking the Blue Jays in five and the Cubs winning four of six from the Dodgers – after staging a four-year, ninth-inning rally in Game 4 of the Division Series against San Francisco.

Jason Heyward greets Anthony Rizzo at the plate

Jason Heyward greets Anthony Rizzo at the plate

FOX won’t even mind the Fall Classic match-up even though no East or West Coast clubs are involved. Millions of Americans, tired of the contentious election, will be glad to have the diversion of a World Series that could end a 108-year drought.

Although the Cubs won consecutive World Series in 1907 and 1908, they haven’t won one since Teddy Roosevelt was president. A kaleidoscope of history has passed them by: two World Wars, a Depression, Korea, Vietnam, and the advent of the atomic age, the air-conditioner, and the cell phone. Not to mention television.

The last time the Cubs won a World Series, fans had to gather in public places to watch makeshift monitors report the play-by-play. Not anymore.

The best teams rarely reach the World Series anymore, let alone win it, because of baseball’s multi-tiered playoff system. It starts with 10 of the 30 teams and becomes a final four before morphing into the last round.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs, with the curse behind them, have a chance to make history again.

“We don’t care about it. We don’t look into it,” Kris Bryant said after Game 6 to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports 1. “This is a new team. This is a completely different time of our lives. We’re really enjoying it. We’re just getting started.”

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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