If you ask a Chicago Cubs fan they will say there is no curse. But how else can you explain a team with the history and longevity of the Cubs not winning a World Series since 1908 and not appearing in a World Series since 1945?
Born the Chicago White Stockings (a name in which inspired the naming of the White Sox later in 1901) in 1870, the team would go on to be known as the Colts (1890-1897) and the Orphans (1898-1902) before settling into the lovable nickname they’ve had since 1903… The Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs have had some success over the years, having won 2 World Series (back to back, 1907-1908) and winning 16 NL pennants overall. But no franchise has ever gone 103 years and counting without a championship. Why? Why a team with such a rich history do they have this problem? What other excuse could they have? Shh… Don’t say the “c” word!
Well if we are going to throw the “c” word around, which one should we choose? You see there could be 5 very causes of this “c” word. I’ll break them down and let you make your own mind which one it is. After all… If the Red Sox could over come the Babe Ruth curse, maybe just maybe the Cubs could do the same. They just have to figure out which one they need to break.
The Cubs only won 2 World Series in their history. But they have been to the big dance several times. 16 in fact. One such instance flew under the radar until an ESPN story in to the matter surfaced earlier this summer. Did the Chicago Cubs throw the 1918 World Series? Were they in fact more scandalous then their crosstown counterparts? Everyone knows about the infamous Chicago Blacksox of 1919. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and crew were indicted and banned from the game for life for their involvement in throwing the 1919 Series.
No one will ever really know if the Cubs threw the 1918 World Series. Every player on that team has long since passed away. But if the ESPN story is true. For argument’s sake let’s just assume that it is. The Cubs purposely lost to the Boston Red Sox. A series which used to be famous because of Red Sox lore. Being the last series they had won until they broke their own curse in 2004. If true, then one wonders…
First, without that title the Red Sox would have gone 88 years instead of 86 for those that are wondering. They won also in 1916. Secondly, Eddie Cicotte (the gambler behind the Blacksox scandal) says that he offered numerous Cubs money to throw it. He was never specific about who though. Despite Cubs pitching staff having a 1.04 ERA in the series and every game being decided by 1 run, some players made very interesting plays. Makes you wonder. Max Flack for instance made several errors in judgement in the outfield and on the base paths.
No one knows if the Cubs tanked that series. But if they did it’s definitely cause for a curse. Who deserves to win a World Series if they take it for granted?
The Billy Goat
We’ve all heard the tale. The Cubs were up 2-1 in the 1945 World Series. The last World Series they have played in to present. A guy, Billy Sianis buys 2 tickets to the game in Wrigley Field. After a few innings, P.K. Wrigley ejects them. Saying the smell was intolerable. Upon being ejected Sianis was quoted as supposedly saying “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. The Cubs went on to lose Game 4 and haven’t been back since. Rumor is that Sianis placed a curse on the Cubs.
Over the years fans have tried to reverse the curse of the billy goat by bringing goats to the park. Some have even sacrificed a goat. So far nothing to date has worked. Is the curse real?
The Ernie Banks Era
Mr. Cub as he is affectionately known as is officially known as Ernie Banks. Probably one of the greatest baseball players of all time. No, he wasn’t better than Ruth, Aaron, Mays etc… But he is without a doubt in the top 20. One of the true pioneers of his time. 512 home runs. A 14 time all-star. A 2 time NL MVP. He changed the way the game thought of power hitting shortstops, paving the way for the Cal Ripken Jr’s and Alex Rodriguez’s of their respective eras. Playing for the Cubs from 1953-1971. Banks was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Number of World Series appearances? ZERO.
Michael Jordan isn’t the only Chicago athlete to get his statue outside of a ballpark or arena. Banks has a statue outside Wrigley that was put in place in 2008 in honor. You have to wonder if the greatness of Ernie Banks only serves to remind people as they enter the ballpark that no matter how good the team is or players are that if the curse could stop the greatest Cub of all time from even sniffing the field is he somehow further cursing them by his presence now?
After rebuilding a few years the Cubs finally had a team worthy of competing again. Led by a young future Hall of Famer named Ryne Sandberg, star pitchers like Dennis Eckersley (as a starter) and Lee Smith. The Cubs were ready. Enough losing. The team would go on to clinch the division for the first time since 1945 on September 23rd of that year behind a 2 hitter from Rick Sutcliffe.
There in itself lies the “heartbreak” of 1984 or as some call it the curse of the lights.
Myth has it that the Cubs were denied homefield in both the NLCS and the World Series if they had made it that far due to the fact that the Cubs did not have lights in Wrigley Field at the time. The real story is a little less dramatic. The truth was that at the time the homefield for both the NLCS and World Series were rotated. In even numbered years, the NL West would have homefield advantage and the NL East in even number years would have the advantage. Same in the World Series, the NL would have the advantage in odd years and AL in even years.
It became a non-issue after the Cubs were promptly eliminated by the NL West Champions, the San Diego Padres. Led by Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey & Goose Gossage, the Padres broke Chicago’s heart and took the series in 7 games. A series the Cubs for all purposes should have won. Up 3 games to 1, the Cubs couldn’t finish and the Padres won the last 3 to win the series and go on to the World Series where they would then lose to the Detroit Tigers.
The stage is set. The year is 2003. The Cubs are leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 in game 5. Already up 3 games to 1. Only 5 outs away from their first World Series since 1945. Then it happened…
Mark Prior was cruising… Retiring Marlin after Marlin. Then stepped to the plate Luis Castillo. A foul ball is hit down the left field foul line and drifting towards the stands. What happened next is the stuff curses are made of. As the ball entered the stands, left fielder Moises Alou (former Marlin, just to add context and drama to the story) reaches into the stands to catch the ball. A fan, Steve Bartman, who is watching the ball the whole time and has no idea that Alou has a chance to make the out, reaches up and tries to catch the ball. While Bartman is thinking he is about to get a really cool souvenir from a Cubs playoff game, the situation turns into something that would become a nightmare for him, his family and his beloved Cubs.
Reaching up for the ball at the same time was Moises Alou. He reached into the stands and the ball is knocked away from him by a fan. Arguing fan interference was pointless. He was at home. And the ball was in the stands that he was reaching into. Cubs fans instantly booed Bartman out of the park. Security rushed to escort him out as he was bombarded with slurs, curse words and some even throwing objects in his direction.
What happened next is legend for the Marlins and another sad chapter in the Cubs legacy…
Castillo would eventually draw a walk in the at bat. An error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez would lead to the Marlins loading the bases and 8, yes 8 runs would cross the plate for the Florida Marlins. The Marlins would go on to win that game and the next 2 games to advance and win their second World Series.
Moises Alou would flip-flop his story several times throughout the years on whether he could have caught the ball. Occasionally saying that he said he could not have just to make Bartman feel better. Its very debatable though any fan in that same situation would have been trying to catch the ball too. Alou may have had a chance though it would have been a very difficult play to make. The play will go down in history and Steve Bartman in infamy.
The Cubs have had great players over the years and in recent memory. Sammy Sosa would hit homers in to the streets. Kerry Wood would strike out 20 in a game. Carlos Zambrano would blow up a few times a season. Ok, the last one was for comedic purposes, though Zambrano has won many games for the Cubs and has been a Cy Young candidate in the past. Several really good coaches have come and tried to restore the Cubs to greatness, notably Dusty Baker and Lou Pinella. And even now they have a team with talent and yet no direction.
The current Cubs have a good young shortstop and power hitters. Their pitching is erratic. Closer is a joke. But talent is something they do have. What will the future hold? Who knows?!? But one thing is clear… No matter how much talent they have had, they haven’t been able to overcome something. Is it the curse or just bad luck?