by Brad Shulkin (ChicagoSportsWeekly)
It was the year 1908. The Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers to win their second and most recent World Series title in franchise history. It is now 2011, 103 years later and without a World Series to show for it.
“Once you hit triple digits, you know it’s bad,” said Matt McDonald, Senior Producer of the ESPN’s documentary Catching Hell.
The “Curse of the Chicago Cubs” has been ingrained in the minds of fans for decades. The year was 1945. Cubs fan William Sianis and his goat, Murphy, attended game four of the Cubs-Tigers World Series, only to get banned from entering the stadium because the goat stunk. It was then, out of pure frustration, that Sianis would place a curse on the Chicago Cubs.
“The Cubs ain’t gonna win anymore,” Sianis said in response to his anger. “The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.”
The curse was officially born. The Cubs went on to lose the game and World Series, getting swept at home. Over the next 20 years, the Cubs would finish in fifth place or lower in their division every season, and from 1946-2003, would post a 4250-4874 record. The “Lovable Losers,” as they become known, were losing, and losing bad.
“Unlike Boston, who kept getting stronger year after year, the Cubs weren’t competitors,” McDonald said.
It was the year 1969; the curse continued. The Cubs had built a nine and a half game lead late in the season. In a crucial series against the New York Mets, a black cat ran onto the field, circled around Ron Santo, who was stationed in the on-deck circle and disappeared into the stands. The Cubs would go on to lose the game and their division lead, failing to make the playoffs.
It was the year 2003; the frustration continued. The Cubs were six outs away from a World Series berth, facing the Florida Marlins at the Friendly Confines. The eighth inning arrived, Cubs up 3-0. A ball got hit into the left field stands when Steve Bartman reached out over the field to make an attempt at the ball. This controversial play would turn the tide on the Cubs’ hopes of winning a World Series. Those six outs turned into an eight-run inning and a series win for the Marlins.
Cub’s fans took this hard, chanting obscene remarks to the man who cost their beloved “Cubbies” a chance to break the curse. The passion and frustration the fans put on display that day was built up from years of losing, Walter Yurkanin, author of Madball: The Bartman Play, said.
“The incident was a little jinxy,” McDonald said. “I don’t want to say that the Cubs are cursed, but all things lead to it.”
With the curse over the century mark, multi-generational fans continue to experience the emotional rollercoaster that their fathers and grandfathers had to go through. Growing up, German Teacher Jenna Richardt was part of a family that was engrossed in Cub’s culture ever since she was little. Although she was fustrated with the Cubs and their failure to win, she still went to games because of her loyalty to the team.
“Every year, we would go to the Cub’s game for my grandfather’s birthday,” Richardt said. “Cubs fans are not fair weather fans by any stretch of the imagination. The culture is awesome and no matter what, fans still fill the stadium for every game.”
Year after year, fans hope and pray that the time has finally come for the Cubs to win it all. But, with the pressure and curse on everyone’s mind, the ability to win seems to become harder and harder.
“The game of baseball is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental,” Yurkanin said. “Fans are emotionally invested in this team that hasn’t won in so long. The curse is a scapegoat and players and fans need to put it behind them.”
Unlike the Cubs, who still after 103 years are searching for ways to break the curse, the Boston Red Sox were fortunate to end theirs at 86 years.
“The Curse of the Bambino” began in the year 1918, the same year the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees after winning five prior World Series championships.
“Unlike the Cubs, the Red Sox were still a good baseball team,” McDonald said. “They had a lot of close calls, but couldn’t find a way to win.”
It was 1986. The Red Sox were taking on the New York Mets in the World Series. With the Sox up 3 games to 2, Game 6 was a chance for the team to end their years of misery. The tenth inning arrived, the score 5-3 in favor of Boston. A ball was hit to the first baseman Bill Buckner, a routine play in the mind of fans. Within a blink of an eye, the ball went through his legs, costing his team a run and ultimately the game. The Red Sox lost the series and hopes of ending the curse.
The similarities between Bartman and Buckner are very much the same. Both to this day are scapegoats, being blamed for the collapse and drought of the years of win-less seasons. But, fortunately for Buckner, the Red Sox curse was lifted after the their 2004 World Series win, while Bartman on the other hand, is still in silence, hiding away from the team he once loved.
“History hasn’t been kind to both of these men,” McDonald said. “I’ve been to many sporting events throughout my life, but have never seen how bad and ugly it can get. Cubs fans are passionate, resilient fans, and will do anything to see it happen.”