By Devon Higham
As Halloween and the World Series overlap, curses unfold.
While the World Series matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians is only one game old, it feels decades in the making. The two ballclubs hold the two longest championship droughts in baseball, as the Tribe’s last banner came in 1948, and the Northsiders last won it all in 1908. With Halloween just around the corner, and one team’s run of futility guaranteed to end this fall, the Independent investigates each team’s alleged curses, that we might better know the source of the fan bases’ suffering.
Chicago Cubs: Curse of the Billy Goat
It has been 108 years since the Cubs last won the World Series. To put that in perspective, the modern zipper was still five years from invention when the Cubs were last champions of the world. This is significantly worse than the Indians’ struggle. Even the difference between the time the Indians and Cubs have waited for a championship – 40 years – is longer than all but five other teams’ droughts.
The last time the Cubs so much as appeared in a series was 1945, and it was in game four of that matchup against the Detroit Tigers that their curse began. Billy Sianis – Greek immigrant extraordinaire and owner of the Billy Goat Tavern – had purchased two tickets for the ballgame. Yet instead of bringing a friend, a lover, or any kin, he selected his pet goat to accompany him. As rain began to fall, Billy and his billy were escorted out of the stadium. It seemed the potent mix of water and goat hair exuded a pungent odor, and Sianis and his goat were deemed threats to the paying public’s welfare. Not one to take this outrageous expulsion lying down, Sianis declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
Over the next 71 pennant-less years, Cubs fans endured an incident involving a black cat whilst playing the Mets in 1969; an error in the 1984 National League Championship series, ultimately attributed to spilled Gatorade; and Steve Bartman’s infamous effort at playing outfield from the stands in the 2003 NLCS. All contributed to the belief that Wrigley Field’s mistreatment of Billy Sianis and his goat continued to haunt the hapless Cubbies.
Cleveland Indians: Curse of Rocky Colavito
The Indians’ drought is less lengthy than the Cubs’, and their curse is lesser known. The “Curse of Rocky Colavito” traces its origins back to 1960. That year, the Indians traded reigning homerun champion Colavito for reigning batting champ Harvey Kuenn. The trade was incredibly unpopular among Cleveland fans, and led to the jinx’s genesis. By then, the idea of a curse being invoked by a player’s trade was hardly novel. The Curse of the Bambino – the mother of all baseball curses – had been similarly wrought by the Red Sox’s trading of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. New York proceeded to win 26 world titles in the time it took Boston to finally break the curse in the fall of 2004.
Since the Colavito trade, the Tribe have twice come close to glory, winning the American League pennant in 1995 and 1997 before season-ending heartbreaks. Though the curse is attributed to Colavito himself, he has declared on numerous occasions that the event never occurred, and that he never placed said jinx.
In lieu of more rational explanations, the Independent firmly believes in the potency of curses. However, with both long-suffering franchises now pitted against each other, a crossroads has been reckoned. Two curses will step onto the baseball diamond, but only one will depart this lonely vale.
Devon Higham ([email protected].edu) is excited to see how these curses and others unfold this weekend!