Book excerpt: On a Chicago Cubs’ story of curses

In “My Cubs” (Blue Rider Press), Scott Simon, horde of NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and a lifetime Cubs fan, writes about draining Cubbie blue, a indignity of round as played during Wrigley Field over a years, and a adore of a fan for their untimely team.

In this excerpt, Simon explores a energy of stories, or myths, that have fostered a fable of curses befalling baseball’s long-lived losers, who would destroy over a march of several generations during bringing a World Series feat home to Chicago. 

And don’t skip Scott Simon on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” Apr 23!

Baseball players on all teams will tell we that they don’t trust in curses. But if they get a essential strike in a diversion one night, they’ll wear a same hosiery a next.


I have talked to a measure of Cubs players over a years and delicately asked about … this abuse stuff. They answer with a kind of digression of aplomb: we was always a best contestant in my town. we pitched a shutout and strike 3 home runs in a state championship game. I’ve been a SportsCenter highlight. I’m a winner. I’m lucky. That’s what got me here. Hard work and ability are real, not curses.

But a few mins later, they competence speak about what their initial thoughts were when they listened they were entrance to a Cubs: Great town. Best park, best fans. You’ll never be some-more renouned in your life than we will be on a north side of Chicago. But we hear these stories …

I don’t trust in curses. But we do trust (I kind of have to) in a energy of stories. And over 108 years, a some-more a Cubs lost, mostly in farcical and illusory ways, a some-more those waste strengthened a angel story that a bar contingency be cursed.

I used to rewrite lines from Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” for a Cubs:

Come and uncover me another city with carried conduct singing so unapproachable and shrill to be in adore with flops so friendly and deceit with excuses

Stinging with captivating curses amid a grind of pier detriment on loss, here is a high confidant crook struggling usually to kick St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh …

Laughing a loony batty bawling whimpering of defeat, half-faded, sweating, unapproachable to be Hit Butcher, Out Maker, Stacker of Defeats, Loser by Boatloads and Curse Sufferer to a Nation!

The Cubs got into and mislaid 6 World Series in a thirty-seven years between 1908 and 1945. The Cubs mislaid a 1910 Series to a Philadelphia Athletics when a good pitcher named Jack Coombs won 3 of what incited out to be usually a five-game series. No abuse — usually Coombs.

The Cubs mislaid their successive World Series in 1918, to a Boston Red Sox, who won while scoring usually 9 runs in a six-game series. This is still a record for scoring economy, all a some-more extraordinary since Babe Ruth was on that Red Sox group — pitching. He threw 29 ⅔ uninterrupted scoreless innings, that stood as a record for forty years. No voodoo, usually a Bambino.

Eleven some-more years would pass before a Cubs had a possibility to remove a World Series again, this time to a 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. Hack Wilson, a Cubs Hall of Fame core fielder (and brawler, and carouser, a loyal triple threat), mislaid lane of fly balls in a sky. When a small child asked Joe McCarthy, a Cubs manager, for a commemoration baseball, he told him, “Stand behind Wilson. You’d get all a lax balls we want.”


A black cat crossed a Cubs’ trail to a World Series in 1969.

The Cubs returned to a World Series in 1932, usually to remove in 4 true games to a New York Yankees of 9 destiny Hall of Fame players. In a fifth inning of a third game, Babe Ruth stood behind from a plate, forked during a bleachers with a hand, and whacked a Charlie Root curveball 5 hundred feet, past a core margin dwindle pole. Did a Babe call that home run shot? He positively speedy that story over a years. Or had Ruth usually done a gesticulate to bellow behind during some of a epithets Cubs players hurled during him?

It is tough to doubt a word of a Supreme Court justice. John Paul Stevens was a twelve-year-old child during a diversion that day with his father. He once positive me, “Ruth did indicate to a core margin scoreboard.” (I’m flattering certain he didn’t meant Justice Ginsburg.) “And he did strike a round out of a park after he forked with his bat. So it unequivocally happened.”

But Charlie Root, who threw a ball, never saw it that way. He’d tell all reporters that if he’d unequivocally suspicion Ruth had boasted about where he would strike his successive pitch, “I’d have knocked him on his ass.”

Ruth’s Called Shot became partial of a Babe’s legend. But it also entered Chicago Cubs science as a story to uncover how a bar mislaid critical games in inconceivable ways. The many dangerous home run hitter in round came to a plate, and what did a Cubs dais do? Razz him until, like King Kong swatting airplanes with a palm of his hand, a Sultan of Swat walloped a home run. Next time, try a small tenderness.

The Cubs returned to a World Series in 1936 — and mislaid in 6 games to a Detroit Tigers. They had a lapse rendezvous with a Yankees in 1938 — and mislaid this array in 4 true games, too. The Chicago Cubs had already spin a inhabitant punch line for detriment and disappointment by a time William Sianis took his pet goat to Wrigley Field in 1945 for a World Series game.

Bill Sianis came to Chicago as a teen from Greece in 1912. He cleared dishes in a West Loop, and when Prohibition finished in 1933, he reportedly wrote a bad check to buy a storefront nearby a Chicago track that he incited into a bar. He done good on his bad paper within a week.

The Lincoln Tavern was a name of a bar when Bill Sianis bought it. A lot of trucks that hauled stock would spin down that widen of West Madison Street on their approach to a aged Chicago stockyards, and during some indicate a baby goat fell off of a lorry and got brought into a bar.

Billy Goat was a nickname for Bill Sianis, who had a prolonged face, graying hair, and a angled spike of a beard. He saw a baby goat and apparently got all gooey. What naturalists call “mutual scenting” ensued. Billy Goat nursed a small goat behind to health, and a bewhiskered ruminant, that he named Murphy, became his personal mascot. The line between Billy Goat Sianis and a baby goat became roughly indistinguishable. Sianis renamed his bar a Billy Goat Tavern.

The 1945 World Series was between a Cubs and a Detroit Tigers. Charlie Grimm was a Cubs manager. Most of baseball’s best players still wore uniforms that were some-more critical than round jerseys in this final year of World War II, so both clubs were stocked with “rejects and 4Fs who knew it was their final possibility during vital joining ball,” pronounced Uncle Charlie. “God, we desired them.”

The Cubs were ahead, dual games to one, when a teams arrived in Chicago. Billy Goat Sianis bought dual box seats for $7.20. Bill Sianis and his goat had spin internal celebrities and were welcomed into a park. Billy paraded his billy around a infield in a pregame drizzle, Murphy ornate with a poster that pronounced we got detroit’s goat.

Ushers attempted to remonstrate Bill Sianis that he’d had his fun, and gotten shots of Murphy into a successive day’s newspapers, though now it was time for male and goat to go. Billy Goat constructed a dual box chair tickets. By a fourth inning, a integrate of cops had assimilated a ushers to tell Billy that fans had complained about a smell of Murphy’s sopping fur. I’m not certain Cubs fans should talk.

William Sianis was offended. The Cubs had welcomed Billy and his billy goat as giveaway pregame entertainment. But a Cubs didn’t cruise them fit association to stay for a game? All a beers he had poured for a ushers and cops who had come to a Billy Goat Tavern, where Billy would never give them a bill. “Hey, no, on a house.” All a times Billy had brought Murphy to kids’ birthday parties and Police Athletic League picnics. Then they get hauled out of Wrigley Field like shoplifters?

Wouldn’t that make we roughly wish to lay down a abuse on a bar we loved?

Some people on a stage insist that as Billy and Murphy were hustled out of a park, Bill Sianis huffed something like, “There will never be another World Series during Wrigley Field.” Charlie Grimm pronounced that he and a players listened nothing. Some members of a Sianis family have claimed Bill sent a telegram to Phil Wrigley: “You are going to remove this World Series and never play in any other World Series since we angry my goat.”

Whatever Billy Goat Sianis pronounced or didn’t, a Cubs mislaid a World Series to Detroit, 4 games to three. Billy Goat told reporters in successive years that he sent Phil Wrigley another telegram: “Who stinks now?” The Cubs would not play in a World Series again for seventy-one years. And any time a group seemed on a march to a World Series, or even a few outs away, implausible and variable events — black cats, or a palm of a fan — seemed to strike like bolts of lightning from a blue sky.

Curses are absurd fictions that chase on a true and a feebleminded. Which done us Cub fans vulnerable.

From “My Cubs: A Love Story by Scott Simon. Published by Blue Rider Press, an impress of Penguin Publishing Group, a multiplication of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Scott Simon. All rights reserved. 

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