The Curse of the Billy Goat was a sports curse that was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise in 1945, by Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis. The curse lasted 71 years, from 1945 to 2016. During game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field, Sianis's pet goat, named Murphy, was bothering other fans, and so the pair were asked to leave the stadium. Outraged, Sianis allegedly declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more," which had been interpreted to mean that the Cubs would never win another National League (NL) pennant, at least for the remainder of Sianis's life.
The Cubs lost the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers, and did not win a World Series championship again until 2016. The Cubs had last won the World Series in 1908. After the incident with Sianis and Murphy, the Cubs did not play in the World Series for the next 71 years until, on the 46th anniversary of William Sianis's death, the "curse" was broken when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5–0 in game 6 of the 2016 National League Championship Series to win the NL pennant. The Cubs then defeated the American League (AL) champion Cleveland Indians 8–7 in 10 innings in game 7 to win the 2016 World Series, 108 years after their last win.
The exact nature of Sianis's curse differs in various accounts of the incident. Some state that he declared that no World Series games would ever again be played at Wrigley Field, while others believe that his ban was on the Cubs appearing in the World Series, making no mention of a specific venue. Sianis’s family claims that he dispatched a telegram to team owner Philip K. Wrigley which read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.”
Whatever the truth, the Cubs were up two games to one in the 1945 World Series, but ended up losing Game 4, as well as the best-of-seven series, four games to three. The curse was immortalized in newspaper columns over the years, particularly by syndicated columnist Mike Royko. The curse gained widespread attention during the 2003 postseason, when Fox television commentators played it up during the Cubs-Marlins matchup in the National League Championship Series (NLCS). According to an account in the Chicago Sun of October 7, 1945, the goat was turned away at the gate, and Sianis left the goat tied to a stake in a parking lot and went into the game alone. There was mention of a lawsuit that day, but no mention of a curse.
Between that 1908 triumph, which was the Cubs' second world championship (they'd also won the Series in 1907 to become baseball's first back-to-back winners as well as the first franchise to appear in three consecutive World Series), and 1945, the first year of the alleged Billy Goat curse, the Cubs won the National League pennant six times but failed to win the Series: in 1910, in 1918 (won by the Boston Red Sox who themselves would soon become victims of an alleged baseball curse and not win another Series for 86 years), in 1929, in 1932 (known for Babe Ruth's called shot at Wrigley Field), in 1935 (a re-match of the 1908 series against the Detroit Tigers, with the Tigers winning this time, their first Series triumph in five appearances dating back to the early 1900s), and in 1938.
In the years that followed the alleged curse, the following incidents have been attributed to it:
Prior to his death on October 22, 1970, William Sianis himself attempted to lift the curse. Sam Sianis, his nephew, has gone to Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times in attempts to break the curse, including on Opening Day in 1984 and again in 1989, both years in which the Cubs went on to win their division. In 1994, Sam Sianis went again, with a goat, to stop a home losing streak, and in 1998 for the Wild Card tie-breaker game, which the Cubs won.
In 2003 (the Chinese zodiac's Year of the Goat), a group of Cubs fans headed to Houston with a billy goat named "Virgil Homer" and attempted to gain entrance to Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, division rivals of the Cubs at the time. After they were denied entrance, they unfurled a scroll, read a verse and proclaimed they were "reversing the curse". The Cubs won the division that year and then came within five outs of playing in the World Series, but were undone by the Florida Marlins' eight-run rally immediately following the Steve Bartman incident. The Cubs then lost the following game and with it the series. (The Marlins went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees.) Further salting the wound, the Astros earned their first World Series berth two years later and their crosstown rival the Chicago White Sox won the series.
On February 26, 2004, at the Harry Caray Restaurant in downtown Chicago, the Bartman baseball was electrocuted in an attempt to break the curse, leaving nothing but a heap of string behind.
In another bizarre twist, it was reported that a butchered goat was hung from the Harry Caray statue on October 3, 2007, to which The Chicago Sun-Times noted: "If the prankster intended to reverse the supposed billy goat curse with the stunt, it doesn't appear to have worked." While the Cubs did win the NL Central division title in 2007 and 2008, they were swept in the first round of the postseason in both years: by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. The elimination by Arizona came on October 6, the same date that the goat appeared at Wrigley Field in 1945. The act was repeated before the home opener in 2009, this time a goat's butchered head being hung from the statue. The act was futile as the Cubs were eliminated from postseason contention on September 26, 2009.
In 2008, a Greek Orthodox priest sought to end the curse during the 2008 playoffs with a spraying of holy water in and around the Cubs dugout to no avail.
On April 1, 2011, a social enterprise called Reverse The Curse, dedicated to bringing innovations to poverty by giving goats to families in developing countries, was initiated. The goats provide the family with milk, cheese, and alternative income to help lift them out of poverty. Reverse The Curse has expanded into reversing the "curses" that afflict the world's children in education and obesity.
On February 25, 2012, a group of five Chicago Cubs fans calling themselves Crack the Curse set out on foot from Mesa, Arizona (home to the Cubs' spring training facilities) to Wrigley Field. They brought along a goat named Wrigley who they believed would be able to break the Curse of the Billy Goat upon arrival at Wrigley Field. Additionally, they attempted to raise $100,000 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
On April 10, 2013, a severed goat's head was delivered to the Cubs in a possible effort to lift the curse on the team. It was addressed to the club's owner Thomas S. Ricketts.
On September 22, 2015, Patrick Bertoletti, Tim Brown, Takeru Kobayashi, Kevin Strahle and Bob Shoudt consumed a 40-pound goat in 13 minutes and 22 seconds at Taco in a Bag restaurant in Chicago.
On October 7, 2016, the owners of The Chicago Diner, a local vegetarian eatery near Wrigley Field, teamed up with Farm Sanctuary to try to reverse the Curse of the Billy Goat by displaying posters in the windows at their locations. The posters feature a goat named Peanut who urges Chicagoans to “reverse the curse” by going meat-free.
See also: Ex-Cubs Factor
Another factor that may have played a role in the curse was the number of players (44 of them are listed below) who won World Series titles after leaving the Cubs (known as the Ex-Cubs Factor). These players include Andy Pafko (who, coincidentally, played in the 1945 World Series as a member of the Cubs), Gene Baker, Smoky Burgess, Don Hoak, Dale Long, Lou Brock (whose first title was in 1964 after a mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals), Barney Schultz, Lou Johnson, Jim Brewer, Moe Drabowsky, Don Cardwell, Ken Holtzman, Billy North, Fred Norman, Bill Madlock, Manny Trillo, Greg Gross, Rick Monday, Burt Hooton, Bruce Sutter, Willie Hernández, Milt Wilcox, Joe Niekro, Dennis Eckersley (he made three consecutive World Series with Oakland, winning the middle bid in 1989), Billy Hatcher, Joe Carter, Greg Maddux, Dwight Smith, Joe Girardi (as both a player and a manager), José Vizcaíno, Glenallen Hill (after his second stint with the Cubs; his title came in 2000 after a mid-season trade), Luis Gonzalez (hit the walk-off bloop single that won Arizona the World Series in 2001), Mike Morgan, Mark Grace, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller (drove in speedy pinch-runner Dave Roberts to spark Boston's epic comeback in the 2004 ALCS), Scott Eyre (whose title came in 2008 after he had been traded from the Cubs during the season), Tom Gordon, Matt Stairs, Jamie Moyer, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot, Ángel Pagán, and, in 2013, Ryan Dempster. Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland were traded as minor leaguers (coincidentally, the former won a World Series ring with the Marlins team that defeated the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS). Tim Lincecum, who went on to win three World Series titles, was originally drafted by the Cubs, but he did not sign with them.
The Cubs ended the 2016 season with a 103–58 (.640) record. It was their first 100-win season since 1935 (100–54, .649), their best since 1910 (104–50, .675), and the sixth 100-win season in franchise history.
The Cubs won the National League Championship Series (NLCS), their first pennant in 71 years, with a 5–0 shutout in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016; the "curse" was broken on the 46th anniversary of Billy Sianis's death.
The Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series in seven games after trailing in the series 3 games to 1. They won game 7 by a score of 8–7 in 10 innings at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, ending their 108-year drought.
In the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II, it is depicted that in 2015, the Cubs defeated a team from Miami in the 2015 World Series, which ended the longest drought in all four of the North American professional sports leagues. While the Miami Marlins failed to make the playoffs, the Cubs managed to the wild card that year and moved to the 2015 NLCS by October 21, 2015, the date the protagonist Marty McFly traveled to in the movie. On that same day, however, the Cubs got swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS. The movie was also off by one year on when the Cubs won, as the Cubs actually won the World Series the following year in 2016.