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For Cubs, a Swing at the Billy Goat Curse

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The big question as Major League Baseball starts up after the All-Star Game is: Can the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 100 years? The Cubs will win if they can break the "Curse of the Billy Goat." What's that? Let's take a look at some Chicago baseball history.

In the very early days of professional baseball, the Cubs were a dynasty. The team was led by such Hall of Fame stars as first baseman Frank Chance and pitcher Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown (folks called him that because he lost part of his index finger in a farm accident). The Cubs won a record 116 games in 1906 (a record they share with the Seattle Mariners), and they won the World Series in 1907 and 1908.

The Cubs won the National League pennant and appeared in seven more World Series after that but never won the big prize again. The last time the Cubs played in the World Series was 1945, the year of the curse.

The story is that there was a man, William Sianis, who owned a tavern in Chicago. Sianis was known as "Billy Goat" because he kept a goat named Murphy at his tavern. Sianis called his bar and restaurant Billy Goat Tavern.

On Oct. 6, 1945, with the Cubs leading the World Series two games to one, Sianis bought two tickets to Game 4 of the World Series. Sianis showed up at the ballpark with Murphy. The owners of the Cubs would not let Murphy into the game, saying animals were not allowed in the ballpark and besides, the goat smelled. Sianis was angry and supposedly stood outside the park and yelled, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more!"

I don't believe in curses, but the Cubs lost the series in 1945, and though they have come close a few times, they have never returned to the World Series.

So can the Cubs break the curse? After all, the Red Sox broke the "Curse of the Bambino," the supposed string of bad luck Boston had because it traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, when the Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

So far this season the Cubs have been terrific, putting together the best record in the National League. The Cubs have a solid everyday lineup including all-stars Geovany Soto at catcher, Aramis Ramirez at third base and Kosuke Fukudome in the outfield. But most important, the Cubs have five very good starting pitchers. So the Cubs should hold off the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers and win the tough National League Central Division to make the playoffs.

But to win the World Series, even a good team needs to be a little lucky. And luck is something the Chicago Cubs have not had for a long, long time.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.

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