As we head toward Memorial Day and the unofficial beginning of summer, baseball season is in full swing. Every night, Gilbert Park is full of youngsters playing catch and fielding grounders. Cardinals and Cubs (if you are so inclined) games can be seen and heard on multiple platforms. The area high school teams are battling opponents, as well as the weather.
Baseball today, more than any other American sport, is marked by its illustrious and notorious history. Part of that history is the idea of the curse. We’re all familiar with the Curse of the Bambino preventing the Boston Red Sox from winning a World Series for 86 years. And let’s not forget about the Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse. The Cubs, World Series champions for the last time in 1908, were hosting a Series game in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was kicked out of Wrigley Field for bringing an odorous goat to the stadium. As he left, he allegedly cursed the Cubs, stating that they would never win a World Series game again. They haven’t.
While reasonable people understand that these superstitions have nothing to do with the outcome of the games, most fans aren’t reasonable. Fan is short for fanatic, after all.
It appears though, that some of these curses can be reversed. In addition to the Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants recently overcame a decades-long curse to taste World Series glory again.
Originally based in New York, at the legendary Polo Grounds, the Giants move to San Francisco was met with broken hearts. In 1957, after their final game in New York, fans rushed the field. Lost in the chaos was a plaque that honored Eddie Grant, the former Giant who had been killed in World War I. World Series champions in 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, and 1954, the Giants didn’t win for decades after the move.
Fans blamed the lost Grant plaque and urged management to replace it, which they resisted. Executives wanted the New York and San Francisco histories separated. In 2006, they relented, replacing the plaque. Four years later, the Giants were champs and have won twice more since then, in 2012 and 2014.
Don’t think that all curses originated many years ago. Some are recent.
For many years, the tallest building in Philadelphia was City Hall, adorned with a statue of William Penn. In honor of the City’s rich history, lawmakers imposed restrictions on new construction, not approving any building that would be taller than City Hall.
In 1987, with skyscrapers forming the skylines of many major American cities, Philadelphia got in the act. They eased restrictions and soon William Penn was looking up at many of his neighbors. From that year forward, no Philadelphia sports team won a championship. And it’s not as if the teams hadn’t had recent success. The Eagles played in the Super Bowl in 1981, the Phillies won the World Series in 1980 and participated again in 1983, and basketball’s 76ers won the NBA Championship in 1983 behind legend Julius Erving. Even the Flyers, the hockey team, found success in the early 80s as a perennial Stanley Cup playoff team.
But from 1987 forward, there were no championships for Philadelphia. That is until a powerful fan (or fans) reversed the curse. In 2007, as Philly-based media company Comcast was erecting its new corporate headquarters, the idea was floated of having a small statue of William Penn placed atop the skyscraper, which would become the tallest building in the city. Whether it was a Comcast executive or a pair of ironworkers depends on the source, but in the end Penn once again hovered above the City of Brotherly Love. The next year, in 2008, the Phillies won the World Series.
So the good news for Cubs fans is that baseball curses can be reversed. It appears all a fan needs to do to wipe away over a century of futility is bring a goat to Wrigley Field. Oh, wait, they’ve tried that. Multiple times. A fan even started a wonderful program called Reverse the Curse, which provides donated goats to families around the world in an attempt to bring a World Series championship to the North Side. And, of course, fight world hunger. But nothing has worked.
So while all those other curses are silly, maybe God really does hate the Cubs.