For the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series, beating the Cleveland Indians in a dramatic game seven on Wednesday night.
The dramatic series between the two teams with the longest championship droughts—the Indians haven’t won since 1948—came to a fitting end in the rubber game, which went into extra innings and was delayed for rain at the end of the ninth. Cleveland came back from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a two-run homer from Rajai Davis off of Cubs’ star closer Aroldis Chapman, to send the game into extra innings. An RBI double from series MVP Ben Zobrist and a base hit from Miguel Montero made it 8-6 in the top of the tenth, and the Indians could only recover one run in the bottom half. Chapman got the win for Chicago and reliever Bryan Shaw took the loss for Cleveland.
Cubs fans have waited generations for this moment. Many baseball fans credit the prolonged drought to the Curse of the Billy Goat, a superstition that supposedly took effect in 1945 when William Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, brought his pet goat to a game at Wrigley Field during the ’45 Series. He was kicked out of the stadium because the odor of his goat was bothering the other fans. The outraged Sianis declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” Sianis’s family also claims that he sent a telegram to then-team owner Philip K. Wrigley saying, “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.”
And they didn’t. The Cubs lost the Series in ’45 to the Detroit Tigers and did not appear in the championship again until this year.
While the Curse of the Billy Goat is the most well-known explanation for the Cubs’ continued failures, other alleged curses have sprung up over the years. During the 1969 season in a critical late-season game against the New York Mets, a black cat walked past a Cubs player in the on deck circle and stared into the Cubs dugout. The Cubs, who had been in first place all season, went on to lose 18 of their last 27 games and failed to make the playoffs. The Mets, on the other hand, won the World Series that year.
In 1986, former Cub Bill Buckner was playing for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series against, again, the New York Mets. The Sox, who were also a “cursed” franchise, led the Mets three games to two when Buckner let a ball pass between his legs at first base, allowing the Mets to score the winning run in the tenth and, ultimately, win the series. Buckner was wearing a Cubs batting glove under his glove at the time that he committed the error.
In 2003, the Cubs faced the Florida Marlins in the NLCS. Up three games to two in game six, Chicago had a three-run lead in the eighth inning. Marlin batter Luis Castillo fouled off a pitch, which fan Steve Bartman attempted to catch in the stands. He deflected the ball and kept Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from catching it for the second out of the inning. The Marlins went on to score eight runs in the inning, win the game, the NLCS, and the World Series.
Attempts to break the curse had been fruitless until this year. Sianis himself tried to lift the curse before his death in 1970 and his nephew brought a goat to Wrigley Field several times in hopes of breaking the curse. In 2003, a group of fans brought a goat to a Houston Astros home game against the Cubs. They were denied entrance to the stadium and read a verse in the parking lot, declaring that the curse was reversed. The Cubs did win the division that year, but lost the NLCS in part because of the Bartman incident.
The following February, the Bartman ball was electrocuted in a Chicago restaurant and in 2007, a butchered goat was hung from a statue of Cubs announcer Harry Caray. The Cubs won their division in 2007 and 2008, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Fans have repeatedly brought in priests to the stadium and the dugout to bless the team, but to little avail. Various humanitarian efforts were raised to break the curse, like the non-profit Reverse the Curse, which provides goats to families in developing countries in order to break the “curses” that affect impoverished children and families worldwide.
But in a turn of events that is as American as baseball itself, it was simply being the best that lifted the Cubs to victory. The team had the most regular season wins in the Majors at 103, the best ERA in the National League, and the second most runs scored in the NL. The next closest team in the NL Central (the St. Louis Cardinals) finished the season a full 17.5 games back. But it wouldn’t be American sports without a little drama along the way—108 years of drama, to be exact.