CHICAGO - St. Louis Cardinal fans are acknowledged throughout baseball as knowledgeable, sophisticated and baseball-savvy. It is a reputation well-deserved and appreciated by ballplayers and managers who covet the weekend series in St. Louis where sell-out crowds enthusiastically cheer good plays by both teams.
But if St. Louis is the Mensa Society of the baseball university, then Cub fans are still using coloring books. They enthusiastically boo an intentional walk in a game situation, cheer for fans to throw an opposing team’s home run ball back onto the field and delight in mocking their team’s efforts when they lose and exaggerate the significance when they win.
Superstition plays a big part in baseball, so while Cardinal fans may pat the Stan Musial statue for luck, one Cub fan honored his team with a curse that, while one may not believe in such things, appears to have been very effective.
In 1945 during the World Series between the Cubs and Tigers, Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field because his pet goat’s odor was bothering other fans. Accounts vary, but at some point he told the Cubs that either they would never host another World Series game in Wrigley Field or that they would never win another World Series, the latter being the most popular version. The Cubs were up 2 games to 1 at the time against Detroit but lost that game and lost the series in seven games. Several attempts to reverse the curse have failed. Obviously.
When the Cubs collapsed in 1969, blowing a 10-game lead in August, it was generally acknowledge that the air started coming out of the balloon when a black cat walked in front of Ron Santo as he stood on deck in Shea Stadium where the famous disintegration began.
Oh but it gets better. In 2003, with the Cubs leading 3-0 and just 5 outs away from their first World Series since 1945, the Florida Marlins seemed destined for defeat. A routine popup drifted toward the left field foul line as left fielder Moises Alou tracked it toward the brick wall and the seats. A lifelong, die-hard Cubs fan named Steve Bartman reached up to catch the ball that was over the stands and deflected it. Alou, denied a chance he might not have had anyway, went absolutely bonkers as though Bartman had reached way out onto the field and stolen a chance to clinch the World Series.
The batter reached base and what few fans in Chicago acknowledge is that two hitters later, Miguel Cabrera hit a certain double play ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez who booted it, opening the door to the inevitable Cubbie collapse. The Cubs lost 8-3, lost a 5-3 lead the next night and Florida went to – and won – the World Series.
Poor Bartman was hounded, threatened and harassed so mercilessly he had to leave his job and move away.
The Chicago Cubs World Series team of 1945 played when most teams were waiting for their players to return from World War II. So desperate were teams for ballplayers and so lean was the talent that the St. Louis Browns brought up Pete Gray, a fielder with only one arm.
The Cubs that year won 98 games with several players who were pushing 40 years old (but were only 6-16 against the Cardinals), but poor play (or Sianis’ curse) cost them the series.
So bitter have Cub fans become that mocking their own team is no longer enough. They now have to attack other teams, like the Cardinals, whose continual success only rubs the salt deeper into the wound.
Witness this comment left on the bottom of a recent story about Chris Carpenter’s valiant comeback effort.
“Your ace is so dam greedy, unlike our former ace Kerry Wood who knew when to call it quits, your former ace just wants more and more money!! GREEDY!!”
Just in case you needed another reason to hate the Cubs. Enjoy the series.