The Billy Goat Hex

I knew nothing of the supposed Billy Goat Hex that, according to the story, hangs over the Chicago Cubs franchise. Nothing until October of 2003 when the Bartman incident occurred. If you remember, the Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 in the eighth inning and had a 3-2 lead in games in the series. The Cubs were less than two innings away from their first World Series appearance since 1945.

Then came the Bartman incident. A foul ball was lifted down the leftfield line and headed for the stands. Many fans tried to catch the ball, and so did Chicago leftfielder Moises Alou. He reached in and couldn't get it. Steve Bartman reached for the ball and he didn't get it. But Alou reacted angrily, thinking he could have caught the fly if not for the fans. Bartman bore the brunt of that dropped foul.

Incidentally, given new life, the batter got on base, as did several behind him. The Marlins kept hitting until they put 8 runs on the board. They won the game and, the next night, the series. Florida went to the World Series and the Cubs did not. And that is when I heard, for the first time of the Billy Goat Hex. Here is the story:

It's not a coincidence that the Chicago Cubs, up 2 games to 1 over the Tigers in the 1945 World Series, lost Game 4, then the series, and haven't won much since. At least not according to Cubs fan William Sianis, a Greek immigrant and owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, who attempted to attend Game 4 with his billy goat, Murphy.

Murphy was not allowed to stay in the stands even though Sianis had bought a ticket for his pet. As Chicago owner Philip "Wrigley put it at the time, "the goat smells." When an angry Sianis finally left the park, he supposedly put a hex on the franchise, cursing them to a futile existence without another World Series crown.

Murphy died shortly thereafter and Sianis passed away in 1972, three years after he allegedly had attempted to lift the hex from the Cubs. But that same year, 1969, the Cubs surrendered a nine-game lead to the Mets, the eventual champions, in the pennant race and the Billy Goat Hex apparently lived on.

From the book The Treasures of Major League Baseball.

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