Arguably no team in major professional sports has suffered more heartbreak than the Chicago Cubs. The franchise has seen many star players and just as many talented teams come and go, but the fact remains that the Cubs went 71 years between World Series appearances -- and have not won
Arguably no team in major professional sports has suffered more heartbreak than the Chicago Cubs. The franchise has seen many star players and just as many talented teams come and go, but the fact remains that the Cubs went 71 years between World Series appearances -- and have not won it all since 1908, a year when Henry Ford's Model T automobile first made its way down the assembly line.
Though the Cubs' status as baseball's longest-suffering franchise is undisputed, the cause of the team's misery is up for debate. Some attribute the Cubs' drought to just bad luck, but many others, especially in the North Side of Chicago, argue there is something more in play: The team is cursed.
In fact, the Cubs' history of heartbreak is so vast and holds so many layers that multiple theories have arisen as to what exactly cursed them in the first place. Here are some of the most popular "hexes" the team will try to overcome:
Curse of the Billy Goat
World War II had come to a close and America's spirits were finally lifting when the Cubs and Tigers staged the World Series in October 1945. Chicago hosted Game 4 and was looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series when a ruckus at the ticket booth inspired a proclamation that may have changed the club's fortunes forever. As legend has it, a local resident named Billy Sianis, owner of the nearby Billy Goat Tavern, attempted to buy tickets for he and his pet goat. The Wrigley ushers, citing a policy that prohibited animals from entering the stadium, refused to let the goat in. This incensed Sianis, who went on to allegedly say, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more."
While the Cubs were able to keep a foul-smelling farm animal out of their stadium that day, they went on to lose that World Series to the Tigers in seven games. And, true to Sianis' word, they have not been back to the Fall Classic since.
Curse of the Black Cat
On the morning of June 4, 1969, North Siders opened their newspapers and saw their Cubs hold an 8 1/2-game lead over the second-place New York Mets. The 1969 Cubs boasted four future Hall of Famers and looked poised to deliver franchise star Ernie Banks the first World Series appearance of his long and storied career.
The standings looked much different on Sept. 9, however, when Chicago clutched a dwindling 1 1/2-game lead over the Mets for the NL pennant. Future Hall of Famer Ron Santo stood in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium that night when a black cat -- long a symbol for bad luck -- walked between him and the Cubs' dugout. Chicago wound up losing the game, 7-1, marking loss No. 6 amid an eight-game losing streak that coincided with a 10-game winning streak for the Mets. Poor play down the stretch was most likely more to blame for Chicago's eventual collapse, but the black cat was the perfect symbol to explain how the Mets could pull off a staggering 17 1/2-game swing on the Cubs over the final quarter of the season.
Curse of the Gatorade Glove
The Cubs seemingly had it all during the 1984 season: a national audience on WGN, a superstar in Ryne Sandberg and a bona-fide ace in Rick Sutcliffe, who came over in a Trade Deadline deal. The season began with the Cubs humorously (but, perhaps, foolishly) tempting fate by bringing a billy goat onto the field for Opening Day. It ended with a 96-65 record -- the best in the NL-- which gave the North Siders home-field advantage in their best-of-five NLCS matchup with the San Diego Padres.
Chicago maximized its opportunity in the first two games at Wrigley, outscoring San Diego 17-2 and taking a 2-0 lead that left it one win away from the long-awaited World Series. The Padres would strike back in Games 3 and 4, however, setting up a winner-take-all Game 5 matchup in front of a raucous, impatient crowd at Wrigley.
The Cubs held a thin 3-2 lead and had Sutcliffe on the bump when pinch-hitter Tim Flannery came to the plate in the seventh. Flannery slapped Sutcliffe's first pitch down the right-field line and straight through first baseman Leon Durham's legs, which allowed the San Diego's Carmelo Martinez to score from second and tie the game at 3. The Padres would score three more times in the inning, then held on for a 6-3 win that sent them to their first World Series, and sent the Cubs packing once again.
Legend has it that a cooler filled with Gatorade was spilled in the Cubs' dugout before Game 5, soaking Durham's first baseman's glove. Did a sticky mitt hinder Durham's ability to make that fateful play in the bottom of the seventh? Durham had already accepted six chances at first base before the error without any trouble, but curse believers in Chicago still point to his glove.
Curse of Steve Bartman
Let's be clear right off the top: The Cubs had plenty of chances to win Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez's error -- which allowed five unearned runs to score -- had a much more quantitative affect on the outcome. But more than a decade later, plenty of blame among Chicagoans for the Cubs' 8-3 loss to the Marlins on the night of Oct. 14, 2003, is still placed on fan Steve Bartman.
The Cubs were up 3-2 in the series and 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning in Game 6 when the Marlins' Luis Castillo lifted a foul ball down the left-field line at Wrigley. Cubs outfielder Moises Alou reached up for the ball, but so did a number or fans in the stands, including Bartman, who deflected the ball away from Alou's glove. With new life, Castillo drew a walk, beginning a rally that saw the Marlins score eight unanswered runs and claim Game 6. The Cubs also lost Game 7 the following evening, leaving them one game short of the World Series once again.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.