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ISSUE 117 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/17/2003

Curse of the Goat alive and well

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, October 17, 2003

Abandon all hope ye who enter here. The inscription above the gates of hell in Dante’s Inferno has taken on an entirely new meaning for the sports fan of Chicago’s North Side Nine.

The Cubs have given their fans little to cheer about since the end of World War II, appearing in only four postseason series since losing the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games. However, they gave the fans the worst gift they could possible offer: hope.

The curses of the Red Sox and Cubs are well documented. The Red Sox have failed to win a World Series since their owner sold Babe Ruth to the rival Yankees in order to finance the Broadway play “No, No, Nanette.” The theatrical production was a smash hit, but the fans in Boston certainly wish the project never got the green light.

The Cubs have not won a World Series title since 1908 and have not been

to the Fall Classic in six decades. As legend has it, a goat has cursed Chicago’s National League team and kept them away from playing deep into October for nearly 60 years.

However, unlike the Red Sox, who were one out away from winning the World Series in 1986, the Cubs have not even been close. This year felt different in Wrigleyville as every man, woman and child put their belief into the Cubs.

The Cubs beat the vaunted, albeit “postseason challenged,” Braves in a thrilling five-game NLDS. They then steamrolled their way to a 3-1 series edge in the NLCS on the strength of dominant pitching and an newfound offense. The Cubs lost game five in Florida after Josh Beckett pitched the game of his young life, but it was not big deal. The Cubs were coming home and the city of Chicago was ready to erupt.

The team came back to a raucous Wrigley Field crowd for game six, a game that actually seemed more like a coronation then a competition. Thousands asked why the Marlins even made the trip – they were nothing but fish fry.

That is when the karma began to shift. Dusty Baker handed the ball to 18-game winner and Cy Young award candidate Mark Prior for the biggest game in the Cubs’ 101 year history. Prior had been dominant in the postseason and had never lost to the Marlins.

Furthermore, it was 95 years to the day since the Cubs won the 1908 World Series, a fitting end to the Cubs’ longstanding suffering. Prior was cruising with a three-run cushion and collected the first out of the eighth inning using only two pitches. The Cubs were five outs away from a date with destiny, and the fans and the city could smell it as everyone began reaching for the champagne.

Then came one of the most bizarre plays in the Cubs’ long, excruciatingly cruel history. A 26-year-old fan interfered with a foul ball that Moises Alou was poised to catch for the second out and drew boos from the nearly 40,000 spectators on hand and the thousands watching vicariously from the streets.

An error by the Cubs’ best fielder, shortstop Alex Gonzalez, completed the bizarre turn of events that left the stadium stunned and led to a winner-take-all seventh game.

The Cubs trotted Kerry Wood out onto the hill for the decisive game, but it was too late, the curse had spoken. Wood was promptly shelled for seven runs and the Cubs offense could not recover.

Now, with the hope of a postseason triumph nothing but a bitter memory, Cubs fans everywhere must turn to the motto of optimism that has been uttered on the North Side of Chicago for over a century: There is always next year.

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