Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Cubs: Cursed or complacent?

                                  Billy cats...Steve Bartman...all are in one way or another to blame for a "curse" against the Chicago Cubs, one of the oldest and wealthiest teams in baseball.  Of course there were/are other curses in the game, some broken, some still in full effect.  The most famous of course was the "Curse of the Bambino", in which  Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sealed the team's fate for 86 years by selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees for cash to fund his play "No, no Nanette".  What people don't remember is that he also sold off several other key members of those  1915-1918 teams by unloading other greats like Tris Speaker( actually, he was sold by the previous owner in 1916...) and Harry Hooper.  Tom Yawkey bought the Bosox in the '30s and opened his wallet to try and do to the Philadelphia A's what the Yankees did to the Sox, by buying big names like Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.  The reason that the Sox never won a championship in the Yawkey era ( he died in 1976, and his wife took over for the next decade to no avail) was probably because he was more than a little racist.  The Sox were the last to integrate, signing Pumpsie Green in 1959.

                    The Cubs, however , had no problem with integrating the team.  In fact, by the time Green played his first game for Boston, Ernie Banks had already won 2 MVP awards ( for losing teams, of course), and  The Cubs have had 3 more black players go into the Hall of fame as of this writing...Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and more recently, Andre Dawson (who should have gone in as an Expo, but anyway).  As far as fans go, however, it has been pointed out that for a team that was always pretty diverse racially, the fan make up is pretty white.  Possibly because Wrigley is located in the northside of Chicago, which has a more suburban feel to it as opposed to the south side, where the White Sox play.  Honestly, I've never been there, so I don't know ( and you could make the same argument about Fenway, so I'll just shut up now).  Another team with a so-called "curse" are the Cleveland Indians.  There was a book published in 1994  entitled "The Curse of Rocky Colavito", which blames the trade of the popular slugger to the Detroit Tigers in 1960 for the team's downfall, although it's not the same as the Babe Ruth trade, of course; The Indians had gone a dozen years without a World championship by then, and the Tigers would have to wait until 1968 for theirs, and Colavito was long gone by then. The irony of that book was that a year after it was published, the Indians won the pennant, as they would 2 years later.  But enough about that, back to Chicago...

            Very little fanfare was made when Chicago's south side team, the White Sox, broke an 88 year championship drought in 2005.  Maybe because it was on the heels of the Red Sox Championship the year before.  Most likely it's because the Cubs are just more popular.  So popular, it seems like they don't even have to try being great to get fans through the turn styles.  Hell, the last time they even won a pennant was  1945,  but of course lost the series to the Tigers because Cubs fan William Sianis famously bought his pet billy goat a ticket to game 4, then was ejected in the fourth inning when other fans complained of the smell.  He became so incensed for his ousting, he put a "curse" on the team.  Fast forward to 1969 when a black cat crossing in front of the dugout during a game that year with the Mets somehow led them to losing the division to New York.  The more logical, non superstitious answer was that the Mets had a better pitching staff. Even with division play starting in 1969, it would take the Cubbies another 15 years to make it to the playoffs, in 1984, the year Ryne Sandberg made Phillies fans curse the name Ivan DeJesus.  In their first ever NLCS, the Cubs won the first 2 at Wrigley, they then dropped 3 straight in San Diego, thanks in no small part by Leon Durham's pre-Buckner ball-through the first basemen's legs routine.   

         However, I believe the 2003 NLCS game against the Marlins was the most heartbreaking of all.  Known now as the " Steve Bartman incident "after a fan by that name reached over to catch a ball in fair territory and prevented Moises Alou from making the catch.  The fact that at least one other fan was also guilty of this act is rarely brought up. Bartman became the goat, although the real goat may have been the pitching staff which let up 8 runs after the incident, with an error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez (not to be confused with the other shortstop named "Alex Gonzalez" playing for Marlins that day ) not helping matters. They lost that game, and then the next.  The anticipated Cubs/Red Sox World series was never to be.  The Sox, of course would lose the 2003 ALCS to the Yankees because of Aaron bleepin' Boone, but they pulled it together the next year.  Their GM of course was Theo Epstein, now with the Cubs.  Can he pull it off again?  If he does, then I know a certain headphone -wearing bespectacled Cubs fan who would definitely "friend" him on facebook.

1 comment:

  1. Put me down for "complacent". I stopped hating the Cubs when Theo showed up.