Oh. This is Superstitions, a Spotify original from podcast. I'm your host, Alistair Murden. In this show, we talk about folk beliefs, good luck traditions we take for granted and of course, curses. Today will be a first for our show. We're talking about a curse that has been definitively broken. However, it has left an indelible mark on baseball history and remains a fixation of the culture surrounding the Chicago Cubs. I'm talking, of course, of the curse of the Billy Goat, which supposedly prevented the Chicago Cubs from winning the National League championship and by extension, the World Series for over 70 years.
Join me as I dive into the history and culture of this superstition and the many ways dedicated Cubs fans have attempted to dispel it. Here we see the rare intersection between the world of baseball and the occult. It's an exciting saga full of intrigue and a little bit of animal cruelty. So I'd advise caution for our younger listeners. You can find episodes of superstitions and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Coming up, I'm going to take you out to a ball game.
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1945 was a great season for the Chicago Cubs, they won the National League pennant with a record of 98 and 56 and advanced to the World Series for the 10th time since the series began in 1933. They would be playing against the Detroit Tigers, who had only won 88 games that season. If the numbers were anything to go by, the Cubs had a good chance. They won two out of the first three games and then they lost Game four and their success suddenly seemed in doubt.
But whatever happened on the field that day pales in comparison to what happened simultaneously in the stadium itself. While the Cubs were on the diamond playing their hardest, someone made a decision that would change the course of baseball history.
William S.A. was the owner of a local tavern, a long time Chicago resident and an avid fan of the Cubs.
He had purchased two tickets to attend this game, one for himself and another for his pet, Billy Goat Murphy.
Even in 1945, bringing a goat to a ballpark was an eccentric thing to do.
The story goes that the goat absolutely reeked, and fans complained so much that science was physically removed from Wrigley Field and science was furious, according to his descendants.
After the game, he sent a telegram to Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, which read, You are going to lose this World Series. You are never going to win the World Series again because you insulted my goat. The telegram ended with a smug comment. Who smells now and stink? The Cubs certainly did. As science predicted, they lost the seven game series and would continue to lose and lose and lose. We don't know for sure who coined the term The Curse of the Billy Goat.
But what we do know is that the hits just kept on coming or not coming.
If we're talking about base hits, unsettling patterns began to emerge in the Cubs losses, the kinds that couldn't be chalked up to only bad luck. The patterns that emerged showed a unique intersection between baseball and the occult, the kind that leaves a unique trail of evidence. There may be no way of knowing for sure what happened behind closed doors and hidden among peanut vendors. But I know a story I heard from my friend Mary, whose mother attended an infamous Cubs game back in the 1960s.
You wouldn't have guessed Meredith Hale was a baseball fan. In fact, she did her best to hide that fact from her family and most of her friends. Her family was the weird one on the block.
Rumors of witchcraft and mysticism circled their house like a cloud and a good amount of it was warranted. So perhaps that's why Meredith became a fan of the sport as a way of connecting to a different sort of reverence. Her family had eye of Newt and toe of frog. The people in the stadium had peanuts and Cracker Jacks. No reason they had to be mutually exclusive. What brought her to Shea Stadium in Queens on September 9th, 1969, felt like a confluence of her two worlds.
Tonight, she was here to catch more than just a game. She was here to catch a curse. The game was about to start. It was a perfect tipping point. The Cubs were in a severe rut, having lost five of their last six games well on their way to another disappointing season. If her spells went wrong, no one would know the difference. But if they went right, Meredith would be able to point at their success as a true accomplishment for such a young, which this was a puzzle, many of which had tried and failed to solve.
In Meredith's view, what they were missing was a genuine love of the game.
The environment around sports and thus its power is driven by the emotions of the fans who ever tried to harness the spell behind the Cubs curse would need to be aware of that energy. It was said that the curse was started by a goat. This didn't surprise Meredith. The ties between the goats and black magic stretched back to the Bible, which contains allusions of the goat as a symbol of sin or even the devil himself.
The Talmud describes a liturgy of the goats as a practice of Yom Kippur, where two goats would be purchased, one for the Lord and the other for Azazeal, a name with a complex meaning that Christianity would later flattened to that of another fallen angel in the Liturgy of the Goats. This Azazeal goat would have the sins of Israel confessed over it and let out into the wilderness.
But Murphy the goat hadn't been set free or even slaughtered like the other goat in the ritual. That actually was some disagreement among fans over whether it had even been let in the park to begin with. The local fascination with this curse was both key to understanding it and a veil that obscured its nature. Standing at the edge of the field, watching the ground crew clear the field, Meridith could feel something a strange aura, unlike any she knew about in her studies radiating from the Cubs themselves, she needed to take a closer look.
Her position was just off the first base line. There was no way she'd be able to wriggle her way through the crowd to the away team dugouts before the game started, unless she was a lot smaller. We've spoken before on this show how witches can take the shape of a cat when they want to. Even a young witch like Meridith would be capable of such a feat. It's easy once you get used to the initial discomfort. She sat down in her seat, allowing the bodies of the fans standing around her to block her from view and muttered a quick incantation.
The world seemed to rise up around her as her jersey and cap warped and stretched into the pelt of a young housecat. At her age, she probably looked like a kitten.
Meredith, now far smaller, and FIRREA slipped between the hairy legs of the adjacent fans and made her way closer and closer to the field, she'd be able to slip in and out without anyone being the wiser.
Television camera operators were good, but they would be focused on the pitcher's mound, not on the darkness beside the dugout.
For many years after this, Meredith would reflect on how naive this thought was. She felt the rough ballfield dirt between her paws and knew that she had made it to the field. She was so close if she could only keep to the edges of the field and not something huge and heavy struck the earth in front of Meredith, a baseball, one of the backup pitchers had been warming up nearby. Suddenly, she became acutely aware of just how fragile she was.
In this form, her mind went blank. She had to get off the field and get off the field now, throwing caution to the wind.
She ran with all her might towards her objective. She heard the distant shouts from the crowd as one by one they noticed a small cat running across the infield. Her ears burned with embarrassment, but she tried her best to shove those thoughts out of her mind. She was committed. Now the man in the batter's circle looked down at her bat, resting on his shoulder for a horrible moment. She thought he might swing the bat down on her head, so she kept running until the dugout.
It looked so normal, but it felt she didn't have the words to describe how it felt. Her first stood on end. Her whiskers seemed to prick with electricity. There was something there, that's for sure, an omnipresent figure crouching on the shoulders of each player, she could not quite make sense of its form.
It was like no spare Laura. If she had to describe what it looked like, she'd say it looked closer to a bed than anything else. But that was still far from accurate. Suddenly she realized where she was. She'd been gawking at the Cubs while the Cubs fans had been gawking at her. She took off down the third baseline, a dozen contradicting thoughts bouncing around in her head, she slid through a gap in the stands and crouched in the shadows, breathing heavily, finally out of sight from the crowds and television cameras.
Safe, she thought ruefully, as is the case with many curses. It took a while for people at large to take the curse of the Billy Goat as anything more than a quirky anecdote. After all, what really is the difference between a curse season and just a run of bad defensive plays? William Sessions caught on early and sent another letter to Wrigley in 1950. The letter contained an offer he would lift the curse if Wrigley apologized for rejecting him and Murphy in 45.
The manager didn't hesitate to apologize, but no sudden windfall of victories came. In fact, the curse only seemed to get worse. A black cat really did run onto the field during a late season game in 1969 against the New York Mets. Instead of walking toward the Mets dugout, the cat went straight for the Cubs, where it paused and stared at the players for about 10 seconds before running off. The Mets claims this cat was a stray living beneath the stands.
But all the same, the Cubs were spooked. Even players who didn't believe in the curse of the Billy Goat were chilled by the coincidence. To make matters worse, that year the New York Mets would go on to win the World Series.
Cubs fans across the country were growing nervous that this superstition might be a full on curse, and no one was more attentive to that than Williams science himself. He no longer held a grudge and insisted in 1969 that the curse was lifted. The evidence spoke otherwise by the time he passed away in 1970, the curse was still very much in effect. His nephew, Sam C.A., escorted a goat named Socrates to Wrigley Field in 1973 via limousine. Reportedly, they were welcomed with a red carpet and bore a sign that read All is forgiven.
Let me lead the Cubs to the pennant. In spite of all this, both Sam and Socrates were turned away at the gate, the losing streak continued, bolstered by what some fans saw as comically bad luck. For instance, in early October 1984, the Cubs were playing the Padres for the National League Championship, which would have clinched the pennant 40 years after S.A.C. curse.
They had a narrow lead of three to two when the ball was hit straight for first baseman Leon Bull Durham. The ground ball went right through Durham's legs, causing the Padres to clinch a victory in any other game.
It would have been seen as an ordinary error, but to the Cubs, it was another part of the curse because only an inning earlier, someone had spilled Gatorade on Durham's first baseman's glove, causing it to grow heavy and sticky. As the game went on, he'd been encouraged to not use a replacement glove because the energy drinks soaked met might be lucky.
It turned out to be anything but. Sam Psionics continued his sincere efforts to break the curse, bringing a Goetze with him to opening day in 1984 and 1989. These appearances seemingly had no effect. Flash forward to 2003. It had been about 58 years since the Billy Goat curse began.
A whole generation of Chicago Cubs fans had grown up never seeing their team win the pennant. And it had been almost a century since they'd won the World Series. It was the dawn of a new millennium, and fans would be taking matters into their own hands at the start of the 2003 season.
A group of Cubs fans brought a goat named Virgil Homer to Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, the Astros, where the Cubs division rivals at the time. So perhaps these fans thought that the key to reversing the curse wasn't in the Cubs themselves, but in their nemeses after so many attempts to bring goats into Wrigley Field. It certainly seemed like a fresh approach was overdue. This group of fans attempted to gain entry to the stadium before the first game of the season, but were denied entrance by security, making the best of it.
One of them unfurled a scroll and read out an incantation proclaiming the curse over. The fans settled in to enjoy the rest of the season, and at first it seemed to be going well until awful luck came for the Cubs.
Once again, it was October 14th, 2003, the very end of the season. The Cubs were up against the Miami Marlins, literally five outs away from winning the National League Championship and breaking the curse of the Billy Goat once and for all. Then Marlins player Luis Castillo hits a pop up.
It was clearly going foul, arching toward the stands on the left field side. Outfielder Moises Solu chased after the pop fly and leapt up on the fence in an effort to catch it. The ball was going straight for his glove when it was knocked off its path by an eager fan trying to catch it.
Who would have been an easy outs, was prevented by one of their own fans. The Marlins rallied after this error, scoring eight runs. They won the game and eventually the pennant. The guy who blocked the catch, Steve Bartman, became an immediate target for the fury of his fellow Cubs fans. Security had to escort him out for his own safety as irate fans spat at him and cursed him one emptying a cup of beer on his head. Barton apologized for his actions, but outrage and attention continue to follow him for years afterwards.
He was seen as complicit in the curse itself, a representation of the bad luck that continued to plague the Cubs. At the same time, a strange fascination with the Bartman incident rose up his seat in Wrigley Field, became a tourist attraction, and the ball that both Bartman and Alou failed to catch would eventually be sold at auction for over 100000 dollars. But that's not the most interesting part of that saga. It was not bought by a collector for some museum of baseball history.
The Chicago restauranteur who acquired it had it publicly destroyed with the help of Oscar winning special effects artist Michael Lantry. Then its remains were put in a museum of sports history. However, not all fans were sated by the destruction of a single baseball. After all, the curse had existed before that ball was even manufactured. So how would destroying it have affected the curse at all? Coming up, the methods used to undo the curse take a turn for the gruesome.
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No purchase necessary for one million dollar promotion. First online real money wager only for one thousand dollar risk free bet refund issue. Does non withdrawal set credit that expires in fourteen days terms apply. Sports book fan dual dotcom four terms and restrictions. Gambling Problem Call one 800 gambler. Now back to the story, the night of October 2nd, 2007, was a quiet one. No one suspected what a group of Cubs fans was about to do. We don't know their names, genders or even their ages, but we do know what brought them to Wrigley Field that night.
Just outside the field lound the statue of famed broadcaster Harry Carey pointing off into the distance with his stone microphone. It was an iconic landmark, memorializing one of Chicago's most enduring sports icons. And it was a blind spot for the field's security cameras. One of the figures threw a rope over Kerry's outstretched right arm and pulled the rancid weight on the other end, swayed back and forth, precariously dark drops splattered the pavement below with another heave. It was in place for a finishing touch.
They hung a sign around its neck. It read, simply go, cubs go. The next morning, the city of Chicago was horrified to discover a skinned goat carcass hanging from the statue's hand. Police remove the ghastly vandalism as promptly as they could, but not before countless videos of the Tablo surfaced on YouTube. The public decried the actor's tasteless, but no one questioned the motive behind this grisly display. After all, 2007 marked 99 years since the Cubs last World Series win.
The team was painfully overdue, and for some with close ties to the Cubs curse, the implications of this act was a disturbing one. Like I said, we don't know who actually committed this act, don't know the background. That explains why someone would go to such lengths. But I have a story that attempts to do just that. Jeffrey Kazinsky hadn't been sleeping well. He couldn't get what he'd seen out of his head. He was only a few generations removed from farmer ancestors, but far enough that the sight of a skinned goat made bile rise in his throat.
He'd been stumbling back from a late night poker game when he saw the display, though, it was well out of his way. Passing Wrigley Field on his way home always made him smile pleasantly. It made him think fondly of evenings spent playing catch with his father, who managed to find time for his sons even after 14 hour days at his law office. Then he saw the butchered goat and his warm nostalgia evaporated. It was a gruesome sight, sure, but what made it worse is that Jeffrey was pretty sure he knew who did it.
His hands were still shaking when he punched in his friend's phone number.
The following morning, Alex Zanda Morrison answered the phone with his usual greeting. Alex, who's on first? Jeffrey, didn't play along with the gag. Xander, we need to talk now. Pretty much all of Jeffrey's friends were Cubs fans and ardent ones at that. Given their pension for gambling, they probably lost hundreds of dollars every year betting on the Cubs winning the pennant. And Zanda was the one they lost to. He loved the Cubs, but always said that he would never put money on them winning the pennant unless something changed something big last night.
Xander had left the poker table early with a wry comment about needing to see a man about some livestock. It couldn't have been a coincidence. Jeffrey couldn't think of a tactful way to approach this, so he forged ahead. Xander, Alex, you got to level with me. Do you actually believe in the Billy Goat thing, the curse and all that? Jefferey half expected. Laughter But instead, Zanders voice was dead serious when he replied, I believe in the church of baseball, my man.
That's not an answer. It was a boring question. Anyway, meet me at the warehouse by my place. I have something far more interesting to show you. Zander gave him the address and Jeffrey followed four years ago, the two of them had been part of an excursion to Houston to try and dispel the curse with a live goat. But Jeffrey had told him this little field trip with Virgil. Homer was as far as they'd go in his gut.
Jeffrey always feared Xander would go farther or at least could go farther with the wrong influence. And as he approached the anonymous warehouse, he couldn't help but feel like he'd been right this whole time.
He pushed the door open and heard singing. Oh. Take me. Uh. The room was dark, light from the high windows, barely reaching the workbench down below on top of the bench like a strange collection of supplies, paints a toolbox, a few candles and blood, his breath caught in his throat. Xander had gone a step beyond bringing a goat to the field. He'd made an actual sacrifice, an offering to whatever God governs baseball or the ghost of Harry Carey.
Whichever would listen. Zanda appeared at his side. A moment later.
There was a wicked look in his eye as he kept singing because it was referring to the. Jeffrey took a step back. What is this about? First, the scroll now. This Zanda raised both his hands, calm down, buddy, this isn't what it looks like, Jeffrey Guillermo's laughed. That's good because it looks like some kind of murder dungeon than the last year. We could have tidied up a bit. I know you think I've gone screwy, but there's no reason to be nervous.
You want the Cubs to win again, right? This is how it happens. A black cat jumped up on the table and started licking his paws, Jeffrey looked between his friend, the cat and the door. Was there any sense in continuing to argue with his clearly deranged friend, or was now the time to book it to the door and worry about consequences later? I know what you're thinking, Zander continued. But I brought in an expert on black magic.
She's been working on this curse for most of her life. He turned to the cat before Jeffrey could speak. All the candles and the table snuffed out, plunging the workspace into darkness. He heard a clatter of tools falling to the floor and then silence. When the candles relit, his jaw dropped.
A middle aged woman stood there, frizzy hair sticking out around her ears. She seemed delighted by his dumbfounded expression, the curse of the Billy Goat as a pet project of mine. You see, I've been following it closely for many years. And don't you dare call me a fair weather fan for as you know, with this team, there's no such thing. Jeffrey finally found his voice. What makes you so sure that you can do it? The woman smiled.
I found Xander at the poker table and needed a hand for the more involved parts of my work. I assure you, the curse is real. Xander spoke up. If this doesn't work, we're going to need an extra pair of hands. Don't worry, I'm not going to have you do any goat killing. We got this guy from the butchers. Jeffrey hesitated, then took Zander's hand.
What could he do if witchcraft could solve this losing streak? Maybe they had the right idea. He sighed, See what the opening game, yeah, Sandy grinned, I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Once again, their hopes for the Cubs season almost panned out. They took their division title but were immediately trounced in the postseason. This pattern repeated itself in 2008. Jeffrey watched from the stands as a priest, blessed the Cubs dugout during the 2008 season with resignation if a dead goat didn't do the trick. What's a little holy water going to do? The three fans, the two men and the witch, met up again that year. The experiment needed to be refined.
The witch would work on her spell while Jeffrey and Xander worked on the Messiah part. On April 13th, 2009, Chicago's local NBC affiliates reported that a goat's head had been found dangling from the Harry Carey statue. The perpetrator had not been identified. What are we doing? Jeffrey exclaims in exasperation. He pointed at Meredith, who sat in the corner poring over an old spell book. Even a messy Batchelor's apartment in the north side felt like a mystical lair when she was in it.
Are you just trying to get us to do your livestock performance art for you?
Zanders eyebrows furrowed. You did it for the game, man. Don't cheapen that. Jeffrey almost laughed, how many more will this take or is it just going to be a bi annual tradition?
Meredith shrugged. As far as I'm concerned, if the butcher isn't doing anything with the goat heads. I see no issue in repurposing them.
But that's the thing which it's not a proper sacrifice if you're just recycling. Zanda snapped. Oh, is that your issue, that we aren't killing the goats ourselves? Meredith sat up straighter in her chair. I think you might be onto something. She said it wasn't hate's of the goats that brought this curse. It was love. A wave of relief washed over Jeffrey, so no more goats heads, Meridith clicked her tongue. Maybe one more. There's usually power in threes after all.
Geoffrey threw up his hands and sank into a chair. Meredith finally looked up. Don't despair, young man. It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game. Another attempt to break the curse occurred on April 10th of 2013, when a goat's head was delivered by unmarked truck to the Cubs current owner, Thomas Ricketts. As with the two prior goat corpse incidents. The fans remained unidentified. In 2015, a group of five competitive eaters consumed a 40 pound goat in just under 14 minutes as an attempt to break the curse.
Though the goat was cooked, they did eat all of it head organs. And all the following year, a Chicago diner tried the exact opposite approach, encouraging Chicagoans to go meat free in order to reverse the curse.
Their press release quoted Sam Sienna's, who said that the key was showing the same sincere fondness for goats that his father had in the 1940s. We can't really say whether it was one movement or a combination of all these invocations combined, but what we do know is that the curse came to an end on October 22nd, 2016, when they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship. After 71 years, the curse of the Billy Goat was over.
Not only that, they would go on to win the World Series for the first time in a hundred and eight years. In celebration of this win, Ricketts even tracked down Steve Bartman and gave him a championship ring as an apology to the man who many saw as the symbol of a lingering curse. Like many curses. There's an element of pattern recognition to the curse of the billy goat. But I think there's something a little deeper to this one. In a way, it's a cautionary tale about fan culture.
In sports, fans are such a blessing when they believe your curse, the weight of their expectations becomes almost too much to bear. By projecting a curse onto the Chicago Cubs, the baseball community created an underdog story that endured for almost a whole generation.
And who doesn't love an underdog story? Thanks again for listening to superstitions. You can find more episodes of superstitions and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify until next time, be wary of the things you cannot explain. Superstitions as a Spotify original from podcast. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Russell Nash with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Erin Larson. This episode of Superstitions was written by Robert Teamster with writing assistants by Greg Castro, fact checking by Onya Bailey and research by Brian Petrus.
I'm Alistair Murden.