I was walking past Petco Park today and saw hordes of Cubbies fans approaching for the afternoon game with the Padres, (the Cubs won 6-3, sweeping the series) and I started thinking about the Cubs’ chances of winning the pennant and overcoming the dreaded Billy Goat Curse.
According to baseball lore, in 1945 the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago brought his pet goat to Wrigley Field for a World Series game against the Tigers. When Mr. Wrigley ordered that the goat be removed from the ballpark, the tavern owner cursed the Cubs, saying that they would never be in a World Series ever again.
What I realized as I was walking, was that year, 1945, was the exact mid-point in the 140-year history of the National League. So how many pennants had the Cubs won up to that point? And what has happened since the curse? This is what I found for the first 70 years:
National League pennants 1876-1945
CHICAGO CUBS 16
New York Giants 15
Boston Braves 9
St. Louis Cardinals 8
Brooklyn Dodgers 6
Pittsburgh Pirates 6
Cincinnati Reds 3
Baltimore Orioles (folded 1899) 3
Providence Grays (folded 1885) 2
Philadelphia Phillies 1
Detroit Wolverines (folded 1889) 1
The Cubs were the most successful National League team up to that time! And since 1945, (only 69 pennants awarded in 70 years because no pennant in the strike year of 1994):
National League pennants 1946-2015
Brooklyn/LA Dodgers 15
St. Louis Cardinals 11
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves 8
NY/SF Giants 8
Philadelphia Phillies 6
Cincinnati Reds 6
NY Mets 5
Pittsburgh Pirates 3
San Diego Padres 2
Miami Marlins 2
Arizona Diamondbacks 1
Houston Astros 1
Colorado Rockies 1
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals 0
Milwaukee Brewers 0
CHICAGO CUBS 0
Notice that the top four teams after the Cubs in the early period, Giants, Braves, Cardinals, and Dodgers, are also the top four teams in the later period. The Cubs, however, dropped to the bottom. Wow…curses are scary things!
Now this year the Cubs have the best record in Major League baseball, the two favorites for the MVP award (Bryant, Rizzo), and maybe a repeat Cy Young winner (Arrieta). With all of this talent, is this the year that they bust the curse? How powerful can a billy goat really be? Or is it that there is no curse at all and something else is to blame for the Cubs’ 70 years of misery? We will find out.
Note: Steve Celniker is by profession a civil engineer from San Diego. He is also an amateur baseball historian and super fan of baseball in general.