The History of the Curse of the Billy Goat

The Curse of the Billy Goat. It’s one of the most infamous legends in American professional sports. On October 22, 2016, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers and won the National League pennant for the first time since 1945, arguably breaking the curse. So where did this Curse of the Billy Goat come from anyway? Well, you can always sign up for our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour to learn more, but I’ll give you the story here as well.

curse of the billy goat wrigley Field sign cubs win
Not the World Series. At least not yet. Image source

I write this on the morning of November 1st, while the Cubs prepare to play Game 6 of the World Series tonight. It will be their first time ever playing in November. They’re trying to come back and win the final two games of the series, both of which are to be played in Cleveland. As the Cubbies prepare for this ultimate test, we  look back on the history of the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Billy Sianis and his Cursed Goat

curse of the billy goat billy sianis murphy
Billy Sianis and Murphy, the originators of the Curse of the Billy Goat. Image source

The Curse of the Billy Goat goes back to the last time the Cubs played in the World Series in 1945. Leading 2-1 against the Detroit Tigers, the Cubs were looking to take a decisive hold on the series in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. Instead, it wound up being the beginning of the curse.

Billy Sianis was the owner of the now famous Billy Goat Tavern, which we visit on the Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour. He was a big Cubs fan and decided to bring his pet goat, Murphy, to the game for good luck. The ushers refused to let Sianis and his goat in. The Cubs owner, P.K. Wrigley, said that only Billy could enter the stadium because “the goat stinks.”

What follows has been quoted in myriad different ways. The offended Billy Sianis is said to have thrown his hands up and said something to the effects of “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.”

The Cubs lost every subsequent game in the 1945 World Series. Sianis supposedly sent Wrigley a telegram that read “Who stinks now?”

This launched a lifetime’s worth of futility for the Cubs. From 1945 on they became the “Lovable Losers.” Despite Hall of Fame players like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, they rarely even approached a winning season over the decades.

Infamous Moments from the Curse of the Billy Goat

When the Cubs did manage to put together winning seasons, they invariably met unimaginable twists of fate that seemed to confirm the curse.

In 1969, the year before Sianis died, the Cubs lead the National League for almost the entire year. But in a late season match-up against the surging “Miracle” Mets in New York, the curse struck. A stray black cat walked between the Cubs dugout and Ron Santo, their star player, while he waited to bat. The Cubs subsequently collapsed and the Mets won the NL pennant and the World Series.

curse of the billy goat chicago cubs ron santo black cat 1969 shea stadium
A moment of infamy in the Curse of the Billy Goat. Image source

It took 15 more years for the Cubs to get back into winning form. In 1984, they were up 2 games to 0 over the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series and needed only 8 more outs to clinch the pennant. But a fielding error by the first baseman led to a Padres rally. Seemingly seized by the lingering curse, the Cubs went on to lose the entire series.

The most infamous moment of all came in 2003. During Game 6 of the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were a mere five outs away from clinching the pennant. But a die-hard Cubs fan named Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball that could have been caught for an out. The Cubs were so shaken by the missed opportunity that they allowed the Marlins to score 8 runs in that inning and lost the subsequent Game 7.

Is the Curse Finally Broken?

Fast forward to 2016 and the Cubs have finally won the National League pennant and advanced to the World Series. I’m only a casual baseball fan, but even watching the game on TV I could tell that the atmosphere at Wrigley Field the night that they won was spectacular. One can only imagine what Wrigleyville will be like if the Cubs win it all. Interestingly, they won the pennant on October 22nd, the 46th anniversary of Billy Sianis’ death. If that’s not an omen, then I don’t know what is.

Debate lingers about whether the Curse of the Billy Goat is lifted with the Cubs going to the World Series. I’m sure Cubs diehards will still see the curse if the Cubs don’t win it all. Unfortunately, the odds of them pulling off two straight wins in Cleveland are not great. But no curse is easily broken. So maybe the Cubs have to take the hardest road possible in order to be champions?

EDIT: They really did it! It really happened! The Cubs won Game 7 of the 2016 World Series 8-7. It was a 10-inning instant classic and set millions of people into a delirium of joy. The curse is broken. The goat is dead. Long live the Cubs. See you on the Bar Tour!

-Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

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With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


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Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


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Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

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Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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Amanda Scotese

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I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
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