Cubs anx­ious to break ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Don Babwin

Chuck Logan heard about it from his dad for years. Bill Sia­nis was born into it. And Len­nie Merullo was there the day it hap­pened and lived with it for the rest of his life. The “it” is the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Chuck Logan heard about it from his dad for years. Bill Sia­nis was born into it. And Len­nie Merullo was there the day it hap­pened and lived with it for the rest of his life.

The “it” is the Curse of the Billy Goat, the story of a Chicago tav­ern owner who sup­pos­edly put a hex on the Cubs af­ter the team re­fused to let his pet goat into Wrigley Field dur­ing the 1945 World Series — de­spite the fact that the goat had a ticket.

The mem­o­ries of those three men are about a real event that has turned into an en­dur­ing tale that has only grown taller through­out the years — one that may not ex­plain why the Cubs are re­turn­ing only now to the World Series af­ter 71 years, but one that does get at what it means to be a fan of a team with the long­est cham­pi­onship drought in ma­jor Amer­i­can sports at 108 years.

This story be­gins with Logan. His dad was a Wrigley Field usher and he men­tioned a few times over the years that he re­fused to let a tav­ern owner named Wil­liam Sia­nis into Wrigley for Game 4 of the ‘45 World Series, but he never made a big deal out of it.

“I just as­sumed he was one of 20, 30 guys say­ing, ‘No, you can’t come in with that goat,”’ said Logan, 73. A few years af­ter his fa­ther died in 2001, Logan’s cousin spot­ted a news­pa­per pho­to­graph of a lone usher stand­ing be­tween Wil­liam Sia­nis and Mur­phy the goat at a Wrigley turn­stile, and called to say he thought the usher was his dad.

The usher was, in fact, Olaf Logan.

The photo dove­tailed into the pop­u­lar story about the curse: Sia­nis, hop­ing to bring the Cubs luck, showed up to the game with Mur­phy, with the goat even sport­ing a “We Got Detroit’s Goat” blan­ket on his back.

There, in the pho­to­graph, the 32-year-old usher stood at the turn­stile ap­par­ently telling Sia­nis he can’t come in. Mur­phy is stand­ing on its hind legs, its front legs draped over the rail­ing, a look of ap­par­ent dis­ap­point­ment on its face. The Cubs, of course, lost Game 4 and the Series in seven games. They haven’t been back un­til now.

The usher story is what Logan told Len­nie Merullo, the last sur­viv­ing mem­ber of the 1945 Cubs team, when the 97-year-old Merullo re­turned to Wrigley to cel­e­brate the ball­park’s 100th an­niver­sary.

Merullo, his son said, ran with it.

“My dad was giv­ing him all kinds of grief, telling him if he hadn’t done that they’d have won,” said Len Merullo Jr., who watched his fa­ther, who died last year, tease Logan.

A Cubs his­to­rian tells a slightly dif­fer­ent story. Ac­cord­ing to Ed Har­tig, Sia­nis ac­tu­ally got into the ball­park with a goat, which is strange enough. Even more amaz­ing, once in­side — and Har­tig said there is a photo of this — Sia­nis and Mur­phy some­how got onto the field to stroll among the play­ers warm­ing up for the game.

Ul­ti­mately, they took their seats. The problems started when, af­ter a rainy morning, the sun came out. That was good for the play­ers but not so good for fans sit­ting near a dry­ing goat.

“Peo­ple started to com­plain about the smell,” Har­tig said. Sia­nis and his goat were shown the door.

Bill Sia­nis, who backs the story about his grea­tun­cle be­ing turned away at the gate, said that what­ever hap­pened, his name­sake was miffed and made sure he told the Cubs’ owner just that. “He went back to the tav­ern and af­ter they lost the Series he sent a tele­gram to P.K. Wrigley that read sim­ply, ‘Who stinks now?”’ said Sia­nis, whose great-un­cle died in 1970. As the Cubs plum­meted in the stand­ings over the next few years, re­porters asked Sia­nis if he’d put some sort of curse on the team. “He said as long as they don’t let the goat in, they will never win the World Series,” Bill Sia­nis said. And with that, a curse was born. What­ever hap­pened at the gate was not cap­tured by a pho­tog­ra­pher. Logan said the orig­i­nal pho­to­graph he saw showed his dad but did not iden­tify him. A few weeks ago, he said, the same pic­ture ran in the pa­per — this time with his fa­ther’s name be­low it along with the words “re-en­act­ment.”

Har­tig con­tends that what Sia­nis re­ally wanted was pub­lic­ity for his tav­ern and he rec­og­nized that get­ting kicked out of the ball­park could ac­com­plish that goal just as much as be­ing al­lowed to stay.

“Maybe,” Har­tig sug­gested, “he told the Cubs, ‘Hey, take my pic­ture and I’ll go qui­etly.”’

PAUL BEATY FILE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Oct. 20 photo, Billy Goat Tav­ern own­ers Sam Sia­nis, left, and his son Bill pose with “Billy” the goat out­side their tav­ern on Madi­son Street in Chicago. In 1945 Sam’s un­cle, Wil­liam, cast a curse over the Chicago Cubs for not let­ting him bring his billy goat into Game 4 of the World Series and de­clared they never would win the Series.

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