CLEVELAND (Reuters) - When the long-suffering Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, Major League Baseball’s two cursed franchises, made it to the World Series something had to give.
Would it be the Cubs exorcising the “Curse of the Billy Goat” to snap a 108-year World Series drought or the Indians putting to rest the far less romantic but no less enduring “Curse of Rocky Colavito” to end a 68-year dry spell?
In the end the baseball gods determined the Cubs and their fans had suffered enough.
After enduring decades of misfortune and heartbreak the Cubs finally prevailed, but not without one last gut-churning roller coaster ride that ended with them squeaking by in a nerve-racking decisive seventh game on Wednesday against an Indians team that now own baseball’s longest active title drought.
That means the Texas Rangers, who joined MLB 1961 and are still searching for their first World Series crown, move into the on-deck circle of the cursed.
At the moment there is not yet a fully-formed Texas hex to hang on the Rangers’ drought although the “Curse of Nolan Ryan” is gaining traction.
“There’s been a lot of burden placed and I think, quite frankly, that it is misplaced,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said as his team celebrated. “If you just want to carry that burden around with you all the time, tonight would never happen.
“The burden has been lifted. It should have never been there in the first place.”
The notion of curses hung heavily over this World Series, particularly in Chicago where a hex had clung to the Cubs like the ivy covering the outfield walls at iconic Wrigley Field.
For a storied franchise that had gone 108 years without a championship a curse seemed a reasonable explanation.
The dreaded “Curse of the Billy Goat” had haunted the Cubs since 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave Game Four of the World Series because the odor of his pet goat was offending spectators.
On his way out of Wrigley Field an outraged Sianis allegedly vowed the Cubs would never again win a World Series.
“There’s no more curse now, the goat is history,” said Cubs fan Rodrigo Gonzales, moments after the game ended.
The “Curse of the Billy Goat” has grown into American sporting folklore and a cottage industry.
Cubs fans taunt the curse with T-shirts stenciled with “Goatbusters” and “I ain’t afraid of no Goat” while the original Billy Goat Tavern, still in operation, is a Windy City tourist attraction with nine locations across Chicago and suburbs.
Cleveland’s curse is more manufactured than organic, more a product of Indians supporters struggling to find a way to understand their own drought.
They settled on the “Curse of Rocky Colavito”, the Indians home run champ who was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1960.
While no hex was placed on the Indians, many of the club’s baffled fans believe that was the moment that damned their team to decades of failure.
The Cubs celebration means one of the sporting world’s most notorious curses is no more but there are plenty of others around the globe that endure and fascinate.
Portugal’s most famous soccer club Benfica is haunted by the curse of Bela Guttmann. The Hungarian coach led Benfica to their two European Cup wins in 1961 and 1962 but on leaving the club in acrimonious circumstances he declared: “Benfica will not win another European final without me.”
Benfica have gone on to play in eight European club competition finals since then - and lost them all.
In the hugely popular Irish sport of Gaelic football, the county of Mayo has experienced a title drought since 1951 which is said to be caused by the fact that the victorious team of that year passed a funeral on their way home without paying their respects.
According to legend, a curse was placed on the team by either a local priest or a woman, who said that the team would not win another All-Ireland title until every player in the team had themselves passed away.
Two members from that team are still alive and, true to form, Mayo list this year’s decider to Dublin - the 10th time they have lost in a final since 1951.
“I love tradition. I think tradition is worth being upheld but curses and superstitions are not,” said Maddon.
Additional reporting by Philip O'Connor in Sweden and Brian Homewood in Switzerland; Editing by Frank Pingue