Sunday, April 27, 2014

the alternative occasional baseball weekly written by an ex-cub fan resurrected found alive & semi-conscious in michigan’s upper peninsula: This Week: Wrigley Field as Tragedy Which Explains The Billy Goat Curse

Who? Me?

Wednesday I was enjoying the celebration of Wrigley Field turning 100 years old and feeling that at least in mind and spirit one can go home again when it came to my attention that Wrigley Field and William Shakespeare share this birthday of April 23 and, as well, a kinship for tragedy. Shakespeare is the Bard of Tragedy. Wrigley Field is the Field of Broken Dreams.

Wrigley Field, August 8, 1988.

Yes, tragedy. Shakespeare wrote it, Wrigley Field stages it with an ever-changing cast of baseball players (called the Chicago Cubs) and a stalwart crew of supporting actors called umpires, announcers, owners, coaches, managers, vendors, ticket sellers, organists, and, of course, fans. The performance given on Wrigley’s 100th birthday was classic, the stage set with sweet memory and sunshine snuggled into beams and walkways of cold steel, concrete and brick, spiffed up with red-white-and-blue bunting and souvenirs, hard plastic seats of green filling with well-heeled dignitaries and blue-clad, smiling children in tow with parents and grandparents bedecked in finery and costume and hats and jackets. Accolades and reminiscence were offered by the famed and the ordinary alike. Singing was off-key. Beer, peanuts, and hot dogs flowed from merchants on-stage and off. Red, white, and blue balloons took to the sky and the main players of the day, complete in 1914 costume, took to the trimmed spring-green field, and when serious play began the Chicago Federals—as they would be known for this performance only—played fine. Fine pitching, fine hitting, fine fielding. All in all, a fine and perfect birthday with a glorious cast of thousands. Even Shakespeare took the stage with a hot dog as he professed to like it.


But alas! All did not end well. The final act was yet to play. The ninth inning. Error, injury, and yes, tragedy, the friendly confines becoming once again a cold, bleak house. Fade out, spotlight linger, find, highlight: the crying, stricken, hapless child.

Some might say: Only at Wrigley.

I looked up “tragedy” in the dictionary. It comes from the Greek tragōidia, the song of the goat.

Well, OK. Now I get it. Tragos, The Goat.

Yes. You.

Wrigley’s tragic plays began in 1945 with The Curse of the Billy Goat, and I am now convinced that this curse indeed lies at the very core of the players’ troubles, and until some adjunct lecturer in romance languages ensconced in some public university in Mississippi or Missouri whose ancestry dates back to England and Scotland with a bit of Italian thrown in and perhaps an obscure Russian footnote finds, quite by accident, on a hot summer night, the anti-curse for The Curse of the Billy Goat in a dusty book uncovered in a musty attic in an old Victorian house where he (or she) rents a room, nothing will change at Wrigley Field: the Song of the Goat will play on. But then, when this anti-curse is found and performed without fanfare, without publicity, without any big stunt or ado, then and only then will the curtain come down on the tragic plays of Wrigley Field.

Oh. Sorry. Perhaps you don’t know what the heck I am talking about. Perhaps you have never heard of The Billy Goat Curse. Well, here’s a video that does a fair job of explaining. And Wikipedia lays it out nicely.

But, in a nutshell: The Cubs were leading two games to one in the 1945 World Series when a Mr. William Sianis tried to bring a goat into Wrigley Field to watch the fourth game of the series. Even though he had a ticket, the goat was turned away. This pissed off Sianis, so whammy, a goat hex: The Cubs will never win another World Series game. So be it, and so it has been. Heck, since then the Cubs have never even made it to the World Series.

You may ask: Who is William Sianis and why was he bringing a goat to the ballpark? And, did the Cubs and their fans run him out of town? Was he vilified and cursed?

Answer: Sianis brought the goat to Wrigley Field as a promotional gimmick for his restaurant, The Billy Goat Tavern. People love this restaurant. Cub fans love it. Remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch? That stupid thing about cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger? That’s the Billy Goat. How many Cub fans do you think were in that sketch? How many Cub fans do you think love that sketch? How much mileage do you think the Billy Goat Tavern is getting out of this goat curse thing? Please, check out the website, you’ll see.

Heh heh heh. Bah.

So a guy puts a goat hex on Wrigley Field and those who love Wrigley Field love this guy, love his restaurant, love his goat.

What a mess.

What a tragedy.

Perhaps Cubs fans should have their heads examined.

But let’s remember that sometimes tragedy begets comedy, and such is the case with Shakespeare and Wrigley Field. In a never-ending play such as baseball, tragedy must at some point become comical lest it kill you, lead you to exile, or turn you into a Yankees fan.

Me, I’m just glad to be back, watching the drama unfold.