Young Love, Teenage Angst, and One Very Angry Goat

On October 6, 1945, a Chicago tavern owner named William Sianis went to Wrigley Field to watch his beloved Cubs play in game 4 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Sianis opened his tavern in 1934, naming it The Billy Goat Tavern after a goat that had presumably fallen off the back of a passing truck and wandered into the place. “Murphy” the goat became the tavern’s mascot and “Billy Goat” Sianis’s good luck charm.

This is also where fans of Saturday Night Live can order a "Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, NO PEPSI, and a Coke." photo credit: jpellgen via photopin cc
This is also where fans of Saturday Night Live can order a “Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, NO PEPSI, and a Coke.” photo credit: jpellgen via photopin cc

So like all good baseball fans (who are known for their quirky superstitions), Sianis wanted to share some of his good luck with the team. He bought two tickets, one for himself, and one for Murphy the Goat. Trouble was, Wrigley Field had a strict “no goats” policy. Sianis went so far as to appeal to Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley who also denied Murphy’s entrance, saying simply, “The goat stinks.”

Murphy was offended. Right then and there Sianis raised his hands and declared: “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost Game 4 to Detroit and went on to lose the series, after which Sianis sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley that read, “Who stinks now?”

As a St. Louisan and devoted Cardinals fan, I find this kind of hilarious, but I don’t know that I buy into the whole idea of curses. Still, there’s no denying that the Chicago Cubs started out as a solid ball club that more often than not was a force to be reckoned with. And that since that 1945 loss, have had the most rotten luck in baseball, having gone to the postseason only a few times since and with their mathematical elimination from contention this past weekend, have now experienced a 107 year stretch without a world series title.

Isn't this a great cover?
Isn’t this a great cover?

But even though this season panned out, well, kind of like most of them, I recently found some hope for the Cubbies in the form of a charming little book called Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill.

In this YA romance with a touch of magic, Chicago girl Julie is a typical teenager facing the beginning of senior year, torn between a sex-obsessed jerk of a boyfriend and a hot best guy friend who it turns out is a lot less of a jerk. But Julie’s situation is even more complicated than that. She’s been raised by her aunt and uncle since the tragic death of her parents. And now her uncle has become mysteriously ill as well, leading her aunt to reveal the secret of the curse upon the men involved in Julie’s family, a curse that is intricately intertwined with the famous curse of the billy goat inflicted on the Cubs by William Sianis and Murphy.

Much like the people (who I think can honestly lay claim to the title “most dedicated fans in baseball”) who have made several attempts to break the curse, from bringing Murphy’s descendants into Wrigley Field, to organizing an international “Reverse the Curse” aid program that provides goats to impoverished families in underdeveloped nations, and even to hanging a severed goat’s head from a statue in front of the ballpark, Julie sets out on a mission to break the curse.

Rumor has it the curse will only lift when Cubs fans come to truly appreciate goats and welcome them in their midst. photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc
Rumor has it the curse will only lift when Cubs fans come to truly appreciate goats and welcome them in their midst. photo credit: Tc Morgan via photopin cc

The stakes are high, with her uncle’s life hanging in the balance and the future health of either her jerky boyfriend or the not-so-jerky love of her life endangered, but Julie is determined. She sets aside her own teenage angst (which rings embarrassingly true to life) and her indifference to baseball to cheer the Cubs to victory, the likes of which they haven’t seen in 107 years.

So, fear not, Cubs fans. 2014 wasn’t your year, but if Dill  can convince us that a teenage girl has within her the power to reverse the curse, then I believe there’s still hope. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you should read the book. I think you’ll enjoy it. If you happen to be a Cubs fan then maybe you should read it to a goat. In Wrigley Field. Because there’s always next year.

6 thoughts on “Young Love, Teenage Angst, and One Very Angry Goat

  1. Sarah: THIS IS AWESOME. I wish I would have written this about my own book. Thank you so much for sharing my book on a very sad week for the Cubs fans. I love both the Cardinals and the Cubs–I am a rare baseball fan breed. I think I hold a special place in my heart for loyal, loyal fans without a very good team. 😦 Read a book to a goat. That could be my new brand!

    1. I, too, have a tremendous amount of respect for Cubs fans. They certainly haven’t known a lot of fair weather. My sister suggested that maybe instead of “Pooches in the Park” like they do at Busch Stadium, the Cubs could have “Goats in the Park” Day. Maybe you could do a book signing. 🙂

  2. The Provisioner

    Lesson: when it comes to magic involving goats, don’t mess with Greeks born in the homeland of Pan (Arkadia)!

    In the late ’80s thru 1990s I’d travel several times a year from Madison, WI, to Wrigley when my childhood team was in in town–the Phillies. I’d be met at Wrigley by colleagues in the national sustainable agriculture movement, which at that time was still considered a form of dangerous heretical propaganda. We all needed to support each other while trying to evolve the vision of food away from 20th century chemically intensive monocrop carbohydrates. Folks would come from as far away as Arkansas. Our official movement prophet was Walt Whitman, and our ball team, the Cubs.

    I would take both my Cubs cap and my Phils cap and switch between the halves of innings. One time, there was a big, loud man behind me who really didn’t like this. He started making fun of me. “When I was a kid, people had LOYALTY to their home team!” After enduring his harassment for a spell, I turned around and said to him, quietly and with dignity, that my father was a lifelong Phils fan, a veteran of WWII in the South Pacific, who spent his entire life making and retrofitting steel ships. He died of asbestos disease in the summer of 1979, as had nearly all of his shipbuilding friends before him. In six decades he never got to see the Phils win the Series…which they did the very next summer. I always said he went to manage in the Sky League. I cheered the Phils in memory of learning baseball as a tiny girl in his arms at Shibe…and the Cubs as part of an effort to support people working to bring dignity and prosperity back to family farmers all over the Midwest and Northeast.

    The man was dumbfounded. He stared at me. He finally said, in a voice of great respect, “You are a lifelong Phillies fan and now you’re a Cubs fan in Wisconsin too? Honey, YOU KNOW PAIN!” He bought me beer for the rest of the game. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I drank all I could to honor his respectfulness. Then he brought the roving jazz quartet over to play songs for me.

    This year I hold a special place in my heart for Cards fans as well, of which my father-in-law is one. But I believe Murph would be deeply offended by having his brothers and sisters exported as food animals or decapitated.

    Having said that, one game in ’93 we smuggled in goat cheese, goat milk fudge, and goat jerky, made by our goat dairyman clients/research collaborators. We ate it at the 7th inning stretch, chanting “cheezborger, cheezborger, no Coke, Pepsi” in hopes our communal ritual consumption might do something to shift the Cubs’ fortunes.

    The very next year? The strike. And my childhood baseball idol, Steve Carlton was inducted into the HoF (a matter of eligibility timing/calendar, not magic). My father taught me about pitching when Carlton was traded to the Phils from the Cards (Carlton for Rick Wise!). He said, “I got to see Robin Roberts…but Lefty flew in on a space ship!”

    Thank you for the book review. Will look the book up, as I preach the gospel of baseball to as many young people as I can. The girls who like math seem to be the most receptive. 😀 Feel free not to post this very long response. But I did want to share it with you, partly in thanks for a lovely blog that has given me many warm moments!

    1. That’s a lovely story. I won’t root for the Cubs (or the Phillies), but know and love many of their fans. I do hope, for their sakes, the curse is lifted one of these days. I love the game, too, and I can appreciate fandom in all its forms.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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