The Billy Goat curse was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game at the Cubs' home ground of Wrigley Field because his pet goat's odor was bothering other fans. He was outraged and declared, "Them Cubs, they aren't gonna win no more," which has been interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field. The curse was immortalized in newspaper columns over the years, particularly by syndicated columnist Mike Royko, and gained widespread attention during the 2003 postseason when Fox television commentators played it up during the Cubs-Marlins match-up in the National League Championship Series.
Sam Sianis, nephew of Billy Sianis, has been brought out onto Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times in attempts to break the curse: on Opening Day in 1984 and 1989 (in both years, the Cubs went on to win their division), in 1994 to stop a home losing streak, and in 1998 for the wild card play-in game (which the Cubs won).
In 2003, a group of Cubs fans headed to Houston with a billy goat named "Virgil Homer" and attempted to gain entrance to Minute Maid Park, home of their division rivals the Astros. After they were denied entrance, they unfurled a scroll, read a verse and proclaimed they were "reversing the curse". The Cubs won the division that year and then came within five outs of playing in the World Series but were undone by the Florida Marlins' eight-run rally, and possibly the Steve Bartman incident; they then lost the following game and with it the series (the Marlins went on to win the World Series against the New York Yankees.)
In another bizarre twist, it was reported that a butchered goat was hung from the Harry Caray statue on October 3, 2007, to which The Chicago Sun-Times noted: "If the prankster intended to reverse the supposed billy goat curse with the stunt, it doesn't appear to have worked." While the Cubs did win the NL Central Division title in 2007 and 2008, they were swept in the first round of the playoffs in both years: by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. The elimination by Arizona came on October 6, the same date that the goat appeared at Wrigley Field in 1945.
The act was repeated before the home opener in 2009, this time a goat's butchered head being hung from the statue. The act was futile as the Cubs were eliminated from postseason contention on September 26, 2009.
According to three interviews with Sam Sianis, William Sianis' nephew-in-law, the Curse of The Billy Goat can be dispelled only by the Chicago Cubs organization's showing a sincere fondness for goats; allowing them into Wrigley Field because they genuinely want to and not simply for publicity reasons. (Acording to an account in the Chicago Sun of Oct. 7, 1945, the goat was turned away at the gate,and Sianis left the goat tied to a stake in a parking lot and went into the game alone. There was mention of a lawsuit that day, but no mention of a curse.)
Another factor that may play a role in the curse is the number of players who won World Series titles after leaving the Cubs. These players include Andy Pafko (who, coincidentally, played in the 1945 World Series as a Cub), Gene Baker, Smoky Burgess, Don Hoak, Dale Long, Lou Brock (whose first title was in 1964 after a mid-season trade to the St. Louis Cardinals), Lou Johnson, Jim Brewer, Moe Drabowsky, Don Cardwell, Ken Holtzman, Billy North, Fred Norman, Bill Madlock, Manny Trillo, Greg Gross, Rick Monday, Burt Hooton, Bruce Sutter, Willie Hernández, Joe Niekro, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Carter, Greg Maddux, Joe Girardi, Glenallen Hill (after his second stint with the Cubs; his title came in 2000 after a mid-season trade), Luis Gonzalez, Mike Morgan, Mark Grace, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller and, in the 2008 World Series, Scott Eyre (who had been traded from the Cubs just that 2008 season), Tom Gordon, Matt Stairs, and Jamie Moyer. Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland were traded as minor leaguers.
Conversely, the "Ex-Cubs Factor" seemed to plague many a post-season qualifier that had too many former Cubs. This theory reached its zenith in 1990, when the factor "predicted" that the Oakland Athletics were "doomed" in that year's World Series, and the A's were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in a stunning upset (coincidentally, then Reds manager Lou Piniella is now the Cubs manager) . In the 2001 World Series, however, the Arizona Diamondbacks faced the Yankees with three ex-Cubs on their roster and not only won the Series in dramatic fashion, but won it on a rally started by Mark Grace, an ex-Cub, effectively discrediting the "Ex-Cubs" theory.
Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who was blamed for Boston's 1986 World Series loss after a routine ground ball rolled through his legs, was also a former Cub. It has been recently uncovered that at the time of the play (and in many other instances), Buckner was wearing an old and tattered Chicago Cubs batting glove under his fielding glove. However, Buckner's error could also have been a result of Boston's own legendary curse, which was itself shattered in 2004.
Former Cub pitcher Mike Krukow (who went on to play for the San Francisco Giants and is currently a broadcaster for them) is alleged to be the source of the legendary "Krukow Kurse". The "Krukow Kurse" is used to explain the Giants' fifty-plus year failure to win the World Series while in San Francisco. Before the start of each season, Krukow states on his radio show his usual optimistic prediction that the Giants have a chance to ultimately win the World Series. Once Krukow stops making such preseason predictions, says the legend, the Giants will in fact win the World Series.
Another former Cub, Mitch Williams, also suffered from World Series heartbreak in 1993 when, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, he gave up a legendary walk-off home run to Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning of Game 6, handing the championship to Toronto. (The Phillies were laboring under their own curses at the time, however, so it is unclear which curse was to blame for this incident.) Williams would then play for the Houston Astros, who missed a possible chance to win the NL pennant due to the 1994 strike. Coincidentally, Carter was also a former Cub, but he and Williams had not been teammates in Chicago.