A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Curse of the Billy Goat

In 1958 and 1959, he was the MVP for the National League, but he still couldn’t keep the Cubs’ hopes for ending the Curse of the Billy Goat alive. During those 2 years, he averaged 46 home runs as a shortstop in a time before guys like Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar Garciaparra were redefining a position that guys like Mario Mendoza had held down “effectively” in defensive capacities while hitting .215 and 4 home runs over a career that lasted from 1974-1982.
For that matter, from 1978-1996, the great Ozzie Smith who did hit a defining playoff home run where fans were allowed to go crazy afterward, had 7 seasons where he didn’t hit one home run, and other than his "slugging" year of 1983 when he hit 6 home runs, there was never another year like that as he never got more than half of this total. In aside, Smith should be glad that he didn't do that in 2001 when he would have been investigated for steroids. Of course, the Wizard could do summersaults and stop sharply hit grounders up the middle while channeling programming messages to future ESPN Baseball Tonight programmers that stated the importance of the “web gem,” but Ernie Banks was a guy who could do it all. He had personality, he had life, he had a hot bat that could drive in serious runs and hit for a more than respectable average, but he had no World Series rings.
Despite Banks having a total lack of October experience, he did have one thing other than the fact he made the All Star team for 10 of his seasons and hit 512 home runs over his career. That thing that made him stand apart in the history of baseball was a catch phrase: “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two!”
And here we are at the start of the season and my two ballgames are the two fantasy teams that I will take to the finish line: the Ephrata Fighting Amish and the Amish Paradise Green Dragons.
All the same, neither is as memorable as the real game that will be taking place at Fenway Park for the first time since the Cubs lost the 1918 World Series to the Red Sox. In a game that someone had to win, much like the Rangers and the Giants in last year's World Series, the Red Sox, the dominate team of the 1910s, took the series from the Cubs and added another year to their championship drought, which had just moved to a decade since Merkle's Boner.
So will this be a sign that the Cubs are going to move past evicting some stinky farm animal and his uncouth owner who would have even dared to bring him into the park? Will this be the year that Steve Bartman's soul can rest in peace and he finally is forgiven for interfering with Moises Alou's catch in foul territory? Can he come back from his purgatory? Can the Cubs gather round all of their great players from the past and let them cry as the drought ends? Will the real live Ryne Sandberg get his opportunity to guide the team to the crown or will he be passed over yet again? Will fans make peace with Sammy Sosa's corked bat and steroids use enough to let him come back to a late 1990s love fest all over again? Can Rick Sutcliffe's pitching arm slap the new look Cubs on the back? Would Ron Santo walk back onto the field like he did before diabetes claimed his legs, and if he did, would he walk in with the ghosts of Mordecai "3 Fingers" Brown, Ed Reulbach, Tinker, Evers, Chance? Would they recognize Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Geovany Soto, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukodome, and Alfonso Soriano?
Is this the year that Billy Williams gets to come back with Leon Durham, Greg Maddux, and Fergie Jenkins, the Cubs greats of the past, and speak about what could have been and be applauded for being there for the 102 years of sadness?
Can Harry Caray finally rest in peace?
When all is said and done, will Charlie Root bring his fastball and throw it at the effigy of Babe Ruth set to go on the bonfire at the center of all that is more than a century of sadness in Wrigleyville?
Not if the new look Red Sox have anything to do with it... but here's hoping from the heart of a baseball fan.

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