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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Baseball's curses
By Alex Trickett

The Chicago Cubs are under the 'curse of the billy goat'
'Curse of the Bambino': The Boston Red Sox sold superstar Babe Ruth to bitter rivals New York Yankees in 1920. They did not win a World Series again until 2004, by which time the Yankees had won 26 times.
'Curse of the Black Sox': In 1919, eight Chicago White Sox players were banned for life for throwing the World Series. Their team did not win the season finale again until 2005.
'Curse of the Billy Goat': In 1945, tavern owner William Sianis jinxed his beloved Chicago Cubs when he and his pet goat were ejected from a game. The curse continues.

American sports fans are in a deep state of shock.

Over the past 12 months, they have witnessed scenes that their parents and grandparents swore would never happen.

And they have seen broken two fabled "curses", whose legend spread far beyond the walls of Major League ball parks and into the lives of everyday Americans.

On 28 October 2004, the Boston Red Sox beat the St Louis Cardinals 4-0 to win their first World Series since they sold legendary player Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920.

Now, one year on, the Chicago White Sox have beaten the Houston Astros to reverse their own storied curse, which dates back to 1919 - the year eight of their players were banned for life for throwing the World Series.

The impact of these two events should not be understated.

Despite the powerful presence of the NFL, baseball remains the "people's game".

In keeping with America's overall fascination with sporting history, its oldest sport is driven by cherished traditions.

These include singing "Take me out to the ballgame" at every game, chomping on Cracker Jacks (a mysterious blend of popcorn, peanuts and molasses), hating the Yankees (unless you hail from New York), and believing that teams from Boston and Chicago will never win the World Series.

"Shoeless" Joe Jackson
When: 1919 World Series, Cincinnati Reds 5-3 Chicago White Sox (best-of-nine series).
Who: Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Claude Williams, Buck Weaver, Arnold Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg and Oscar Felsch all banned for life for fixing games.
Why: The top Chicago stars only earned $6,000 per year - considerably less than stars in other teams. Players conspired with a gambling network to throw series for $100,000.

It may seem strange in a society that loves winners, but Bostonians and Chicagoans were in some way defined by their passionate love of losing baseball teams.

So what happens now that the curses have been broken?

In the case of Boston, who were eliminated by the White Sox in this year's play-offs, fans are already slipping back into old habits and taking perverse comfort from a return to defeat.

"These are, after all, the Red Sox," writes Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. "The Sox have been put on this earth to make us suffer."

In Chicago, meanwhile, thoughts immediately turn to the third major curse in baseball.

The White Sox may be exorcised, but their unfortunate "northside" neighbours the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 - the year Ford rolled out its first Model T car.

The ever-popular Cubbies had some near-misses until 1945.

But in that fateful year, tavern owner William Sianis and his pet goat were turned away from game four of the World Series because other fans complained about the smell.

There's no such thing as curses - only garbage teams
Ozzie Guillen
White Sox manager

Sianis reportedly said: "Never again will a World Series be played in Chicago," and the Cubs duly lost the game and the series to the Detroit Tigers. They have not been back to the "Fall Classic" since.

Not everyone believes in curses.

"There's no such thing. Only garbage teams," said victorious White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

But there are still many that do, and US sport is undoubtedly richer for its myths and legends.

Be thankful then for the Cubs and "Billy Goat" Sianis.

On the evidence of 2005, during which the Cubs lost four more games than they won, baseball's last long-running curse may not be laid to rest for a few years yet.

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