In an op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Rich Cohen argues that Wrigley Field should be torn down in order to put a merciful end to the Chicago Cubs’ 104-year (and counting) World Series drought:
I’m a Roman, and to me, the expanse between Waveland and Addison on Chicago’s North Side is Carthage. The struts and concessions, the catwalk where the late broadcaster Harry Caray once greeted me with all the fluid liquidity of an animatronic Disneyland pirate – Hello, Cubs fan! – the ramps that ascend like a ziggurat to heaven – it’s a false heaven – the bases, trestles, ivy, wooden seats and bleachers, the towering center-field scoreboard – all of it must be ripped out and carried away like the holy artifacts were carried out of the temple in Jerusalem, heaped in a pile and burned. Then the ground itself must be salted, made barren, covered with a housing project, say, a Stalinist monolith, so never again will a shrine arise on that haunted block. As it was with Moses, the followers and fans, though they search, shall never find its bones.
Methinks Cohen is making a scapegoat of Wrigley. Now it’s true the Cubs have never won a World Series in all the years they have played at Wrigley. But the Cubs haven’t always been synonymous with futility and lovable losers. During their first thirty years at Wrigley, the Cubs were amongst the best teams in the National League. Between 1916 and 1945, the Cubs won six NL pennants. Only the New York Giants won more NL pennants during this period with seven. Of course, the Cubs went 0 for 6 in the Fall Classic during that period including The Called Shot by Babe Ruth during the 1932 World Series against the Yankees. Nevertheless, the Cubs were a perennial contender and had 14 consecutive winning seasons between 1926 and 1939.
So the Cubs trouble didn’t begin with Wrigley but rather with The Curse of the Billy Goat. Before Game 4 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, Billy Goat Tavern owner William “Billy Goat” Sianis and his pet goat, Murphy, were refused admittance into Wrigley because of the goat’s stench. Sianis appealed to Cubs owner Phil Wrigley to no avail. An enraged Sianis told Wrigley, “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.” The Cubs lost the ’45 Series in seven games and haven’t been back since.
Between 1946 and 1983, the Cubs had only eight winning seasons and the bulk of those came between 1967 and 1972 when the club was managed by Leo Durocher. The Cubs led the NL East for most of the 1969 until along came a black cat which crossed Ron Santo’s path on the on deck circle. From that point forward, the New York Mets ascended to World Series glory.
Things have been better (or worse, depending on your point of view) since 1984 when the Cubs won the NL East only to lose to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS in five games after having a two games to none lead needing to win only one more. Before there was Bill Buckner, there was Leon Durham and a little spilled Gatorade. Since 1984, the Cubs have been to the post-season five times including 2003 when they were five outs away from winning their first NL pennant in 58 years. Who knew that a fly ball by Luis Castillo headed down the leftfield line would cause so much trouble?
So the next time the Cubs are in the post-season, for crying out loud, let in the Billy Goat, keep out the black cats, hide the Gatorade and publicly apologize to Steve Bartman. That would sure cost a lot less than to tear down Wrigley and build a stadium with a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money.