1945 was a long, long time ago. Probably before most of you were born. For sure before I arrived.
That was the last year they won anything, and the year the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ was emblazoned on the franchise.
Chicago Cubs baseball has been pretty bad since that mystical season.
1945 was the year of guys like Phil Cavaretta and Stan Hack, Jolly Cholly Grimm and Claude Passeau. Baseball old timers remember how good that team really was.
They won the pennant but got bumped off in the World Series by the Yankees. Since then a drought that has lasted forever.
Oh there have been good players at Wrigley Field off and on in recent decades. Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa, Bruce Sutter and Dick Ellsworth, and Billy Williams. They followed in the footsteps of Hack Wilson and Tinkerj-to-Evans-to-Chance fame. But none of those teams won it all.
But the Curse of the Billy Goat, brought on by an exiled fan who was asked to leave the field and take his goat during that ’45 Series, has lived on.
The Cubs gave us the College of Coaches, 8-different coaches, who took turns managing the team over a year and a half, or year and a laugh.
It gave us Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher as a firebrand manager, and names like Quade, Zimmer, Sveum and Renteria.. It brought us Harry Caray on Radio and TV. The controversial fan Steve Bartman. The Bleacher Bums, the Rooftop Seats, and the Ivy on the Walls.
There was so much about Cubs baseball to talk about, and not much of it was very good. It’s all changed.
Years of losing brought them high draft picks. The arrival of new leadership in Theo Epstien from the Red Sox and Jed Hoyer from the Padres, brought them new ideas. Wrigley Field has undergone renovation itself, just like the roster. Video boards, new rooftop seats and the like.
Cubs baseball is now home run hitting lst baseman Anthony Rizzo. It’s the power bat of rookie Kris Bryant. It’s lst round draft pick homer hitting catcher Kyle Schwarber. It’s a collection of Cubans and Caribbean’s who can play, names like Soler and Baez.
Yes they spent big money to sign free agent Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. And yes, they are headed for their best season since winning a pennant in 2007-and-2008. But those were isolated teams that had a good season, then promptly fell apart.
In one stretch of time, they went 16-straight years without a winning season.
What we see tonite, when the Cubs head into Dodgers Stadium, is a young team, loaded with talent, managed by fun-loving Joe Maddon, that is built to win and win for a number of years.
This was a turnaround season when all the kids arrived. This off season should bring them the last ingredient they need, more starting pitching, And then we will watch them become dominant..
In all likelihood, what we see tonite in LA will be the beginning of the end of the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’. It’s been awhile (`1945) since those in and around Rush Street have had something really good to cheer about.
Like the wind that blows out to left field in Chicago, that always comes up, winning baseball, lots of it, is coming to the Windy City.