CHICAGO Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker insists there's no curse on his team.
But 75-year-old Dorothy Stott has been around a lot longer than Baker, and her memory goes back further than Tuesday night, when a fan's hands got between Moises Alou's glove and a fly ball with the Cubs five outs from making it to the World Series.
She can tell you about the ground ball that rolled through Leon Durham's legs in 1984 and took the Cubs' hopes of getting to the World Series with it. Or the way the Cubs took an insurmountable lead in the 1969 pennant race and, well, surmounted it.
And she knows all that happened after a local tavern owner put a curse on the team in 1945 when he was not allowed to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field during what turned out to be the last World Series the Cubs ever played.
''I never thought of a curse, but I always said they had bad luck,'' said Stott, who lives a few blocks from Wrigley. ''Bad luck is a curse, so, yeah, there really must be something.''
Others think so, too.
''I think they're somehow jinxed, I really do,'' said Ian Mulford, 42, who took his 11-year-old son, David, to Wrigley on Wednesday night when the Cubs lost to the Florida Marlins 9-6 in the final game of the NL championship series. ''Something keeps cropping up and something keeps happening to them.''
For her part, Mari Merrell, 30, of Aurora said this year's strange event came during the eighth inning of the sixth game, when fan Steve Bartman deflected a ball that Alou was about to catch for the second out of the inning.
''The billy goat is gone,'' she said. ''Now we have the curse of the moron.''
Many fans, though, said the failure to win the NL series after taking a commanding 3-games-to-1 lead or to win the sixth game after taking a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning Tuesday night had nothing to do with a real goat.
Nor, they said, did it have anything to do with Bartman, who was vilified by some Cubs fans after he deflected the ball.
''It seems like that was just one little small thing,'' said Vern Lemke of Plainfield, who was at Wednesday night's game. ''There were so many places after that when they could have put the hammer down on these guys, so many bad pitches after that.''
The Cubs agreed, saying in a statement Thursday that Bartman was simply trying, as every fan does, to catch a foul ball and that it was ''inaccurate and unfair to suggest that an individual fan is responsible for the events that transpired in Game 6.''
No matter who they blamed, Cubs fans said this year's ending was especially painful, certainly worse than when the team finishes well down in the standings.
''I have an 11-year-old son who had probably his biggest disappointment in life thus far last night,'' said U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. ''He was crying when he went to bed, and I guess that's what it means to grow up a Cubs fan.''
''I thought this was going to be the year, I really did,'' Barbara Downs, a 55-year-old Chicagoan, said hours after she left Wednesday night's game in tears. Downs had been confident enough that she brought a picture of her mother, a loyal Cubs fan who died four years ago without ever seeing the Cubs win the World Series.
But Cubs fans being Cubs fans, it is not too soon to start talking about next year.
''They're going to win it, no doubt about it,'' said Robert Alcala, 43.
, who watched the game on a television someone brought to the street just beyond Wrigley's right field wall. ''They're going to win it just to prove they could have done it this year.''
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