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Will curse gods smile on Chicago?

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

CHICAGO Chicago fans believe that if one curse can be broken, so can another.

After watching the Boston Red Sox sweep the World Series for their first title since 1918, Chicago is tantalized by the possibility of a baseball championship all its own after an even longer drought. And this city has two major league teams.

''It lets us know, whether or not you believe in curses, that if they are true, they can be overcome,'' said Dave Kunicki, who helps run a Cubs fan newsletter, The Heckler.

The curse on Boston whose World Series title 86 years ago came, incidentally, against the Cubs dates to 1920, when the team sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

The jubilation in Boston underlined yet another season in which the Cubs again fell short of baseball's big prize.

''Some curses haven't been lifted,'' read a headline in Thursday's Chicago Sun-Times over a columnist's story about visiting a darkened, empty Wrigley Field on Wednesday night while the World Series played out elsewhere.

The Cubs and crosstown White Sox have gone longer than any team without a World Series crown. The Cubs last won in 1908, the White Sox in 1917.

White Sox fans blame poor play, at least lately. But fans of the Lovable Losers claim their Cubs are cursed.

As the story goes, a local tavern owner put a hex on the team in 1945 when he wasn't allowed to bring his pet billy goat into Wrigley Field for a game. That was the last year the Cubs made an appearance in the World Series.

The team's subsequent postseason struggles have reinforced the idea, like the ground ball that rolled through Leon Durham's legs in 1984 and took with it the Cubs' hopes to get to the World Series.

Just last year, with the Cubs five outs from the World Series, fan Steve Bartman reached for a ball hit toward his front-row seat at Wrigley Field, knocking it away from left fielder Moises Alou. The Cubs then gave up eight runs to the Marlins and squandered another lead in Game 7 the next night.

Alou and most fans agreed the play in the stands did not cause the Cubs' collapse, but it renewed talk of the curse. Some fans believe all that could change because of Boston.

Now that the Red Sox curse is lifted, 76-year-old Dorothy Stott of Chicago has renewed hope she will see the Cubs win the World Series in her lifetime.

''There's always next year,'' she said.

Heather Boughey, 28, of Chicago, rooted for Boston at a bar near Wrigley Field.

''If they can do it, so can we,'' she said.

The White Sox have their own tortured history with the World Series. Eight players were accused of participating in a gambling scheme to throw the 1919 World Series and were banned from baseball for life in the ''Black Sox Scandal.''

White Sox fan George Bova, 43, of suburban Elmhurst called curses ''goofy'' excuses and said they aren't to blame for the performance of the White Sox, who last appeared in the World Series in 1959.

''There were tangible reasons that our team wasn't good enough as opposed to cursed baseballs or Babe Ruth being traded. All these reasons don't wash for White Sox fans,'' said Bova, who runs a White Sox fan Web site. ''Unlike a Cubs fan, we have never turned our losing into some sort of lovable attribute.''



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