- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 4, 2003

CHICAGO. — You would think that a team as cursed as the Chicago Cubs would perform every voodoo act it could to change its luck.

So you would certainly think that if there was a hex put on the Cubs 58 years ago, the last time the Cubs were in the World Series, because they wouldn’t let the late Bill Sianis’ goat into Wrigley Field — even though the goat had a ticket — they would have driven his nephew Sam’s goat to the ballpark yesterday in a limo and let him sit in the owner’s box.

But Sam Sianis, in between serving “cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers” at famed Billy Goat Tavern under Michigan Avenue, said yesterday that the Cubs have refused to let him bring the goat to the ballpark before last night’s Game3 of the National League Division Series between the Cubs and Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.

Now, Dusty Baker and Co. may believe in Mark Prior and Sammy Sosa. But the Cubs used to believe in Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams, too, and look where that got them. If I were the Cubs, the goat is wearing a uniform and grazing near the on-deck circle.

“I brought the goat down from my farm hoping to bring him to the ballpark, but so far they say no,” said Sam, who was made famous by legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who hung out at the tavern. “But I still hope they win. It would be great for the city.”

It was great for Billy Goat Tavern yesterday, packed with people in an eating, drinking and generally festive mood as the series came to Chicago. It was all-Cubs, all-the-time, all-over Chicago yesterday (except, of course, on the South Side, where fans root for two teams — the White Sox and whoever is playing the Cubs).

Up on Michigan Avenue, in the Chicago Tribune Building, Cubs jerseys, pennants and other souvenirs were moving fast — a bizarre scene, a newspaper hawking team merchandise. But on the other hand, the fact that the Tribune Co. owns the Cubs is a strange setup to start with. (Another reason why a Cubs-Red Sox World Series would be unique; it would be the battle of the newspapers, the Chicago Tribune vs. the New York Times, which owns a piece of the Red Sox.)

Since they were selling Cubs stuff at the Tribune, I figured I would stop in and see Dusty. So I walked into the lobby and stopped at the security desk.

“Can I help you?” the guard asked.

“I want to see Dusty Baker,” I said.

“Who?” he asked again.

“Dusty Baker,” I said. “He works for the Tribune Co.”

So the guard scans through his list for a few minutes, but he can’t come up with the name. Then it hits him. “Oh, you mean John Baker. He’s not listed as Dusty here. … They took him out of the system.”

“That’s not a good sign,” I said.

“Sammy used to be listed here, too, but they took him out,” the guard said.

Now, why would Sammy Sosa have a phone in the Tribune Building? To take wedding announcements? To answer calls from irate Tribune readers? Sell subscriptions?

They weren’t selling Cubs souvenirs at Harry Caray’s restaurant, but they did a display of Cubs World Series memorabilia — such as it is, a Chicago Daily News story about the Cubs winning the 1908 World Series and tickets from the last time the Cubs played in the series in 1945. Let’s face it, you could put Cubs World Series memorabilia in a shoebox.

Like Billy Goat, Harry Caray’s was one of those Chicago destinations yesterday that drew Cubs fans.

“I call this place the Cubs Fan’s Graceland,” said bartender Frankie Osowski. “When the Cubs are playing, people come here to watch and just soak it all in and get the feel of it.”

Tim Craig and John McGeehan came from Philadelphia to see the Cubs-Braves game and prepared for that experience early in the day at Harry’s place.

“This is a great town, and this is the place to be for the playoffs,” Craig said. “We’re pulling for a Cubs-Red Sox series.”

Harry’s widow, Dutchie, was on hand at the restaurant to meet people. “I think this is our year,” she said. “I’ve got a great feeling about this team. And I think Harry would love them.”

Cubs love. It was everywhere before last night’s game, particularly just across the street from Wrigley Field at the Cubby Bear bar, which was filled with Cubs fans watching the Marlins-Giants game on television. Paul Zatorski, who grew up in Chicago but now lives in Orlando, was there with two old friends celebrating just being Cubs fans. “We’re all masochists,” he said. “We’ll take the pain.”

If Chicago somehow manages to lose this series, the pain will be magnified by the Cubs’ refusal to exorcise the Curse of the Billy Goat.

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