Curses! A Billy Goat’s Role in the Tigers’ 1945 Championship

There’s talk these days, first heard after the Wings’ heartbreaking finish in the Stanley Cup playoffs, of a “curse of Tiger Stadium”— the notion that no Detroit ball club shall win a world championship under present ownership, because that ownership failed to step forward in support of stadium preservation. Crazy? Probably. Wishful thinking on the part of angry stadium supporters? Most certainly. A possible reality? Well, that takes a different kind of thinking. Superstition and baseball go hand in hand.

Everybody knows what trading the Babe did to Boston, and of course there’s the perennial ordeal of the Cubbies and that goat. Their own particular curse has lasted nearly six decades, and the Tigers had a part in it.

BGP3As a matter of fact, curses don’t come much more famous than the one wielded by Bill Sianis’ billy goat — or far reaching. The critter’s most recent accomplishment was to cost the Cubs a berth in the 2003 World Series. Of course, some blame the loss on poor managing, or bad umpiring, or the luckless Steve Bartman – who interfered with a foul ball and became famous in the way that only the Cubbies could have made him famous. Still, true experts in the game know it was the Curse of the Billy Goat that did it.

If you’re a Tiger fan, you know the original story almost as well as they do in the Windy City. In 1945, Bill Sianis, owner of Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern & Grill, cast a curse on the Cubs because Wrigley Field officials wouldn’t let him bring his mascot billy goat with him into the box seats for the fourth game of the World Series. It absolutely wasn’t fair. After all, the goat had been issued a perfectly good ticket. But, fortunately for the Detroit Tigers, the ushers wouldn’t let the goat stay in the park. It “smelled bad,” they said. The goat stunk, Bill cursed, and Steve O’Neill’s Tigers won the Series.

It had been a fairy-tale championship in a lot of ways for the Tigers. They’d won the pennant from the St. Louis Browns on the very last day of the regular season. Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg himself hit a ninth-inning grand slam home run to make it happen. Tiger fans everywhere blessed the Army for having discharged thegreenberg_hank Tigers’ big gun some weeks earlier.

The winning pitcher in that game was fireballing Virgil Trucks, who’d been in civvies an even shorter time than Greenberg. He was fresh out of the navy, and the game was Trucks’ only appearance in the regular season.

The National League champion Cubbies won the first game of the Series. Trucks pitched a seven-hitter in game two and won it, again with help from Greenberg who contented himself this time with just a three run homer. The Tiges lost game three when the Chicago pitcher tossed a one-hitter at them, but Bill Sianis’ goat and Dizzy Trout’s five-hit pitching gave them game four.

It would take all seven games to win it all, but the Series eventually belonged to the Tigers. Hall-of-Famer Hal Newhouser got the final victory – a nervous making game in spite of the fairly lopsided score (9-3). Prince Hal scattered 10 hits, but he also struck out 10 Cubs. The Cubs lost, and the Curse of the Billy Goat was born.

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