The Curse of Vicksburg?
Posted on: October 12,2015
It was brought to my attention last week that in 1908, the last time the Cubs won a World Series, they did their spring training in Vicksburg, MS. In that era training in the spring was much different than it is today. Teams would find someplace with a better climate than their northern weather and do exercises and start throwing and hitting against each other. They would then start a slow move northward playing games in towns along the way to where they would start their season. Sometimes the competition was local teams and other times they would face another big league squad also looking to play their way north.
Almost any town with a usable ball field will have stories of Babe Ruth hitting the longest home run ever hit at their little diamond or of some famous pitcher striking out numerous batters on his way to a memorable victory. This barnstorming was an annual ritual as teams tried to play their way into shape.
Cub fans have always used the “Curse of the Billy Goat” as their excuse for having such a drought of winning baseball. The last time the Cubs won a World Series was 1908, the last time they even played in one was 1945 and that is where the famous curse came into play. It seems the owner of a Wrigleyville bar named “The Billy Goat Tavern” brought one of his goats with him to Game three of the World Series with the Detroit Tigers. The goat had a rank odor about him and officials of the team asked Billy Sianis to leave the premises and to take his smelly goat with him. Sianis was livid at the ejection and swore the Cubs would never again win a World Series and since that day with the Cubs leading the Series two games to one, they have never won another series game.
My theory is that it wasn’t the goat that changed the Cubs luck, but the fact that they left Vicksburg and Mississippi that has caused the century old curse to continue. I would suggest that if they ever want back in the Fall Classic they need to leave their new spring facilities in Arizona and then see if Vicksburg High School is willing to share their field with those lovable losers. It puts the blame where it should be, on Cubs ownership, not some helpless goat that had nothing to do with them leaving Mississippi. It will be interesting to see if the curse continues during this year’s playoffs.
The Cubs had a 1950’s link with Hattiesburg. Wid Matthews was the club’s Director of Player Personnel (equivalent to today’s General Manager) and lived in Hattiesburg. In the mid-1950’s, he brought the Cubs to Hattiesburg to play an exhibition game with the Orioles. The two Cubs I remember from that game are Ernie Banks and Enos (Country) Slaughter. The starting pitcher for the Orioles was Don Larsen, later of Yankee “perfect game” fame. To my knowledge, it’s the only time a major league exhibition game was played in Hattiesburg and, looking back, it is somewhat remarkable that an integrated team was allowed to play at the Greater Hattiesburg Park (now Smokie Harrington Park) given the times. The Yankees did use that park at their minor league spring training site in later years.
Misspoke. Hank Sauer rather than Country Slaughter.