10 of the most infamous curses in sport

After the Chicago Cubs lifted their 71-year-old curse, what other sports teams around the world are still stuck with theirs?

Meryl D'Souza November 7, 2016

Last week, after more than a century of futility and frustration, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908. The win over the Cleveland Indians ended a 108-year wait.

The win was also significant because it put an end to the 71-year-old ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’. Legend has it that when the Chicago cubs faced the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series, Billy Sianis came to the game with his pet goat; just as he’d done all year.

On the day of the final though the fans next to Sianis, who was the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, were less accommodating. Spectators complained about the goat’s odour. Stadium officials presented Billy with an ultimatum: either send the goat away or leave.

Billy chose to leave. Not one to sit quietly though, Billy wrote a scathing letter to the Cubs declaring they would never win a World Series again. That’s where the curse began and continued until last week. 

You may be surprised at how superstitions rule with an iron fist over sports. Here, we take a look at other infamous curses in sports.

Derby County

The story goes that a group of Romani Gypsies cursed the English football club after they were forced to move by the club in order to erect a stadium back in 1895. Allegedly, the curse was that Derby would never win the FA Cup. The club reached the tournament’s finals on three different occasions between 1896 and 1903 but did not win.

In 1946, as Derby took on Charlton Athletic, a team representative went to the clan and begged them to lift the curse. With the score tied 1-1, the ball literally burst apart on the field and Derby ended up winning the championship 4-1.


The Black Sox

In 1920, eight players from the Major League Baseball (MLB) White Sox team were banned for life for their role in fixing the 1919 World Series. The White Sox only won their next World Series in 2005 – eighty-six years after 1919 scandal. Fans point out that they’ve had to endure a decade of trophy-drought for each player embroiled in the scandal.


Arizona Cardinals

In 1925, Pennsylvania’s Pottsville Maroons won the NFL championship in a hard-fought battle against the Arizona Cardinals. However, the Maroons were stripped of the title by the NFL in one of the greatest controversies in sports history. Desolate, the people of Pottsville cursed the Cardinals that would only be lifted when the NFL championship was restored to “the right red team.” Arizona now holds the record for the longest championship drought of any NFL team.


Toronto Maple Leafs

In the 1951 NHL Stanley Cup, Bill Barilko scored the winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens. To celebrate the victory, Barilko decided to go on a fishing trip with his dentist once the season was over. Unfortunately, their flight crashed. The Maple Leafs went on a cup drought after the crash. The drought only ended in 1962 – the year Barilko's body was found.


Mayo

The story of the curse dates back to that last All-Ireland win in 1951. The Mayo team, fresh from defeating Meath to lift the Sam Maguire Cup of Irish football, were passing through Foxford on the way home. Legend has it that they passed through the town without paying their respects and so a priest cast a curse that Mayo would never again win the All-Ireland Championship until all the members of that team had died. The team hasn’t notched a win since. Eerily, only two members of that winning team are still alive.


San Francisco Giants

For years the New York Giants dominated Major League Baseball. At the end of the 1957 season, the Giants announced they would leave New York for San Francisco. Soon after the final game at the Giants’ New York home ground, fans flooded the ground to grab souvenirs. Included was a plaque honouring Eddie Grant, the first ballplayer killed in World War I.

Following their move, the Giants had failed to win the World Series, pushing the idea that the plaque was somehow their good luck charm. In 2006, in 2006, they relented and placed a replica plaque at AT&T Park. Since then, the Giants have won three World Series.


Talladega

The Nascar track Talladega Superspeedway is said to be cursed by a Native American shaman. The curse explains, allegedly, the high number of fatal accidents that have plagued the track since its opening in 1969.


Crucible Curse

You’ve probably never paid attention to snooker, but even that tepid sport has a longstanding curse. The Crucible curse refers to the fact that no first-time winner of the World Snooker Championship has successfully defended his title since the event was first held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in 1977.


Billy Penn

After relative success across sports, teams from the city of Philadelphia went on a championship drought that started with the Philadelphia 76ers’ win in the 1983 NBA Finals. The silverware famine continued well into the early 1990s until some claimed to have discovered the reason behind it: fans claimed that the One Liberty Palace violated a gentlemen's agreement made in 1987 that said no building would be higher than the City Hall’s statue of William Penn, the founder of the city.

Naturally, everyone scoffed at the superstition until the year 2007. Workers at the newly built Comcast Center, the tallest building in Philadelphia, placed a small statue of Penn on the final beam. In 2008, Phillies won the World Series.


Colonel Sanders

In 1985, Nippon Professional Baseball team Hanshin Tigers surprised everyone by winning the Japan Championship Series. During their celebrations, the boisterous fans grabbed a statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC and tossed it into the Dōtonbori Canal. For the next 18 years, the team finished last in the league.