America's longest sports championship drought and the "Curse of the Billy Goat" finally could be ended by the Cubs
Excitement for Friday's third game of the best-of-seven final against the Cleveland Indians is already building in the neighborhood around 102-year-old Wrigley Field, which had not been built the last time the Cubs won the title.
"To go to Wrigley on the road, to see that atmosphere... that's something I live for," Indians designated hitter Mike Napoli said.
After splitting two games in Cleveland, the Cubs could capture the crown at home by sweeping games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
America's longest sports championship drought and the "Curse of the Billy Goat" finally could be ended by the Cubs, who have endured decades of futility as "lovable losers" that not even a regular season-best 103 wins this year can ease.
"It kind of all boils down to how you perform in October," said Cubs team president Theo Epstein, who was the Boston Red Sox general manager in 2004 when they won their first World Series title since 1918.
That ended what many saw as the "Curse of the Bambino" that followed the 1920 sale of Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees.
For the Cubs, it's a curse dating to the 1945 World Series when Billy Goat Tavern owner Bill Sianis was not allowed to watch game four with his pet goat. After being ejected, Sianis "cursed" the Cubs and they had not returned to the final until now.
The superstitious also point to the black cat that crossed in front of the Cubs dugout during a 1969 game in New York and Chicago would fade out of title contention after that.
"What prevents us from winning?" asked Epstein. "We've got all the ingredients. All we've got to do is go do it."
And curse talk draws only a shrug from the 20-something Cubs like third baseman Kris Bryant.
"We don't care a lot about it," Bryant said. "We don't look into it. We're too young. We're having the time of our lives."
Of course, the Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, baseball's second-worst drought, and Cleveland teams had a 52-year title drought until the Cavaliers won the NBA crown last June.
The Tribe has a Red Sox-like hoodoo dubbed the "Curse of Rocky Colavito" based on an unpopular 1960 trade of the 1959 top home run hitter to Detroit.
But Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, a Chicago native and childhood Cubs fan, says the Cubs' curse is by far the worse.
"If curses are real, theirs seems to be a stronger curse," Kipnis said. "If the baseball gods want to take it in their hands, I think it's a serious thing not to let that goat in. I don't know how the baseball gods can ever forgive them.
"There's not one part of me that doesn't wish for this curse to keep going."
Kipnis was a childhood pal of Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who tried to grab a foul ball during the 2003 National League finals and blocked the path of leaping Cubs outfielder Moises Alou.
The Cubs went on to squander the lead, the game and later the series and Bartman needed police protection after being seen as continuing the curse.
"He didn't deserve all that," Kipnis said. "The way events turned made him a scapegoat."
Ah, goats. But this year, the Cubs advanced to the World Series for the first time in 71 years on the 46th anniversary of the death of Sianis.
And Cubs fans are pointing to some magic of their own about the number 108 -- the number of years since the Cubs last won the World Series.
Getting 27 outs is part of what it takes to win a regulation nine-inning game so to win four and take the World Series requires a minimum of 108 outs.
Baseballs manufactured by A.G. Spalding, the Cubs' first manager, for nearly a century had 108 stitches and a business office in Chicago with 108 in the address.
And game five of the World Series on Sunday will be the Cubs' 108th all-time playoff game.