This year there was no June swoon or late-season slump. This year, it was a fan who got the Chicago Cubs’ goat.
After blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Florida Marlins, Wednesday night’s loss left Cubs fans in the East Valley crying in their Old Style beers, wondering when the curse will end.
"God, we are doomed," said Ralph Hartling, who grew up near the Windy City and remembers years of disappointment and heartache following his home team.
The Marlins sealed a stunning National League championship series comeback Wednesday night with a 9-6 victory in Game 7 over the Cubs.
"This was the closest we’ve ever got to the (World) Series," Hartling said. "This one hurts the worst."
For many fans at Sluggo’s Sports Grill, a downtown Mesa bar that caters to Chicago teams, Wednesday night’s game had a familiar feeling.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Cubs owned a 2-0 lead in a five-game series over the San Diego Padres in the 1984 National League series. They dropped three straight.
"I felt the same pain all over again," Hartling said.
After a Sunday loss in Florida, the Cubs came back Tuesday night and were within five outs of clinching their first World Series appearance in 58 years.
The foil on the champagne bottles was peeled back, the plastic tarp hung over the lockers and fans were planning for World Series parties. But a youth baseball coach in the stands reached out and deflected the hopes of Cubs fans throughout the country, stirring up more talk about the curse of the billy goat.
During the 1945 World Series, officials at Wrigley Field refused to admit a billy goat. The goat’s owner vowed the Cubs would never again win a World Series.
"I was upset about the fan," said Loyce Davis, referring to Steve Bartman, who interfered with a foul ball. But she sees him more as a scapegoat. She puts most of the blame on the team for their late inning choke.
"Wonderful urban legend," said Robert Brinton, referring to the billy goat curse. Brinton helped organize a public showing of Game 7 at Hohokam Park in Mesa, the Cubs’ spring training facility.
He expects a spike in attendance for next year’s spring training games because of the team’s postseason run. And, like many Cubs faithful, he remains optimistic.
The bitter loss did transform emotional Cubs fans into hopeful Boston Red Sox fans.
"I like to see one team break a long streak this year," said Salin Hurtado, who moved to Mesa about a month ago. "They’re the other team with a curse," he added.
The Boston Red Sox have not won a World Series since Babe Ruth pitched for the team in 1918. The Sox sold Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 for $100,000 to finance a theatrical play, which many fans believed cursed the ballclub.