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From Babe Ruth to a Billy Goat: 5 famous sporting curses

As Mayo try once again to rid themselves of theirs, we look at some other sporting curses.

Clare captain Anthony Daly with the Liam MacCarthy trophy after breaking the curse of Biddy Early.
Clare captain Anthony Daly with the Liam MacCarthy trophy after breaking the curse of Biddy Early.
Image: INPHO/Tom Honan

IN THE 62 years since Mayo beat Meath to win back-to-back All-Ireland football titles, they’ve lost no fewer than six times in the final with some blaming this misfortune on the so-called ‘Curse of ’51′.

The story goes that, on their way back from celebrating their All-Ireland win, the Mayo team bus passed by a funeral without showing due respect. A local priest became so incensed with the team that he cursed the county’s footballers by saying they would never win another All-Ireland until all of that team had died.

As of today, just three members of the ’51 panel remain, Paddy Prendergast, Fr Peter Quinn and Pádraig Carney.

Now, whether you believe in the curse or not, it did get us thinking about some other famous jinxes and the fate of those teams they affected.

The curse of Biddy Early – Clare hurling

The Story:
There are some similarities between the Curse of Biddy Early and the Curse of ’51, most notably that it wouldn’t be lifted until every member of the team died. This time though, Biddy Early put the curse on Clare when they refused to give her a lift to the Munster final in 1932.

The Result:
Clare didn’t win an All-Ireland until 1995, 81 years after their last success. However, a number of the Clare team from 1932 were still alive when Ger Loughnane led the Banner to victory.

Curse Rating:
2/10. The supposed curse did last for a long time but, unfortunately, Biddy Early died in 1874 so what she was doing asking for a lift to a Munster final in 1932 is anyone’s guess.

The curse of the Bambino – Boston Red Sox

imageSo that’s how Babe Ruth was so good, three bats.
Image: TOM SANDE/AP/Press Association Images

The Story:
In 1920, the five-time-world-champion Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the no-time-world-champion New York Yankees to help pay for the production of owner Harry Frazee’s girlfriend’s Broadway musical. This decision was said to have ruined the team’s chances of ever winning another World Series.

The Result:
The Red Sox didn’t win a baseball World Series until 2004, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. In the 86-year gap between their world titles, the Yankees won 26 championships.

Curse Rating:
3/10. Sadly, the curse breaks down in part because the play Frazee is said to have financed didn’t actually go into production until five years after Ruth was sold. There’s also little evidence anyone even realised there was a curse until the nineties.

The Madden Curse – NFL players

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image Garrison Hearst was the very first athlete to appear on the cover of the Madden franchise and started the curse.
Image: The Sports Bank

The Story:
This one began in 1999 when San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst graced the cover of that year’s Madden on the back of a 1500-rushing-yard, nine touchdown season. However, shortly after the announcement, Hearst broke his ankle and would miss both the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

The Result:
From 2004 cover star Micheal Vick missing almost an entire season with injury to 2013′s poster boy Calvin Johnson being tackled inside the 5-yard line a record 10 times, NFL fans began to believe that appearing on the cover of the prestigious title wasn’t worth it.

Curse Rating:
5/10. Since 1999, many players appearing on the cover of the Madden video game do appear to have suffered the following season. However, the likes of Larry Fitzgerald  who had a career-high 13 touchdowns after appearing on Madden NFL 10, would seem to debunk it.

The curse of the Billy Goat – Chicago Cubs

YouTube: ESPN30for30Videos

The Story:
The owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, Billy Sianis, was asked to leave a Chicago Cubs World Series game with the Detroit Tigers because his pet goat’s smell was bothering other fans in Wrigley Field. Leaving the ground, Sianis declared “them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

The Result:
While Sianis’ curse was rather vague, many interpreted it to mean the Cubs would not win another World Series and indeed it is now 105 years since they have done so. The Steve Bartman incident featured above is apparently the result of the curse.

Curse Rating:
7/10. The Cubs were hopeless for a long time before the Billy Goat curse but it does appear as if they’ve had some incredibly bad luck since asking Sianis and his goat to leave.

The curse of Béla Guttmann - Benfica

imageBenfica’s Eusebio couldn’t even break their supposed curse.
Image: PA Photos/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Story:
After winning back-to-back European Cups with Benfica in 1961 and 62, manager Béla Guttmann approached the Portuguese club’s owner Antonio Vital with a simple request, a pay rise. However, Vital turned him down and Guttmann left the club saying “not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.”

The Result:
Benfica have lost five European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990), as well as the the 1983 UEFA Cup final and 2013 Europa League final. Before the 1990 final, Benfica legend Eusébio even prayed at Guttmann’s grave in the hope of breaking the curse.

Curse Rating:
8/10. Losing seven finals on the bounce sure looks like Guttmann’s curse was effective. However, Benfica still have 50 years to prove him wrong.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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