By Ian Echlin and Greg Echlin
If only Andy Pafko were around today…
One of the most popular figures in Cubs history not named Ernie Banks would have seen what he always believed: Good baseball overrules any curse. It didn’t matter if it were a billy goat or Bartman.
“What does a goat got to do with winning ball games? He doesn’t throw; he doesn’t hit,” said Pafko before he died at the age of 92. Pafko came up three years shy of fulfilling his hope to live long enough to see the Cubs return to the World Series. He fondly remembered the first time he played in the World Series with the Cubs in the 1945 Fall Classic.
Seventy-one years, Andy, it took 71 years.
Pafko laughed at the notion that a goat’s curse was the reason the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games in ‘45. That was the year a local tavern owner supposedly put a hex on the team, claiming the franchise wouldn’t win the World Series. Nor would the Cubs ever win the pennant again.
It was more about a key mid-season acquisition, much like the way it is now.
After the Cubs purchased right-handed Hank Borowy from the Yankees in late July, he went 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA.
Borowy, a workhorse down the stretch, helped the Cubs take two out of three in Detroit to open the Series with a shutout in Game1. Claude Passeau was even better for the Cubs in Game 3 with a one-hit shutout. In the wartime format with curtailed travel, the last four games were played at Wrigley Field.
But even with home field advantage the remainder of the Series, Cubs won only game 6 the rest of the way. In Game 7, the Tigers led off the game with three hits against Borowy who was pitching on a single day of rest since pitching in Game 6 relief. He was relieved after allowing his third hit, and the Tigers finished the first with five runs.
The damage was done.
The 2016 Cubs set a World Series record with six starters under 25. As a 24-year old with the ’45 Cubs, Pafko would’ve enjoyed
watching the youthful Cubs in ’16. Pafko, a fleet-footed outfielder in his day, was no slouch at the plate. He finished the Series with six hits, including two doubles and a triple.
Pafko returned to the World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves, but always maintained his loyalty to the Cubs organization despite having his heart broken by the trade to the Dodgers while they were visiting Wrigley Field. After changing dugouts, Pafko homered in his first game against the Cubs.
Andy, you would have loved this team. They pitch, play defense and display the occasional power. Most important, much like Jolly Cholly (’45 Cubs manager Charlie Grimm), the Cubs have a leader who likes to keep things loose. Someone who can laugh like the rest of us at the notion of a curse.