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Cubs’ Fans Eager to Cheer in Postseason

October 5, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) _ On the wall of a tavern across the street from Wrigley Field is a beer sign that reads simply, ``Next Year’s Here.″

No Chicago Cubs logo. No cute little bear holding a baseball bat. Still, nobody needs to be told what the sign means.

If Cubs fans didn’t invent the phrase, ``Wait ’til next year,″ they could have. They’ve been waiting since 1908, when the Cubs last won the World Series. And they’ve been waiting since 1945 just to appear in another World Series.

With a chance to win a postseason series for the first time in 95 years, Chicago lost to Atlanta 6-4 Saturday and headed back to Atlanta for Sunday night’s decisive fifth game in the best-of-five NL playoff.

Even Saturday’s loss couldn’t change the attitude of fans who crowded the streets outside Wrigley during the game, many of them chanting ``Tomorrow Night,″ and ``Let’s go Wood.″

Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood gets the start in Sunday’s game in Atlanta.

``They actually have a shot to break the curse,″ said Cary Templin, 29, of Chicago. ``Before, everyone knew they were going to get killed. But this time they have got great pitching.″

John Duffy, a 35-year-old lawyer from suburban River Forest, wasn’t sure whether the team’s turnaround had anything to do with manager Dusty Baker’s sprinkling of mystery powder on the field a few weeks back or the way the manager kisses a medal around his neck during tense moments.

But whatever it is, ``he’s cast a spell on the players,″ Duffy said before the game.

Duffy is even willing to consider the possibility that the Cubs owe something to a goat _ the animal said to be responsible for the Cubs’ long absence from the World Series.

The way the story goes, the owner of a Chicago tavern put a curse on the Cubs when he and a goat were denied entry to a 1945 World Series game against Detroit. The Cubs went on to lose that series 4-3; since then, it’s been one heartbreak after another.

In 1969, the Cubs collapsed late in the season, passed in the standings by New York’s ``Miracle″ Mets. In 1973, the Mets _ their motto: ``You gotta believe!″ _ once again overtook the Cubs, whose motto might as well have been ``You gotta be kidding me.″

In 1984, the Cubs led the Padres 2-0 in the NL championship series _ only to lose three straight games in San Diego.

The Cubs returned to the playoffs in 1989 and 1998, but failed to win a series either time.

This year, though, some fans took a goat to Houston and put a ``curse″ on the Astros, who ended the season by losing six of their final nine games and losing the NL Central title to the Cubs.

``I started selling these yesterday,″ said souvenir salesman Eddie Torres, holding up a T-shirt with a drawing of a goat with line drawn through the middle of it and the words ``Believe it.″

Fans do.

``You see people weeping in the stands,″ said John Pavlick, a 24-year-old salesman who lives just beyond the center-field bleachers. ``It gives you goose bumps.″

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