William Sianis (c. 1895 – October 22, 1970), better known as Billy Sianis (Greek: Σιανης), was a Chicago, Illinois tavern owner, who went on to become part of baseball lore because of the famed Curse of the Billy Goat he supposedly put on the Chicago Cubs after he and his goat were tossed out of game four of the 1945 World Series.
Billy Sianis was born in 1895 in Greece (Palaiopyrgos, Arkadia). In 1912 he immigrated to the United States, where he became a prominent Chicago bar owner. In early 1934, two months after the repeal of Prohibition, Sianis purchased the Lincoln Tavern, a bar across the street from Chicago Stadium. That summer a baby goat fell off the back of a truck into the street outside the tavern. Sianis nursed the goat to health and named it “Murphy”. Sianis renamed his tavern after the goat, giving the bar its current name (the Billy Goat Tavern). Under its new name, the bar was visited by many of Chicago’s personalities of the 1940s.
Sianis used his goat to draw attention to his bar; he began wearing a goatee, nicknamed himself “Billy Goat”, and began to sneak the goat into unusual locations for publicity stunts.
Sianis was a long-time Cubs fan. On October 6, 1945, he bought two tickets worth $7.20. One of the tickets was for him; the other one was for his goat. He was allowed to parade with the goat on the baseball field before the game started, with the goat wearing a sign stating “We Got Detroit’s Goat”.
Sianis and his goat watched the game from their seats until the fourth inning. It was then that security personnel told Sianis that he and his goat had to leave, due to complaints about the goat’s objectionable odor.
Sianis, according to believers of the curse, was enraged that such action was taken against him and his goat, and he then cursed the team. The exact nature of the curse differs in various accounts of the incident. Some state that Sianis declared that no World Series games would ever again be played at Wrigley Field, while others believe that his ban was on the Cubs appearing in the World Series, making no mention of a specific venue. Sianis’s family maintains that he sent a telegram to Philip K. Wrigley, which read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.”
The curse was subsequently “lifted” in public on several occasions, first by Sianis himself in 1969, and several times thereafter by his nephew Sam Sianis, the current owner of the Billy Goat Tavern. Nevertheless, many fans are convinced that some residual aspect of the curse persists.
Sianis died in the early morning hours of October 22, 1970, at the St. Clair Hotel where he made his home. Columnist Mike Royko eulogized Sianis as “[Chicago’s] greatest tavern keeper.” He attributed the timing of Sianis’s death to his work ethic, writing in a column, “It was typical of Billy Goat that he would die during the only five hours of the day when his place wasn’t open for business. That’s how good a businessman he was.”