SI Vault
May 20, 2002
Athletes in every sport have long believed in the vexing power of hexes
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May 20, 2002


Athletes in every sport have long believed in the vexing power of hexes

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After Stephen King attended the Devil Rays' April 25 home game against the Twins, Tampa Bay went on a 15-game losing streak. Players thought the horror writer had cursed the team and to combat the hex, stuck pins into a photo of him. Last weekend Tampa Bay won two in a row. O.K., it's not quite the Curse of the Bambino, but it's in keeping with a tradition of sports curses.

Curse of Number 2
Norm Van Lier, a Bulls star in the '70s, was so upset that the team didn't retire his number he placed a hex on any player who took it. What came next was a list of unimpressive number 2 wearers—Brad Sellers, Rory Sparrow, Dennis Hopson, Mark Bryant, Khalid El-Amin. FOLLOW-UP Van Lier, a Bulls broadcaster, lifted the hex early in the 2001-02 season; rookie center Eddy Curry took number 2 and had a solid season.

The Billy Goat Curse
Just before Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianis brought his goat, Sonovia, to Wrigley Field. After getting ejected because of Sonovia's odor, Sianis put a curse on the Cubs, who lost that game, and the Series, to the Tigers. FOLLOW-UP With the Cubs in first place on July 4, 1973, Sianis's nephew Sam brought another goat—draped in a shawl reading ALL IS FORGIVEN—to Wrigley. But security turned them away. The Cubs finished fifth.

Chicken Curse: In 1893 South Carolina governor and Clemson supporter "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman put a curse on the University of South Carolina. The Chicken Curse has been blamed for: the Gamecocks' hoops team's losing an ACC playoff game in 1970; Navy's football upset of South Carolina in '84; and a steroid scandal in '88. FOLLOW-UP In '92 South Carolina fans hired a witch doctor to lift the curse. But when the top-ranked baseball team lost a 2000 playoff game, the faithful once again blamed the hex.