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The Ex-Cub Factor is a seemingly spurious correlation that is essentially a corollary to the Curse of the Billy Goat. Widely published in 1990, the hypothesis asserts that since the last appearance by the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series, any baseball team headed into the World Series with three or more former Cubs on its roster has "a critical mass of Cubness" and a strong likelihood of failure.

Berler hypothesis

The theory was developed in 1981 by Ron Berler, a freelance journalist and Cubs fan. His initial article describing the Ex-Cub Factor ran in 17 major newspapers prior to the 1981 World Series, and annually in numerous newspapers and magazines thereafter. Chicago Tribune columnist and fellow Cubs fan Mike Royko, interviewed him just prior to the 1990 World Series, and wrote (seemingly in jest) that the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics were "doomed" to lose the Series to the Cincinnati Reds. When that prediction came true in stunning fashion (the Reds won in a four game sweep), Royko repeated the story (seemingly a little stunned himself), and in subsequent years interviewed Berler just before every post-season series in which it was relevant, its apparent accuracy repeatedly being borne out.

Since 1946, the theory had remained intact. Its only exception had been the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, who had defeated the New York Yankees in a sudden-victory finish in Game 7. At that time, the Ex-Cubs Factor theory was unknown.

2001 refutation

By the time of the 2001 World Series, the theory was well-known among baseball fans. After the Arizona Diamondbacks won the first two games at home, the New York Yankees won the next three at Yankee Stadiummarker in dramatic fashion. That momentum shift, along with the sympathy many fans felt for New York Citymarker following the September 11, 2001 attacks, topped off by the three ex-Cubs on the Arizona roster, seemed to stack up against the D-backs. But Arizona won Game 6 in a lopsided score, and then won Game 7 in a come-from-behind finish, scoring a pair of runs in the ninth inning to win the Series. In fact, two of the three former Cubs (the third being Mike Morgan) played prominent roles in that ninth inning, Mark Grace getting a leadoff single and Luis Gonzalez driving in the winning run with a single.

The Arizona victory seemingly broke this "curse", and it has generated rather less interest since then. It is perhaps noteworthy, though, that both the Pirates of 1960 and the Diamondbacks of 2001 fell into serious slumps in the years following their victories, as if suffering some consequence for having defied this "curse".

The "Cure"

The Pirates and the Diamondbacks both had in common in their World Series victories that they had home field advantage, played the Yankees, and both won it in Game 7 in the bottom of the 9th inning (otherwise known as a walkoff). So apparently this is the only way to defy this curse.

In a curious parallel, the "inside baseball" technique that defeated the Yankees and their star relief pitcher Mariano Rivera in Game 7 would be nearly repeated in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS between the other "cursed" team, the Boston Red Sox and their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. That inning was the start of turning that series around, and ultimately ending the Curse of the Bambino. It also turns out that the 2004 Yankees had five former Cubs on their roster, theoretically an unusual quantity of "Cubness". However, the "curse" speaks only to the World Series and is silent on other rounds of playoffs.

The final nail?

The 2008 World Series found an unusual twist to the ex-Cubs scenario, as both teams had three ex-Cubs who were on the two teams rosters at some point during the year.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the Series in 5 games, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays without needing a walkoff hit, and with four ex-Cubs on their roster: Tom Gordon, Matt Stairs, Scott Eyre, and Jamie Moyer; along with coach Davey Lopes, who had played for the Cubs late in his career.

However, the Tampa Bay Rays also had three ex-Cubs that played on the team during the year: Mike DiFelice, Cliff Floyd and Jae Kuk Ryu; along with senior advisor Don Zimmer. Rays' players Gary Glover and Eric Hinske also were once apart of the Cubs minor league organization, but the "curse" is silent on that detail. However, DiFelice was released on September 1, 2008 by the club and thus was not on the team's playoff roster.


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