Bringing Greektown to Cooperstown and Goodwill to Boystown

Woe is the Greeks. They have a mythology seemingly based on the gods’ series of one night stands (all those father-less children destined to perish in misguided quests just to get their father’s attention), they have had their greatest ruler defiled by Oliver Stone in the movie Alexander (a movie with Angelina Jolie and Rosario Dawson clad in revealing robes, yet the most intimate moments are between Colin Farrell and Jared Leto), they have endured an unwarranted attempt to turn My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which resurrected Joey Fatone’s career) into a television series, My Big Fat Greek Life, (and Fatone’s career began its downward spiral once again), and, frankly, have been nothing but bad for the beautiful game of baseball.

Yes, the Greeks greatest claim to fame in this American game has been Billy Sianis and Al Campanis. Sianas famously brought the Chicago Cubs to their knees, where they have made a killing financially, by cursing the team after being forced to leave Game Four of the 1945 World Series. He could not fathom the fans displeasure of sitting near the stench of a wet goat and began the team’s now century-plus long demise.

Campanis played a little major league ball with Jackie Robinson and ended his stellar baseball career as an executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers by making comments on Nightline in 1987 asserting that African-Americans could not be managers on the field or as executives because they did not have the mental necessities.

Yes, the Greeks seemed to be cursed in this sport. With few players giving them any recognizable baseball lineage it seems weird that the Greeks even had a team in the World Baseball Classic. Their only real chance to get into Cooperstown has been a memorial to Harry Agganis, the “Golden Greek,” whose promising career with the Boston Red Sox in the ‘50s was cut short after one season thanks to a massive pulmonary embolism.

There is hope though. Buried in the American League East behind the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees, and the Red Sox, is a Baltimore Orioles team starring Nick Markakis. The 25-year-old right fielder just signed a six-year, $66.1 million extension this winter. He is the only real exciting talent on the team, a player with the potential to hit 300, smash 20 home runs, drive in 100 RBI, and potentially end the curse of the Greeks.

As a Chicagoan, I believe that this young player holds the key to the end of the Curse of the Billy Goat as well. Everything else has failed. Bringing goats onto the field on Opening Day in 1984 and 1989 only took the team so far (division winners). The mutilation of the herding animal has only hindered the team in the end (swept in the first round of the 2007 playoffs when they had the talent to go much further). Billy’s relatives have been unable to lift the scent of ultimate defeat from the franchise. This though, the success of this player, might be the key to end the Cubs MLB tragedy.

The end of this struggle would not be a Herculean task embarked on just by Markakis, who really has no direct relationship with the team. There is an important relationship between the Orioles and the Cubs though. The Orioles general manager is former Cubs’ GM Andy MacPhail, the man who chose to award Markakis with the $66 million contract instead of haggling with him in arbitration.

When MacPhail was in Chicago he was absolutely enamored with Felix Pie, an outfield prospect with tons of talent. He would have been glad to let him be betrothed to a hot granddaughter because he believed Pie was the future of the organization. This summer the Cubs sent Pie, who had done very little for the organization, to the Orioles for pitchers that will never make it beyond Double-A ball. By giving MacPhail his favorite prospect for a couple of players who will most likely amount to nothing but placeholders until the MLB draft, the Cubs have given a sacrifice of talent to man close to Markakis.

Given the extreme penchant for curses and forgiveness in Greek culture, when Markakis gives his proud culture something to cheer about and all the ill will born by the generations of Greek ball players and fans is reconciled, there will plenty of good will to go along.

The Cubs hope to be first in line for such good graces because they gave a gift, Felix Pie, to the man, Andy MacPhail, who gave the great Greek hope the lucrative contract. Simply by being two degrees separated from the ball player they can hope that the one degree of separation between the franchise and the curse of an angry Greek tavern owner can be nullified or overridden by the graces of the Greek gods above.

So, Cubs fans, Orioles fans, and devoted Greek sports fans rejoice. All your curses and your years of mediocrity may soon be over. Playing MLB has made a Greek-American with tons of potential rich, Markakis has given the city of Baltimore a reason to go to Camden Yard other than being one of the best ballparks in the league, and convoluted reasoning that only a Chicago sports fan can fabricate has given the Cubs hope…for the third year in a row.

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