One of the things I like best about writing a blog is the stats that you get from it. For some reason, day in and day out, the term “13″ has been the most popular term that results in a match to this blog. One of the very first pieces I wrote was about the number 13, but I had no idea that there was so much inherent interest in that number. But I’m going to use that as a jumping off point into a topic that’s bothered me for some time.
Yesterday, in order to pass some time at an event, I pulled a book from my bookshelf that I somehow acquired but never read. It was called A Chicago Tavern by a writer named Rick Kogan, and it told the story of the Sianis family and the curse of the billy goat. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I read enough of it to get a sense of what it’s about. A billy goat curse timeline is here, and I won’t go into all of the details here. But the Cubs have a different curse that nobody knows about.
The next time you’re in a tall building, get into the elevator and look for the 13th floor. It’s at least a 50/50 chance, and probably even greater than that, that the building won’t have a 13th floor. Or, if you’re in a building with fewer than 14 floors, pick a floor to get off at random. Then see if that floor has a suite ending in 13. Again, my guess is that it won’t.
Why is this the case? Are building owners superstitious? Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. More likely, they’re supposing that a potential tenant won’t want to have their home or business located in anything with a 13 on it. So they go from the 12th floor to the 14th, and play other tricks like that with the numbering to avoid having to rent something with an “unlucky” number on it.
Back in my early 20s I lived in a highrise building in a Chicago neighborhood known as Lakeview. Each of the units on any given floor had a letter of the alphabet at the end (6A, 6B, and so on). There were enough units on each floor so that, if they had they numbers instead of letters, every “M” unit would have been number 13. I lived in unit 14K (“The golden apartment,” as I thought of it) which was actually the 13th floor of the building. Unit 14M, which was just a couple of doors down from mine, would have been unit 1313 if the building’s owners had been honest about it. And good luck with leasing that unit to anyone.
A few years later, in 1995, the Cubs held a contest to find their next PA announcer at Wrigley Field. I entered it on a lark, not really expecting anything to come of it (and it didn’t), but not wanting to miss the opportunity, either. So the way to send in submissions, in the pre-internet days of that time, was to mail a demo tape (really just a cassette) to the Cubs’ front office at Wrigley Field. And that’s when I learned the truth about the curse that nobody knows about.
Chicago ZIP codes, with very few exceptions, begin with the numbers “606,” with the last two digits being the variable to tell the post office what part of the city you’re in. ZIP is an acronym for Zoning Improvement Plan, if you’re interested. My ZIP code at the time, and throughout the length of my days living in Lakeview, was 60657. I assumed that since I was so close to Wrigley Field, that the Cubs’ ZIP code would be 60657, too. But I didn’t know that Addison Street was the dividing line between ZIP codes, and that the Cubs–by virtue of being just north of Addison Street–have a ZIP code of 60613. I’m generally not superstitious, but that did catch my attention.
I tried to educate myself about the history of ZIP codes (OK, I googled it one day), and I learned that they officially went into effect on July 1, 1963. I’ve grown up with them all my life, but apparently there was a time when they not only weren’t needed, but they didn’t exist to begin with. And that time included all of the Cubs’ pennants and World Series appearances.
There are many available Chicago ZIP codes that could be assigned to Wrigley Field that do not involve “unlucky” numbers: 60627, 60635, 60648, 60650, and 12 other higher digit numbers beginning with 606. There is even some precedent for reserving one ZIP code for an individual building, as everything addressed to the Merchandise Mart uses ZIP code 60654.
The Postal Service could make a change specifically for Wrigley Field itself, so as to minimize the disruption to other people’s lives and businesses. This doesn’t have to be anything more than a token gesture, and the same post office that handles all of the Cubs mail now (located north of Wrigley Field on Irving Park Road) could keep on doing as it’s always done, but without requiring all mail going into and out of Wrigley Field to carry an “unlucky” number on it.
I keep putting “unlucky” in quotation marks, since I don’t know if there is anything to this superstition or not. But I do know that if people are willing to believe that one man–on behalf of his pet goat–is capable of putting a curse on a baseball team, and having it stick for many decades, then why not also believe that the U.S. Postal Service–quite by accident, I’m sure–has placed a different type of a impediment on the same baseball team, and that they have not won since as a result?
Every major league franchise that existed on July 1, 1963–the day that ZIP codes went into effect–has since played in the World Series except for the Chicago Cubs, and every franchise except for the Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Colt 45s (now known as the Astros) has won the World Series as well.
So has the Cubs’ ZIP code actually prevented them from winning a pennant or World Series since the 1963 season? I can’t say that with any certainty. But what I can say is that they haven’t yet won despite it, either.