written by Brad Herzog; illustrated by David Leonard
2017 (Sleeping Bear Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
The story began with a bump in the road,
and that goat in the back of a truck.
Who would believe that this was the start
of Chicago Cubs baseball bad luck?
Do you believe in curses? Many Chicago Cubs fans certainly did. And it all started with a goat. Wandering through the streets of Chicago, the infamous goat was adopted by tavern owner Billy Sianis (On a side note, the tavern was immortalized in the Saturday Night Live skit with the phrase "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger".) Sianis came to love the goat and named him Murphy. He even wore a goatee and took on the nickname Billy Goat. On October 6, 1945, Billy had two tickets for the World Series game between the Cubs and the Tigers. One ticket for him and one for Murphy. They marched around the outfield and Murphy found the grass to be very tasty. After being cheered by the fans, they went to their seats. An attendant said Billy was welcome but Murphy would have to leave Wrigley Field. Being highly offended, Billy left with Murphy and announced "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more!" Just another angry fan. No big deal, right? Well, the Cubs, who had been up 2-1 in that World Series, went on to lose it. The next year, they fell to sixth place. As the years went by, the Cubs became known as lovable losers. In 1969, they were in first place for most of the season, but went on to lose 17 of their last 25 games to plummet out of contention. Did the black cat that ran onto the field carry on The Curse? 1984 brought on more heartbreak as a first baseman's error helped deny the Cubbies a spot in the World Series. Perhaps the most infamous moment was in 2003 when an overanxious fan interfered with a Cubs outfielder in the National League championship series and it all went downhill after that. It seemed the Cubs would never visit the World Series again, yet alone win it. Fortunately for them, everything was reversed last November when they won Game 7 and became World Series champions. The legacy of losing was lifted.
Murphy's Ticket is an entertaining retelling of a classic American sports story. The rhyming of the second and fourth lines of each quatrain add several degrees of engagement for young readers. In a small group, I would use small sticky notes to cover up some of the fourth line words to work on phonemic awareness and prediction. This is also a terrific book to use for distinguishing between fact and opinion. Was the curse a fact or simply the opinion of long suffering Cubs fans? I also need to mention David Leonard's artwork, especially his drawings of Billy. The vivid facial expressions are delightful. This piece of baseball history makes for an enjoyable picture book for sports fans young and old.