Phillies try to 'Penn' end of city's curse
Legend says no building can be taller than statue's highest point
PHILADELPHIA -- With three more wins, the Phillies can put to rest any talk of this town being frowned upon by the sports gods.It all started in 1987, when the Liberty Place skyscraper rose higher than the statue of William Penn that sits atop City Hall. Prior to that, a gentleman's agreement had been in place mandating that no building could exceed the height of the city's founding father.
Superstitious sports fans here have cried foul since, pointing out this distinction: The city experienced a golden age of sports success before the skyscraper, with the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup twice in a row in 1974-75, the '80 Eagles reaching the Super Bowl and the Phillies of the same year winning their only World Series. The Sixers were champions of the NBA in '83.Since then, however, no major professional sports team in the City of Brotherly Love has won a title. "Philadelphia was the City of Champions," said Rob Marcolina, a fan who produced a film about the curse. "I'm thinking, 'Man, this is going to happen every year. What a great sports city.'" The curse of William Penn, as it is known, doesn't have quite the same longevity as Chicago's Billy Goat Curse or Boston's Curse of the Bambino. The Cubs, having lost in the first round of the playoffs this year, guaranteed that they and their fans will hear -- for at least one more season -- the tale of Billy Sianis, the disgruntled goat owner who decreed that no Fall Classic contest would again be played in Wrigley Field after he and his pet goat were removed from the 1945 World Series. Red Sox fans no longer have to hear about the Curse of the Bambino -- which supposedly started when Babe Ruth was traded following Boston's 1918 World Series win -- after capturing World Series titles in 2004 and '07. Efforts have been made to ensure that Phillies fans can also put to rest any discussion of the curse of William Penn. In 2007, the Comcast Center took its place as the city's new highest point. Liberty Property Trust, the center's builder, made an effort to mollify the sports gods by affixing a 25-inch statue of William Penn to the structure's highest point. So far, it looks like the move may be paying off. With the Phillies needing three wins against the Rays to earn the franchise's second World Series title, the Penn statue -- albeit a much smaller one than the official City Hall statue -- is once again enjoying the top perch in the city. It was all part of the plan, said Jeanne Leonard, a spokeswoman for Liberty Property Trust. "To reinforce that the building would lift whatever curse there is, we decided that he would take his rightful place at the top of the city again," Leonard said.
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.