It’s high time we reminded you of one of Philadelphia’s most notable sports curses—the Curse of Billy Penn.

“What? You mean the little guy at the top of city hall?” Yes. “How’d he curse our sports teams?” Well, invisible reader, I’m glad you asked.

With Philly sports teams doing well, but not being able to complete the job in 2022 (and a bit of 2023), it sends shivers down my spine, forcing me to remember back to the days when the curse was in effect on the city of Philadelphia.

“But, how does the English writer, religious thinker, and influential Quaker who founded the Province of Pennsylvania during the British colonial era play into all of this? He died in 1718. Did his ghost haunt us? Are you crazy?”

Aren’t we all a little crazy in this city? I promise I’ll break it down. Just keep this curse in the back of your mind when you start seeing things go awry in the sports realm. Puzzle pieces will fall into place. Third eyes will open. Trust me, it’s something all teachers should teach Philadelphian children. ( ̶Y̶o̶u̶ ̶h̶e̶a̶r̶ ̶m̶e̶,̶ ̶S̶c̶h̶o̶o̶l̶ ̶D̶i̶s̶t̶r̶i̶c̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶P̶h̶i̶l̶a̶d̶e̶l̶p̶h̶i̶a̶?̶)

So without further ado, here is me reminding you all about the curse of Billy Penn:

  • Origins

    Land Grant

    There used to be an ordinance. A gentleman’s agreement, if you will. It dates back to the late 1800s when City Hall as we know it was constructed. No building could be taller than the tip of Billy Penn’s hat. Building heights were determined by a bronze statue on 5th and Chestnut streets. Does it sound a little silly? Sure. But it was the old days, back when there weren’t the resources to construct skyscrapers. They couldn’t see the future!

  • Successes

    Philadelphia Phillies vs Chicago Cubs

    The oldest franchise in Philadelphia history is the Philadelphia Phillies. They were founded in 1883. The Philadelphia Eagles were founded in 1933. The Sixers were founded in 1946. The Flyers, the Little Brother franchise, were founded in 1967 (such babies, right?).

    Philadelphia teams have always been formidable opponents. The Phillies won NL Pennants in 1915, 1950, 1980, and 1983. They won the World Series in 1980. The Eagles won championships in 1948, 1949, and 1960. The Sixers won championships in 1955, 1967, and most recently 1983. The Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975.
    Teams also had multiple playoff and championship appearances. Everything, prior to the MID-80s, went pretty well for Philly sports. Then, beginning in 1985, something changed.

  • Things Change

    Historic Landmarks In The U.S. And Canada Light Up In Support Of Stand Up To Cancer And Stand Up To Cancer Canada

    In comes the snake in the grass. The 61-story, 945-foot ne’er-do-well. The skyscraper, One Liberty Place, stands 397 feet above Billy Penn. Construction on One Liberty Place began in 1985, two years after the last championship season in Philadelphia. That fateful decision. The decision to break a promise. The decision to give ol’ Billy a Napoleon Complex. Well, it changed things.

  • Failures

    Super Bowl XXXIX

    We endured years of failures. Over 20 years of losses and heartbreaks in sports. Philadelphia’s franchises began a pattern of failures to win a SINGLE world championship. The Flyers lost the Stanley Cup Finals twice, in 1987, two months after One Liberty Place opened. And in 1997, in a four-game sweep by the Detroit Red Wings. The Phillies upset the Atlanta Braves to win the NLCS, but then lost the 1993 World Series. The 76ers lost the 2001 NBA Finals despite the Sixers having league MVP Allen Iverson. The Eagles lost three straight NFC Championship games from the 2001 through 2003 seasons, before reaching Super Bowl XXXIX after the 2004 season, only to lose by three points.

    During the Curse of Billy Penn, Philadelphia sports fans were also infamous for rude and unsportsmanlike behavior. But heck, we were frustrated.

  • Failed Fixes

    Sports Talk Philly on Twitter: "#Phillies' Infamous 1993 World Series Billy Penn Statue Hat Resurfaces on eBaySTORY | https://t.co/amvRP2vRDP pic.twitter.com/1AUv7pguFI / Twitter"

    Phillies' Infamous 1993 World Series Billy Penn Statue Hat Resurfaces on eBaySTORY | https://t.co/amvRP2vRDP pic.twitter.com/1AUv7pguFI

    A practice during the Curse years became dressing Billy Penn up in the team’s colors and hats. The city thought, “Hey, let’s make even more of a mockery of this historical figure by dressing him in funny hats!” It was well-intentioned. They figured, well, maybe he’s cold up there! Maybe he’ll be nice to our teams if we force him to get into the spirit. It was more of a celebratory thing. But, it was in vain.

  • Another Attempt

    Comcast Strikes Deal With GE For Majority Stake Of NBC

    On June 18, 2007, ironworkers raised the final beam in the construction of the Comcast Center at 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Center City Philadelphia. Two really smart workers, John Joyce and Dan Ginion, had a big-brain idea. They were aware of the curse. They wanted the curse to end. So, the two of them attached a small figurine of William Penn to the beam, along with the traditional American flag and a small evergreen tree. Would Billy Penn be happy, now that he was at the tallest point in Philadelphia again? Would he reward us with success?

  • He Would.

    World Series: Tampa Bay Rays v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 5

    The Phillies won. And then won. And then won it all. In 2008, just a over year after mini Billy was placed atop the Comcast Center, the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series at home. An ad that aired, congratulating the team during the parade, featured a shot of little Penn, looking over the city. Coincidence? Let’s see.

  • The Curse Ends?

    Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots

    On November 27, 2017, they “topped out” the new tallest building in Philadelphia, the Comcast Technology Center. Smart ironworkers once again placed a new Billy Penn figurine on top of the building’s highest beam. Then, months later on February 4, 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, winning their first Super Bowl in team history. Their first championship since 1960.

    But, here’s the thing. As a Philadelphia sports fan, still suffering from a mild case of sports-PTSD from 2022-23 BIG losses, I think we oughta check on Billy. You good up there little guy? Last year was an atrocity. Heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. We need that to end. We need good juju.

    So, this is my open plea. Can someone please take a look at Billy Penn on top of the Comcast Technology Center? Is he okay? Does he need anything? We want him well. Let’s win another big one.

    And to the spirit of Billy Penn, if you’re reading this, please don’t curse us again. We love you. You are wonderful. You are tall. You are going to help us win.

Sign me up for the MMR VIP email newsletter!

Get the good stuff sent straight to your inbox, and be the first to know: concert presales, exclusive contests, and behind the scenes photos and video.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.