From the beginning of organized sporting events, superstitions, especially in baseball, have been practiced by its participants. Some are mild, such as Tiger Woods always wearing a red shirt on Sunday at a golf tournament, he is competing in. Some are pretty gross, like Bill Russell, one of the greatest basketball players ever, having to vomit before every game. In one instance, his teammates had to remind him to toss his cookies because by this time, they were superstitious too and thought they would lose without Bill’s pregame ritual.
There were certain things that I practiced religiously while I played slow pitch softball. Never cross the bats when you lean them against the fence. Never step on a baseline between innings while entering or exiting the field. Ever hear of step on a crack, break your momma’s back? When I got in the batter’s box, I would tap my left shoe three times with the bat and the plate once. Every single time. One person on our team would never swing at the first pitch, no matter how good it was. Another would have to take his bat and draw the line in the back of the batters box so he knew exactly where to place his foot. This subject alone could probably fill half of the paper, so I’ll try to just hit the highlights. It is truly fascinating though.
Many players truly believe that their superstitions and rituals improve their performance. Even if it gives the player a placebo effect of confidence or calms the nerves that happen with every sporting competition, the ritual helps the athlete have a positive outcome. If the person has a great performance after using that particular superstition, it would be bad luck to not follow the ritual until it doesn’t work anymore. People try to recreate the ritual followed for that day that you had the greatest success on the field. Superstition is also used when things aren’t going so well. The athlete is floundering and will try just about anything to get back to the level of performance that they are accustomed to. Whenever I would get in a hitting slump, it couldn’t possibly be my fault. The bat I was using had to be cursed in some way. If rubbing a rabbit’s foot over the barrel of the bat or tucking a 4-leaf clover inside the brim of my hat didn’t work, I had to change bats. If I immediately got a hit, I would stick with that one until all the luck ran out of it. Maybe I would determine that the original bat was no longer filled with fly balls and ground outs and it would get another chance. There was no amount of superstition that could help my fielding. The Gold Glove is awarded every year in Major League Baseball to the best fielder in each position. I was given the Iron Glove award for about 20 consecutive years. It was the sound the ball made clanking off my glove.
For the remainder of this article, I will share some of the best baseball superstitions I have found after much research. Seems that lots of them have to do with a player’s undergarments. Starting off with Jason Giambi. When he was in a hitting slump, he would wear a gold thong that would magically reawaken his bat. Not sure what his criteria was for not wearing it. If I was hitting well, I would rock the gold every game.
Some players do not use batting gloves. After repeated at bats, this would probably cause blisters. Moises Alou had a cure for that. He would pee on his hands. Supposedly, it made them tougher. Hopefully he didn’t perform this ritual in full view of his teammates.
One of the best baseball name ever and one of the last pitchers to be successful with a knuckleball, R.A. Dickey, would creatively name his bats so he would have a closer relationship with them and hopefully hit better. One of his bats was named Orchrist the Goblin Cleaver. The name was burned into his bat under his signature.
Jim Leyland, manager of the Detroit Tigers, refused to change his boxers during a winning streak. The Tigers won 11 games in a row. Not sure if he showered during that time and put on the same boxers?
Wade Boggs is a Hall of Fame 3rd baseman and was one of the most superstitious players ever. He would have the same meal before every game. Two fried chicken breasts and one drumstick. When there was a night game, he took batting practice at precisely 5:17 pm. Fielding practice before games was exactly 150 ground balls, no more, no less. Each time he came to the plate, he would write the Hebrew word chai, which means life, in the batter’s box with his bat.
Ken Griffey Jr, upon being traded to the Cincinnati Reds, celebrated his lucrative contract by buying a new Mercedes Benz. He immediately fell into the worst slump of his career. After going to the dealership he traded the car in at, he found out who bought it, offered him 10000 more than he paid for it, and bought it back. Sold the Mercedes and immediately started hitting again on his way to a Hall of Fame induction.
Mark McGuire wore the same protective cup he purchased in high school. He was in the Major Leagues for 16 years.
If a pitcher has a no hitter going, no one is allowed to speak to him, sit near him on the bench, or even look at him until the no hitter is complete or a hit is given up. If the no hitter is completed, the teammates are then allowed to mob him on the mound and offer congratulations.
Hope you have enjoyed this month’s article and I leave you with a quote from the great Hank Aaron “In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets a chance to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”