Take Me Out To The Ball Game . . . but along bring your rabbit’s foot and lucky charm
The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the smell of hotdogs, the sing-along sounds of “Take me out to the ball game!”—well known summertime rituals at every ballpark in the country. Whether you’re at opening day of a major league club or experiencing the trill of seeing a son or daughter at bat on a hometown, Little League diamond, America’s longest running professional sport provides a comforting sense of community. Just by sitting in the stands, you’re an important part of the baseball family—along with the players, other fans and even the ticket takers, grounds crew, food vendors and announcers. But there’s more to this sport than runs, hits and errors. Depending on whether a player—or team—is on a hot streak or in a slump, certain rituals are performed that affect what players wear or eat and how they act during, before and after the game. That’s because baseball players, like many athletes, are very superstitions. How much so? You might be surprised.
Some baseball players think:
It’s good luck to spit into your hand before picking up your bat.
A wad of gum stuck on a player's hat can’t hurt.
It’s bad luck if a dog walks across the diamond before the first pitch.
It’s good luck to step on one of the bases before running off the field at the end of an inning; but it’s bad luck to touch the baselines while running off and onto the field between innings.
Wearing the same clothes under your uniform is good luck, as is getting dressed in the same manner—being especially careful to put your uniform on in the same order.
It’s very bad luck to lend a bat to a teammate.
Never speak to a pitcher if he’s throwing a perfect game or a no-hitter.
Some players have undergone hypnosis and changed their diet to break a pitching or hitting slump.
Some players sleep with their bat to keep alive a hitting streak.
Certain athletes believe a little extra special help won’t hurt, so they’ve developed their own special practices.
Former Red Sox, Yankee and Devil Ray great Wade Boggs never went a day without eating his good luck chicken.
Babe Ruth and the Yankees went on a hitting frenzy after Lou Gehrig's mother sent a jar of pickled eels to the clubhouse. After that, the team couldn't go out onto the field without a few bites of the stuff.
Pitcher Turk Wendell brushed his teeth between innings, chewed black licorice, drew three crosses in the dirt, and waved at the center fielder before pitches.
In 1968, while earning 31 victories, Tigers pitcher Denny McLain ensured his winning ways by drinking large amounts of Pepsi Cola— before, during and after a game.
Some players follow the same routes on the playing field. Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays were two of many hundreds of players who always touched second base on their way to the outfield.
In 1986, Charlie Kerfeld of the Astros wore his George Jetson T-shirt under his uniform every time he pitched. That season, Kerfeld had one of the better seasons, winning 11 games while losing only twice.
In 1951, when the New York Giants won an amazing 52 of their last 63 ball games to overcome a 13-1/2 game Dodger lead, manager Leo Durocher wore the same suit to the ballpark every day. During that same stretch, pitcher Sal "The Barber" Maglie refrained from shaving on days that he pitched.
After one hitless day at the plate, Chicago White Sox player Minnie Minoso showered in full uniform, spikes included, to wash away any evil spirits. He got three hits the next day, and after that game, eight of his teammates jumped into the shower fully clothed.
During a pitching slump, Ross Grimsley of the Orioles called on a gypsy woman to perform a voodoo ceremony.
After the Astros lost 11 straight games in 1988, pitcher Jim Deshaies bought a book on witchcraft and performed a curse-breaking ceremony in the clubhouse. He took twigs from four different trees, spit on them and threw them into a fire while chanting curses. Fellow Astro Glenn Davis appeared to be skeptical over the entire procedure. That night, the Astros won their game and Davis strained a hamstring muscle.
Some teams have employed people as lucky charms.
In 1911, Charles Faust told Giants manager John McGraw that a fortune teller predicted a pennant for the Giants if Faust joined the team. McGraw adopted Faust as the team mascot and the Giants finished first. Faust was asked back in 1912 and the Giants won again. The same thing happened during the 1913 season. The next year Faust died, and for the next three years the Giants finished second, eighth, and fourth.
During the 1924 season, Washington Senators manager Bucky Harris learned that his team played well whenever 11-year-old Bradley Wilson was in the bleachers. During the World Series, Harris arranged for a chauffeured limo to bring the youngster to every game. The Senators defeated the Giants in seven games.
In the 1940s, Cleveland fan Charlie Lupica climbed atop a flagpole and vowed not to come down until his team passed the Yankees in the standings. He came down 117 days later when the Indians moved into first place.
At Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Chief Nok-A-Homa sat in a teepee beyond left field and when a Brave belted a homer he would hoot and holler and perform a war dance. During the 1982 season the chief's teepee was removed and the Braves immediately lost 10 games in a row. The teepee was eventually replaced and the Braves went on to win the pennant.
Like ordinary people, athletes believe in superstitions until they don’t work. Or, if you have the skill and talent of someone like Babe Ruth, you might not care about good luck or mojo at all. It’s reported that the Bambino once said, "I only have one superstition—touch all the bases when I hit a home run."
Story posted: July 19, 2012. Next short story will focus on Baseball Curses.
Final 'Friday the 13th' of 2012 Occurs In July
There are three Friday the 13ths in 2012, and the last arrives on the second Friday in July. (The first two 2012 bad luck days occurred in January and April.) Amidst the wide range of society’s superstitions, many people consider this “13th” date the number one hex of all time. But there are hundreds of other beliefs practiced around the world, that rely on chance and whim, as opposed to science and logic.
Based on a combination of various lists and surveys, here is run down of the top 13 superstitions:
13 Don’t open that umbrella indoors. 12 Hold onto that lucky horseshoe. 11 Save that special 4-leaf clover. 10 Appreciate those eerie gargoyles. 9 Play a sport? Pick your superstition. 8 Protect yourself from the “evil eye.” 7 Rub that lucky rabbit’s foot. 6 Salt is used for more than flavor. 5 Avoid black cats throughout the year. 4 Don’t walk under a ladder. 3 Careful when you move a mirror. 2 Play safe and knock on wood. 1 Stay home on Friday the 13th.
For background and explanations as to why these practices are considered superstitions, as well as stories about famous curses, visit the Kent County, Maryland, Library in Chestertown at 5:30 p.m., Friday, July 13th. I’ll present a PowerPoint program, entitled “Superstitions, Curses and Friday the 13th.” If you can’t make the presentation, type in the word “superstitions” on any Internet search engine. You’ll discover a wealth of information about the origins, effects and cures for many of societies mythical practices—which continue to survive, and even thrive, in the high tech 21st century.
Story posted: July 10, 2012
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