Baseball rituals and superstitions on Friday the 13th

A lot of people get anxious on Friday the 13th, in the same way they get anxious around black cats or freak out about a broken mirror. There’s even a name to describe this apprehension of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia (but don’t ask me to pronounce that).

Anyone who’s ever watched Major League knows that baseball players can be particularly superstitious. And while most ballplayers likely are not offering tributes to a Voodoo shrine, major league players do find more subtle ways to try to draw good fortune to their performance.

Major League (1989)

Some of the most common rituals include kissing religious necklaces, making the sign of the cross, pointing towards the sky after a home run, eating a particular meal before a game, or even not grooming (or, perhaps, grooming a particular way) on game day. When a team is behind, the rally cap has become a popular way among players and fans both to try to help their team rally to victory.

During a winning streak, some players will refuse to wash their hats, helmets, or uniforms — and some fans will do the same. Some players will abstain from sex on game day, or, in the spirit of Bull Durham, during a winning streak. If a particular bat or glove is deemed “lucky,” it will become a popular item among the players of a team.

And, of course, if a no-hitter or a perfect game is in progress, nobody should ever, ever talk about it.

Wade Boggs was known as a particularly superstitious player, even nicknamed the “Chicken Man,” due to his routine of eating copious amounts of chicken every day. According to Boggs:

It started in ’77. I had a Minor League budget and a growing family to feed. Chicken was cheap and I really felt better eating lighter food rather than a lot of heavy meat and gravy. Then I noticed my batting average going up. Ever since I’ve been a `chicketarian.’

Sporting News

In addition, Boggs would write the Hebrew symbol for life, “Chai,” in the batter’s box before every at-bat, and he also made sure to take 117 ground balls (some places report the number was 150) during every practice. Something about Boggs’s routine definitely worked for him, considering his five batting titles, 12 All-Star Games, and induction into the Hall of Fame.

Other famous players with superstitious rituals included Joe DiMaggio, who would always run from the outfield and touch second base before going into the dugout. Pitcher Tim Wakefield would eat a pound of spaghetti before any game he started, and Justin Verlander is said to eat tacos before every start. Mark McGwire used to wear the same cup from his high school playing days — at least, until it was stolen.

There’s not much information specific to Friday the 13th superstitions among baseball players, but no doubt, they exist. When the upcoming date was brought up with Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on Thursday, May 12th, 2016, Mackanin responded, “I wish you didn’t tell me that.”


Quote of the day

So relax! Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, okay? Fun, goddammit.

~Bull Durham

102-Bull-Durham-quotes

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Bull Durham

I re-watched Bull Durham last night, and while I’ve made reference to the movie a number of times in this blog, I am a bit stunned that I have not yet devoted a post to it. I watched The Shawshank Redemption a few weeks ago, which got me thinking about the younger Tim Robbins’s performance in this classic baseball flick. It had been a while since I last watched Bull Durham, and it’s a bit stunning to see the younger Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, as well.

While the semi-pornographic nature of the film is a bit of a turnoff for some folks (pun intended), one can’t deny that this movie is chock full of some pretty fantastic baseball speeches. Some make one nostalgic about the game:

Others amuse the hell out of me:

Grand speeches aside, I also really enjoy the individual dialogues a lot of the characters have with themselves: Crash talking to himself at bat, Nuke talking to himself on the mound, and Annie’s narration over the entire movie. The film romanticizes the experience of minor league baseball a little too much, I think, but really, it’s just a fun film to take in as a baseball fan.


Quote of the day

There are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary. And there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance.

~Bull Durham


Quote of the day

A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.’ Think about that for a while.

~ from Bull Durham

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“31 Seasons In The Minor Leagues,” by Magnolia Electric Co.

When I first saw the title to this song, I immediately thought of Crash Davis in Bull Durham.  The melody and the lyrics are all pretty depressing, but I suppose Crash’s situation as a whole is pretty depressing too.  Had this song existed twenty years earlier, I have no doubt it would have been included in the Bull Durham soundtrack.


Quote of the day

Careers end with a ground ball to shortstop, not with a home run.

~from Bull Durham


One-hit wonders

“My job isn’t to strike guys out. It’s to get them out, sometimes by striking them out.”  ~Tom Seaver

“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.”  ~Crash Davis, Bull Durham

*

Two one-hitters were thrown in baseball yesterday.

Boston’s Jon Lester threw his one-hit shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays.  It would have been a perfect game, except for the sixth-inning double given up to Maicer Izturis.  Retiring 27 of 28 batters using only 118 pitches, Lester improved his season record to 5-0.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, rookie right-hander Shelby Miller started off the game by giving up a single to Colorado’s Eric Young, but then proceeded to retire the next 27 batters.  Miller recorded thirteen strikeouts during the game, eight of which were called, and improved his record to 5-2.

Congratulations to these two gentlemen on their fine performances.

Shelby Miller (Source: MLB.com)


Quote of the day

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshiped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology.

You see, there’s no guilt in baseball, and it’s never boring… which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I’d never sleep with a player hitting under .250… not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle.

You see, there’s a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. ‘Course, a guy’ll listen to anything if he thinks it’s foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. ‘Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake? It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

~Annie Savoy, Bull Durham