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.
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.’
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.”
Here’s a movie I watched as a kid, but not since then — until last night. I finally had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the 1989 comedy classic, Major League, this time as an adult. I was young enough the first time I watched this movie that I couldn’t really remember the core plot line. Perhaps the thing I remembered most from that first viewing was singing along to “Wild Thing” when Ricky Vaughn took the mound in the division championship game.
My memory did get jogged with regards to some other details. Pedro Cerrano shaving his own head with a massive knife (or a small sword?) had me nodding in recognition. Not to mention the snakes and the almost-chicken-sacrifice. And Willie Mays Hayes dropping to do pushups at the plate during spring training also brought a reminiscent chuckle to my lips.
One thing I did not recall, likely because I was too young to understand it the first time around, was how the new team owner deliberately sought to screw the team over. But, as with any great sports movie, how could I ever forget the Indians’ miraculous winning performance as the season progressed? I definitely appreciated this movie so much more this time. Understanding what is going on can make such an impact.
As for final thoughts, I certainly would not mind enjoying this clip during the seventh inning stretch of the next ballgame I attend, whenever that might be: