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.”


Buck O’Neil on Ty Cobb

I vaguely recall hearing a reference to Buck O’Neil’s thoughts on Ty Cobb at some point, but this might be the first time I’ve ever seen this interview. My hat’s off to Buck — I don’t think I could be nearly so forgiving and compassionate if it were me in his shoes. I’m so glad this man is finally going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.


Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2022

Results from the Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies are in, and a total of six new members will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.

The Golden Days Era Committee voted in the following new members:

  • Gil Hodges
  • Jim Kaat
  • Minnie Miñoso
  • Tony Oliva

The Early Baseball Era Committee has elected the following new members:

  • Bud Fowler
  • Buck O’Neil

Congrats to these players and to their families!

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Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies

For anyone who is interested, this afternoon, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will be live streaming the Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Central Time. The ceremonies will reveal results of the Early Baseball Era and Golden Days Era Committees vote, and of notable consideration for the Hall of Fame is the great Buck O’Neil.

The event will be streamed via NLBM’s Facebook here.

You can find additional information from the Kansas City Star here.

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Frank Thomas’s Hall of Fame induction speech

Frank Thomas spent all but 3 years of his MLB career with the Chicago White Sox. He was a five-time All-Star, and he won the AL batting title in 1997 with a .347 average. He was a two-time American League MVP (1993 and 1994), won the Silver Slugger on four occasions (1991, 1993, 1994, and 2000), and his jersey number 35 was retired by the White Sox.

Frank Thomas was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.


RIP Hank Aaron

This one truly breaks my heart. I have been a Hank Aaron fan for almost as long as I have been a baseball fan. I Had A Hammer is one of the first baseball biographies I ever picked up. When I attempted to play high school basketball one year (I was terrible at it), I was assigned jersey #44. And even though it was a different sport altogether, I still felt honored to wear the same number as the great Henry Aaron.

Henry Louis Aaron was born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama. He played a total of 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, from 1954 through 1976. Twenty-one of those seasons he played with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and two seasons were with the Milwaukee Brewers. His 755 career home runs broke the long-standing MLB record set by Babe Ruth and stood for 33 years. Aaron also hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973 and is one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times.

Aaron’s chase after Babe Ruth’s career home run record stands as a notable period during his career, and not just because he ultimately did break the record. Aaron received thousands of letters every week during the summer of 1973; and during the 1973-1974 offseason, he received death threats and a large assortment of hate mail from people who did not want to see him break Ruth’s home run mark. Fortunately, Aaron also received mounds of of public support in response to the bigotry. As his autobiography demonstrates, Aaron handled himself with a tremendous amount of dignity throughout this period of undeserved hardship.

Hank Aaron holds the record for the most All-Star selections, with twenty-five, while sharing the record for most All-Star Games played (24) with Willie Mays and Stan Musial. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner, and in 1957, he won the NL MVP Award when the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. Aaron also holds MLB records for the most career RBIs (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856).

After his retirement, Aaron held front office roles with the Atlanta Braves, including senior vice president. Hank Aaron was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility, with an astonishing 97.8% of the vote. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Henry Aaron died in his sleep on January 22, 2021. Rest in peace.

hank aaron

Washington Post


RIP Don Sutton

Donald Howard Sutton was born on April 2, 1945 in Clio, Alabama. In a career that spanned 23 years, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an ERA of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, and California Angels. 58 of his wins were shutouts, five of them one-hitters, and 10 were two-hitters. He is seventh on baseball’s all-time strikeout list with 3,574, and he was named to the All-Star team four times.

Sutton entered broadcasting after his retirement as a player. He worked in this capacity for a number of teams, the majority of which were with the Atlanta Braves. Sutton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 with 81.61% of the vote. Sutton was also inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in July 2015 for his work as a broadcaster.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Sutton died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 75 years old.

Rest in peace.

Sutton in 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)


RIP Tommy Lasorda

Tommy Lasorda was born September 22, 1927. He was a hardcore baseball lifer, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and 1955 and for the Kansas City Athletics in 1956. After retiring from playing, Lasorda worked as a scout for the Dodgers and eventually worked his way into coaching. He coached for the Dodgers from 1973 through 1976 before taking over as manager of the club.  Lasorda led the Dodgers to four NL pennants and two World Series championships during his tenure. Upon retiring from the managerial position in 1996, he continued to work for the Dodgers in a variety of roles for the rest of his life.

Lasorda was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 as a manager in his first year of eligibility. He died January 7, 2021 from a cardiopulmonary arrest in Fullerton, California at the age of 93.

Rest in peace.

Lasorda-Gnome

LA Dodgers


This day in baseball: No class of 1996

On January 8th, results for 1996 Hall of Fame voting revealed that for the first time since 1971, no one was elected by the BBWAA to enter the Hall of Fame. Phil Niekro came the closest to election with 68 percent of the writers’ votes, falling short of the 75 percent needed to be selected. Niekro was selected for the Hall of Fame the following year.

Phil Niekro ESPN

Phil Niekro (ESPN)


RIP Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro pitched for 24 seasons in Major League Baseball, spending 20 of those seasons with the Braves, both in Milwaukee and Atlanta. Niekro’s 318 career victories are the most by a knuckleball pitcher and rank 16th on MLB’s all-time wins list. He won the NL Gold Glove Award five times, was selected for five All-Star teams, and led the league in victories twice and in ERA once.

Niekro also earned the Lou Gehrig Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and the Brian Piccolo Award for his humanitarian service off the field. He also served on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors since 2009. Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Phil Niekro died December 26, 2020 after a battle with cancer. He was 81 years old.

phil_niekro - wikipedia

Wikipedia