By Steven Urena
“If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!”–Crash Davis
What is it with baseball players and superstitions?
If you are a true baseball player, you take superstitions very seriously. Baseball players are the most superstitious athletes in the world. It’s as much a part of the game as peanuts, crackerjacks, hot dogs, and launch angle (Got you! Haha). Don’t let anyone fool you, any true baseball fan respects the Baseball Gods and the mystical and magical traditions that are baseball superstitions.
Baseball players are creatures of habit, and those habits become ingrained in their everyday life. The more one plays, the more their routines become immersed in superstitions. If a player has individual success or the team starts a little winning streak, those habits will carry over, and people will do whatever it takes to preserve the winning streak.
I’ve seen and heard of managers, coaches, players, and even fans doing outrageous things not to jinx the winning streak or their individual performance. Let’s be honest here, if you did not hold up your end of the bargain, the loss is entirely on you! Be a team player and keep the drive alive!
One of the hardest things a true baseball player endures is watching a baseball game with someone that is a fan but never really played the game. They routinely jinx the players and the team. Usually, they say things like, “a home run would tie the game,” or “is he throwing a no-hitter” or “this game is in the bag, he’s automatic.”
You true baseball fans know what I mean! Then they come at us with the, “you really think I jinxed them?” You bet they did. Straight from their lips to the ears of the Baseball Gods.
Below is a list of no-no’s in the baseball superstitious world.
- Do not step on the foul line
- DO NOT talk about a no hitter while it is in progress
- Any type of jinxing (trying to predict what is going to happen)
- The Curse of the Bambino
- The Curse of the Billy Goat
- Slumpbusters (kids, you’re going to have to look this one up on your own)
- Not washing clothes
- Eating the same thing
- Scribbling in the batter’s box or mound
- Repetitive body movements
- Lucky undies
- Same seats after a homerun
- Rally caps
- Lucky underwear
- Chicken bone cross
- Taking a certain number of ground balls or swings
- Pine tar
- Touching certain objects before a game, start or at-bat (the statue in centerfield)
- Facial hair
- A pose or shimmy (Trevor Bauer’s sword, Fernando Rodney’s arrow shot, etc)
- Sleep with your bat or glove
Somehow, some way, superstition is woven into baseball folklore. Think of it as the laces of a glove, the grains or a bat, and the spit from tobacco juice. The best part about it is the rules are more like guidelines, and many baseball players make their own.
My senior year in high school, we had a 4 to 0 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning. Our pitcher is not only throwing a great game, but he’s throwing a no-hitter. In the bottom of the 7th, with no outs, he allows a runner to get to first, but the no-no is still intact. After the first out, one of our benchwarmers decided the game was a done deal, and he calmly started putting our equipment away.
Of course, the Baseball Gods saw this and struck us down. The next pitch, the no-no was lost, and the other team eventually tied the game at 4. We lost in extra innings. On the way home, we were all wondering how on earth we blew a 4 run lead in the bottom of the 7th and how we lost in extra innings. I caught wind of the benchwarmers’ mistake. Man, I wanted to push him off the bus while it was in motion. He totally jinxed us! Way to go, Rookie, that’s day one stuff! Never pack up early!
My freshman year in college, we won a close game, and one of the guys said we won because he did not wash his undergarments (socks, sliders, jockstrap, undershirt, etc.). The team agreed that he better not wash his clothes until we lost. Lo and behold, we went on an 18 game win streak. That’s 3 games a week for 6 weeks!!! It was the worst smell a human being could possibly make. There were times when he opened up his locker, and the smell was so bad it made him and the guys near him gag. He almost gave in and washed his clothes, but he knew what he had to do. Put those stinky clothes on every single day until the win streak ends—a small price to pay because you NEVER mess with a winning streak.
When I coached, the biggest one was the washing (or not washing) of my uniform. If we won, I would not wash my uniforms. If we lost, I washed both home and away. After a quick check on MaxPreps, the most games one of my teams won in a row was 6. That’s roughly 3 weeks of dirty clothes, but nothing got out of hand.
I also picked up routines on the fly. Meals, slamming a Gatorade before the game, which shoe I put on first, not shaving or lucky underwear. I used to love seeing what stuff my players came up with. Usually, they were particular about their eye black, pants up or down, handshakes with teammates, extra love to their equipment, or their pregame meals.
There are definitely a few superstitions that baseball players are not too proud to claim. Sex, drugs, and alcohol will never be kept out of baseball, but in order to keep the integrity of The Urena Express and the Fanview, I won’t be discussing some of the superstitions embraced in baseball. True baseball players know what I mean, and they know that nothing is too serious, but just in case there are kids reading, we will not discuss what you know I am talking about.
Professional baseball players are no strangers to crazy and wacky superstitions.
Below I listed a few popular superstitions.
- Nomar Garciaparra: Nomar’s pre-pitch ritual included toe tapping, batting glove adjustments and bat waving. As a kid, I thought it was cool.
- Jason Giambi: Giambi used to wear a gold thong whenever he got in a slump. The rose goes in the front big guy!
- Clayton Kershaw: Kersh has used the same glove his entire career. Now that it’s got some miles, he only uses it for regular season games. He keeps it in a tupperware container during the off-season.
- Turk Wendell: Wendell had quite a few, he used to brush his teeth between innings, high jump over the foul line and chow down on licorice.
- Don Robinson: when Robinson got on the mound to start the inning and the catcher or umpire tossed him the ball, he would purposely miss it and let it start rolling. He could only pick up the ball when it stopped rolling.
- Craig Biggio: Biggio’s helmet was covered in pine tar. He used this old, pine tar covered helmet for most of his career.
- Roger Clemens: Before every start, Clemens used to visit Babe Ruth’s statue in monument park (centerfield at the old Yankee stadium).
- The Curse of the Bambino: If you still do not believe in the Baseball Gods, watch this documentary. After the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, they were cursed. With Ruth they won 3 World Series titles, without Ruth, there was an 86 year drought. Someone must have pushed a virgin in a volcano because the curse was lifted in 2004. Before 2004, Red Sox fans endured some serious punishment.
- The Curse of the Billy Goat: William Sianis and his billy goat were asked to leave Wrigley Field because the goat was bothering other fans. Outraged, Sianis and his billy goat cursed the Cubbies and said they would never win another World Series. Whether you believe in curses or not, the Cubs went 71 years without winning a title.
- Mark McGwire: Big Mac used the same protective cup in high school, college and throughout his 16 year MLB career. I hope he washed it from time to time!
- Satchel Paige: All Paige needed was a little elbow grease. Before each start, Paige used to rub axle grease on his elbow. The legendary Negroe League (and a few years in the MLB) had a rubber arm. He was known for going the distance in most of his games and pitched until he was almost 60.
- Moises Alou: Alou used to urinate on his hands in the shower because he believed this made his hands tough and hard. Good thing he did not play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Wade Boggs: The hall of famer had a few crazy ones too. Boggs took the exact same number of ground balls before every game, woke up at the same time, and always ate chicken before every game. With a lifetime batting average of .328, one could say his antics worked.
- Larry Walker: Walker had a huge obsession with the number 3. He wore 33, took batting practice in multiples of 3, got married at 3:33.
- Kevin Rhomberg: You may not know the name but his superstitions made for some funny moments. Anyone that touched him, he had to touch them back. One of his teammates paid a fan to touch him and run away. Rhomberg jumped into the seats and chased the person until he was able to touch him back.
Along with being superstitious, baseball players are flat-out weird. As long as you win or have individual success, you can basically do whatever you want, and it will be accepted. I suppose it is only crazy if it does not work.
I would love to hear some of your stories. Please drop a comment below or on Twitter or Instagram.
The Urena Express appears every Wednesday at JoeTorosian.com
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