America’s favorite pastime is an organization steeped in superstition. From the famous Curse of the Bambino to players’ refusal to wash articles of clothing or their bodies prior to a game, baseball superstitions take many forms. In fact, anything that happens prior to a good or bad performance for an athlete can birth a new superstition. Sports psychologists believe that these rituals and superstitions serve to give an athlete a confidence boost and a sense of control over the game. In a 2010 paper entitled “Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance,” researchers Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock and Thomas Mussweiler argued that superstitions give people a sense of control in chaotic situations and can create directly observable performance improvements.
Other sports definitely have their fair share of superstitions. Hockey players grow playoff beards. Football players believe double digit jersey numbers bring good luck. Tennis players avoid the color yellow. Gamblers, too, utilize superstitions and rituals in their endeavors, as frequently seen in horse betting. Baseball superstitions, however have a reputation for being some of the strangest in the world of sports. Read on for the top 10 weirdest baseball superstitions of all time.
A right fielder for the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals, he was downright obsessed with his lucky number, 3. He wore no. 33 for the Cardinals, was married on November 3rd at 3:33 and once bought 33 tickets for disadvantaged children to watch him play in Montreal from section 33 of the park. This strategy must have paid off; Larry Walker was a National League MVP, 5-time All-Star and 7-time Gold Glove Award winner.
According to Rangers reliever Darren O’Day, leftie starting pitcher Derek Holland orders and eats $30 worth of Wendy’s fare before a game. Maybe that’s how he earned his nickname the Dutch Oven. Holland is still young at 26; this superstition might not be one he elects to keep up later in life.
Part of Max Scherzer’s superstition is that he doesn’t talk about his active routines. He did admit to ESPN that he used to wear a pair of shorts backwards underneath his pants when he pitched and, when someone noticed, his scoreless streak was broken. That may be way he decided not to talk about his rituals.
One of the more disgusting sports superstitions, Mark McGwire wore the same athletic cup he wore in high school during every game of his 16 seasons in the major leagues. McGwire arguably did some questionable things during his baseball career, but this may be the strangest.
It’s important to get a good night’s rest before a game, and Richie Ashburn took that advice to heart. He reportedly had a habit of keeping successful baseball bats in bed with him. Usually while on the road, he would sleep with his bats, but only “chastely,” he said. Ashburn ended his career with a .308 batting average. He passed away in 1997.
Satchel Paige was a legend in his own time. In 1971, he became the first Negro leagues player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is also the oldest man to debut in the major leagues. In 1948 at age 42, he became the first Negro player in the America League, following the integration of baseball. Among these accomplishments, Paige was able to pitch nine innings each time he took the mound, something he attributed to rubbing his pitching arm down with axle grease before each game.
Turk Wendell was one of the most superstitious players in baseball history. A common superstition in baseball, it is considered bad luck for pitchers to touch the foul line when taking the mound. Wendell made doubly sure he never touched the line by leaping over it. He also reportedly chewed black licorice while pitching. Between innings, he would then spit out the candy, brush his teeth and grab four fresh pieces of licorice. Yum!
It’s not uncommon for pitches to have an oral fixation while on the mound. Most elect to chew tobacco, gum or, in the case of Turk Wendell, black licorice. Greg Swindell, however, chewed his lucky fingernail. Before the start of each game, he would bite off the tip of one of his fingernails and keep it in his mouth for luck throughout the game.
Players have many rituals they use to bust a slump, but Giambi’s might be the most fabulous. He wears a gold thong whenever he’s having problems at the plate. The first baseman and designated hitter has kept the shiny attire in his locker since playing for the Oakland Athletics. Apparently some of his former Yankee teammates, including Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, tried donning the magic underpants, as well, to no avail.
Moises Alou believes there’s only one way to hit well, and that’s to toughen up your hands and prevent callouses from forming on them. (He didn’t believe in using batting gloves). How did he accomplish this? By urinating on his hands. Alou said he isn’t sure where he picked up this home remedy, but it seemed to work for him. After 17 seasons in the National League, the outfielder ended his career with a .303 batting average and is considered by many to be one of the greatest outfielders of his time.