Baseball seems to have more superstitious oddities than any other sport. When I was in high school, we were to never, under any circumstance, step on the foul lines before the game started. Why? I have no idea. That’s what the upperclassmen told me during warmups one day, and for whatever reason, I believed it to be necessary.
These beliefs spill over to the major leagues, as was most recently described by ESPN’s Adam Marchand regarding rookie sensation Aaron Judge. Apparently, Judge puts in a new piece of gum every time he is retired at the plate. The goal is to have a nasty, flavorless piece of bubble gum in his mouth by the time the game ends. It is certainly weird, but far from the strangest of baseball rituals.
Baseball players are constantly searching for a direct source to their success. They want some kind of tangible evidence to explain why they are succeeding, or what they need to do to return to form. The Yankees have certainly had a few examples, and while they were not as weird and memorable as Pedro Cerrano and Jobu, they are still worth discussing.
Here’s a few that come to mind, although there are sure to be plenty more:
The Rocket began his own superstition when he arrived to the Bronx in 1999. Clemens would go to Babe Ruth’s stone in Monument Park and rub the Babe’s head before every home start. He also went out and rubbed the Bambino’s head after Aaron Boone and the Yankees sent the Red Sox home in the 2003 ALCS.
Speaking of rubbing heads, a recently honored Yankees legend had his own ritual during the early years of his career (see Derek Jeter and Don Zimmer).
Swisher found a broken Yankees gnome in the hallway en route to the clubhouse back in 2009, and decided to keep the battered figurine in his locker for the rest of the season. Swisher grew more attached to the gnome as the Yankees’ success grew, and eventually carried them to their 27th World Series title. It had to have been the gnome.
Like Swisher, Boggs was around for a World Series in New York, and he brought a piece of superstition with him. Actually, he brought several pieces. Boggs would eat chicken before every game, took exactly 100 ground balls during practice, and woke up at the exact same time each day. Luckily, he never felt he needed extra juju and asked to sacrifice a live chicken. Boggs also has been said to have drank 64 beers on a cross-country flight, a mark since surpassed by Charlie Kelly in 2015.
This may be the best one. Giambi had this tradition since his early days with the Athletics, which consisted of a slump and a gold thong. Giambi would wear it when he was in the midst of a hitting slump, and claims that the thong worked every time. He believed so strongly in this magical undergarment that he would try and convince his teammates to wear it when they were slumping. Hey, whatever works.
Baseball superstitions can even stretch beyond the diamond. Remember when a construction worker buried a David Ortiz jersey in the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium? The Yankees wound up spending around $50,000 to pull that wretched article of clothing out of the ground. The Bombers won the World Series the following season, so it’s up to you to decide if they would have won had that jersey not been removed.
Even George Steinbrenner had his beliefs. He refused to allow crew members from FOX Sports into the Yankees’ clubhouse during game five of the 2000 World Series because he was afraid they would jinx his team. He eventually let them in, but insisted it would be FOX’s fault if the Yanks lost game five. They didn’t.
Belief is a powerful thing. Even if Judge’s power stroke isn’t determined by a specific piece of bubble gum, if he believes it, then chew away my friend. After all, most of the players listed above had decent careers to say the least. I’m sure they would attribute a lot of it to thongs, monuments and chicken.
What is the strangest superstition you ever saw in a ballplayer? Let us know in the comment section below.