Weirdest Baseball Superstitions
Baseball is full of superstitions.
Since the first official baseball game was played in 1846, many odd rituals have been used to fuel a rally, snap out of a slump or not mess with a winning streak.
As former catcher Stephen Vogt said, a belief could come "down to which undershirt [someone's] wearing, what he wore the game before, who takes out a lineup card."
Players and managers do weird things, day after day, because they believe it will bring them success. These are the weirdest superstitions in baseball.
25. Pee on Your Hands Makes Them Tough
The superstition: Players urinate on their hands to toughen the skin.
The skinny: Only a few Major League Baseball players have hit with no batting gloves throughout their careers. Moises Alou never wore batting gloves and was a six-time All-Star and .303 hitter.
One of Alou’s secrets to keeping his hands tough was urinating on them. He was not alone. Jorge Posada didn’t wear batting gloves and was a strong believer in the idea that peeing on your hands will toughen them up and eliminate callouses. Pitchers also did it to cure blisters.
Science, however, shows that urine actually softens the skin. But as the great Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical." If peeing on hands helps a player play better, who are we to judge?
But we wouldn't recommend the clubhouse cure for a headache: crapping in your hat.
24. Some Numbers Matter More Than Others
The superstition: Larry Walker was obsessed with the No. 3.
The skinny: Baseball players might be the most superstitious of any athletes, and Larry Walker was no exception. From his uniform number (33) to how he approached baseball and life, everything revolved around the number 3 for Walker.
Leigh Monville described Walker's fixation in a 1993 Sports Illustrated story titled "The Accidental Ballplayer":
"He wears number 33 and he was married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 and his phone number has as many threes in it as he can get the phone company to give him, and he takes three swings in the batter's box before he hits, six if he feels tight, or nine or 12, any multiple of three. Whatever. Something has worked. He has the $3 million, and there will probably be a lot more money in the future."
Monville was right. Walker was the 1997 National League MVP and made over $110 million in major league salary. Not bad for a kid who grew up in Canada dreaming of playing goalie in the NHL.
Did his eccentric love of "3" help? It didn't hurt.
23. What's Wrong With Wearing a Thong?
The superstition: Jason Giambi wore tight gold underwear to get out of slumps.
The skinny: Every ballplayer is looking for an edge, and they aren't afraid to push the limits to get it. Jason Giambi admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs during baseball's steroid era and launched 440 home runs in his 20-year career with four teams that ended in 2014.
Giambi also had another secret weapon: a magic gold thong. He wore the shiny golden underwear to bust out of big slumps. Whenever Giambi's bat went cold, he would bust out his trusty slingshot underwear and wear it under his uniform.
He was generous, too. If teammates needed a boost, Giambi would share his slump-buster. Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon were just a few of the Yankees who admitted to wearing the lucky thong.
Now that’s setting a new gold standard.
22. Wait for the Lucky Showerhead
The superstition: Ryan Zimmerman showers in the same place to get hits.
The skinny: It takes a special breed to make the major leagues — and stay there. Look at Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
According to former teammate Adam LaRoche, Zimmerman has "a hit shower," meaning a favorite showerhead for producing hits.
"He will only take a shower at the same head," LaRoche told ESPN.com in 2013. "If someone else is using it, he will wait. If he's in a 0-for-10, he may have to smooth his way into that particular shower, and someone will move aside for him. There are a lot of things that guys do that they're not real proud of, but they'll do it because they think it works. That shower seems to work for Zim."
Every big leaguer is a little out there. You don't make The Show by being "normal."
21. Get Away From the Field to End a Slump
The superstition: Cultivate a hobby off the field, like picking up pins, to end your batting woes.
The skinny: Superstitions are not new, and they don't always revolve around the field. In the early 20th century, Amby McConnell had an odd hobby of collecting pins.
Whenever the former Red Sox and White Sox second baseman was in a batting slump, he would hit the streets looking for pins. Finding pins, he believed, was a sign hits were on the way.
McConnell played four seasons in the big leagues (272 games with Boston, 137 with Chicago) and had 398 hits to finish his career with a .264 batting average. Maybe he could have used a few more pins.
20. Don't Change Your Cup — Ever
The superstition: Mark McGwire wore the same protective cup throughout his pro career.
The skinny: Mark McGwire started wearing a cup in high school and used the same one for all 16 of his major league seasons. That's 1,874 games, 7,660 plate appearances and 583 home runs.
Although McGwire admitted taking steroids throughout the 1990s, he remains one of the most powerful power hitters of all time.
Hey, if the cup fits, wear it.
19. Sit in the Bullpen, Dig a Hole and Spit Red Gatorade
The superstition: Edward Mujica did the same routine in the bullpen every game.
The skinny: Baseball players are creatures of habit, and sometimes those habits are as odd as they are precise.
According to ESPN.com, journeyman relief pitcher Edward Mujica sat in the same place in the bullpen with two outs in the fourth inning of every game. When the inning ended, he dug a hole at the front of the bullpen mound and spit half of a cup of red Gatorade into the hole. Always red Gatorade. Always to start the fifth inning.
"He says he's not superstitious," former St. Louis Cardinals teammate Jason Motte told Tim Kurkjian. "He says this is all part of his routine. … Yeah, right."
18. The Magic of a Batting Helmet
The superstition: Reggie Jackson had a lucky batting helmet.
The skinny: Once a baseball player thinks something is lucky, you're not going to change his mind. Could be favorite socks, a shirt, anything. It was a batting helmet for Reggie Jackson. And we're not talking about the military-grade armor batters wear today.
Jackson's lucky helmet was pure old school with no ear flaps — a hard hat that he wore every day while playing with the New York Yankees.
When Mr. October signed with the Angels, his same lucky batting helmet joined him on the West Coast, and the Angels' logo was painted on it so he could continue wearing it every day.
Jackson knew what he was doing. After hitting 144 home runs with the Yankees, he hit 123 jacks with the Halos and finished his career with 563 big flies.
17. Play Video Games, Watch Netflix and Chill
The superstition: Derek Holland sticks to the same strange routine before every game he pitches.
The skinny: If baseball players are strange, left-handed pitchers might be the strangest of them all. Case in point: Derek Holland.
A few years ago, the San Francisco Giants' southpaw ditched his Taco Bell pregame habit (four cheesy gordita crunches with cool ranch taco shells, a spicy volcano burrito, chicken quesadilla and caramel apple empanada). But he still has some rituals.
"Every night before I pitch, I have to play Nintendo hockey," Holland told ESPN.com. "Every night before I pitch, I have to watch the movie 'For The Love of the Game,' the Kevin Costner movie. I watch the same part every time but never the whole movie. I've never seen the whole movie, and I never will until I retire. People tell me how it ends, but I don't care. I won't watch it until I retire. But I have to watch it every night before I pitch. It's what helps get me ready to pitch."
Whatever it takes.
16. Walk the Parrot Around the Diamond
The superstition: Edwin Encarnarcion celebrates a home run the same way while rounding the bases.
The skinny: Seattle Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion has a unique home run ritual that goes back to his days with the Blue Jays. As he rounds the bases after going yard, he bends his right arm, sticks it out and holds it parallel to the ground.
The "Edwing," or "walking the parrot," started in 2012 following a grand slam off Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma.
"When I hit the grand slam, I got excited and rounded the bases from the side, turning like an airplane," Encarnacion explained to CBC. "My teammates liked it and said I should keep doing it so I have. ... If I keep hitting home runs I'm going to keep doing it. No superstitions. I just like to do it."
15. Brush Three Times a Day — After Chewing Black Licorice
The superstition: Turk Wendell chewed black licorice while pitching, one of his many strange rituals.
The skinny: Baseball is known for characters. Turk Wendell was among the most colorful. And he had his fair share of quirks as a pitcher, Cleveland.com reports.
While some players chewed tobacco, Wendell chewed black licorice on the mound and brushed his teeth between innings. Wendell wanted umpires to roll the baseball to him and would let it hit the ground if they threw it. Before the first pitch of every inning, he would wave to his center fielder and wait for a return wave to start pitching.
Men's Fitness named Wendell the most superstitious athlete of all time.
14. A Birdbrain Routine
The superstition: Mark Fidrych talked to the ball and more.
The skinny: Mark Fidrych didn't have the longest big league career (58 games), but he made the most of his time with the Detroit Tigers. As a 22-year-old rookie pitcher in 1976, Fidrych became a pop hero for his entertaining antics during games.
Nicknamed "The Bird" because of his resemblance to Big Bird from "Sesame Street", the 6-foot-3, lanky right-hander from Massachusetts talked to the baseball on the mound, patted the dirt on his hands and knees, and gave high-fives to teammates in the middle of the diamond during games.
He played with pure joy and also could pitch, going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games to win the American League Rookie of the Year award. But injuries cut his career short, and he finished with a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA after five seasons.
Fidrych died in 2009 at the age of 54 after an accident at his farm in Northborough (Mass.), but his legend lives on.
13. Long-Toss Therapy
The superstition: Trever Bauer does long toss from foul pole to pole (among other unorthodox warm-up routines) before he pitches.
The skinny: Pitchers begin on the more idiosyncratic side of the baseball spectrum, but Trevor Bauer takes dancing to his own drumbeat to a new level. The Cleveland Indians' right-hander has been known to throw the ball up to 400 feet for his pregame long-loss routine to get loose.
"It’s done with a very fluid motion," Bauer told SI.com. “It appears to be effortless because the body is very synced up. It’s not effortless. It’s actually max effort, but it can only happen when the body is connected. To launch a ball 300, 350 or 400 feet, it takes a high level of athleticism. That’s a big reason why I like it."
Other players are impressed. "So strange. So, so strange," former major league shortstop Brendan Ryan once said. "Everyone has got their routines and stuff. But he was almost in our bullpen, throwing into their bullpen. That's crazy."
That's not all. During games, Bauer channels Happy Gilmore for his warm-up pitches, getting a running start behind the mound and firing a pitch to the catcher. Or the backstop. He's also thrown a 3 ounce ball 117 miles an hour.
So far, the unorthodox methods are working. Since making his major league debut in 2012, in 172 career games (162 starts) over eight seasons, Bauer is 63-51 with a 3.95 ERA.
12. Sign of the Fisherman and Arrow
The superstition: Fernando Rodney’s tilts his cap and poses like an archer to honor his roots.
The skinny: Every ritual has a reason. Fernando Rodney grew up in the Dominican Republic, where his father was a fisherman, but six days before Rodney made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2002, his father died of cancer.
As a tribute to his father, Rodney wore a crooked cap, tilted to the left, because "that's the side the sun hits his face," FoxSports.com reported. After completing a save, Rodney also shoots an imaginary arrow toward the sky to honor his native home of Samaná in the Dominican.
"That comes from my hometown," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "They have a little community. They call it 'La Flecha' (Spanish for "the arrow")."
That's called remembering where you come from.
The superstition: Craig Kimbrel has an unusual way of getting signs on the mound before he pitches.
The skinny: One person's weird is another's comfort zone. Take Craig Kimbrel, who has a one-of-a-kind pre-pitch routine.
"Some say his pose reminds them of a karate stance, or a bad Joe Cocker imitation, or in the words of Red Sox poet laureate Dick Flavin, 'just like a crab,' wrote Stan Grossfeld in The Boston Globe. "Kimbrel once said it looks like he’s bear-hugging something."
However you describe it, Kimbreling is how the seven-time All-Star reliever gets ready to pitch.
"It’s just something that feels right to me while I’m picking up my signs," he told the Globe's Nick Cafardo. "That’s about it. I guess it looks funny to people, but it’s normal for me."
10. Pre-Pitch Bat Dance
The superstition: Bryce Harper does a bat-tap dance in the batter's box to get ready to hit.
The skinny: Behind every ritual is a story. Bryce Harper's pre-pitch routine started at the College of Southern Nevada, where he won the 2010 Golden Spikes as the best baseball player in college baseball.
"I get in, dig in, scrape the dirt," Harper explained to The Washington Post in 2012. "Then I touch out, touch in, then touch out again. Then I hit the front of my foot, like my big toe, pretty much. Then I go up [with the bat], look at the pitcher and come back. It actually was a little bit longer in college, but I shortened it up. I don’t know how it started. There’s no real reason for it. It’s just something I’ve always done, something I’m comfortable with."
Harper is not the first big league hitter to have a choreographed bat dance (see: Nomar Garciaparra). Nor will he be the last. These pre-bat tics help hitters prepare to hit 95-mph fastballs, which requires split-second reflexes and hand-eye coordination.
Why do you think Ted Williams said hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely was the hardest thing to do in baseball?
9. Make a Run for the Border
The superstition: Justin Verlander eats Taco Bell before every start.
The skinny: Justin Verlander loves Taco Bell and has the same meal the night before every game he pitches: three crunchy taco supremes, no tomato, a cheesy gordita crunch, and a Mexican pizza, no tomato.
In 2012, he even tweeted proof. "For all the non-believers, my @tacobell. It's time - #OpeningDay," he wrote.
While not the healthiest choice, Verlander has won a Cy Young, MVP and World Series —and landed Kate Upton as a wife —so he's doing something right.
8. Light a Candle (or Five)
The superstition: Rico Carty floated candles in his toilet and bath tub to bring hits.
The skinny: He might not be a household name, but Rico Carty had a 17-year career with six teams. You don't stick around the majors that long without some talent, and a special ritual or two.
At home or on the road before every game, Carty would float five candles in his toilet and bathtub, and light them for good luck at the plate. Carty was from the Dominican Republic and started the tradition with the Milwaukee Braves in 1963 and ended it with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979.
It worked. Carty played in 1,651 games and had a lifetime batting average of .299 with 1,677 hits, including 204 home runs. He won the NL batting title in 1970 with a .366 average and once had a 31-game hitting streak.
Sandy Koufax even told him, "I don't like pitching against you."
7. Lick Your Bat
The superstition: Yasiel Puig licks his bat between pitches during his at-bats.
The skinny: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig is famous for unconventional behavior on the field, but his greatest trick might be turning bat licking into an art.
Puig has a simple explanation for this odd quirk.
"Sometimes my bat does not taste the way I want," Puig told the MLB Network. "Sometimes I think it’s going to taste like ice cream. Strawberry, vanilla, something like that. Couple days of a lot of foul balls, it’s not tasting that great. I go inside between innings and clean my mouth. I’m not trying to say that my tongue gives me the hit, but … when I see (success), that’s the reason I want to make love with my bat to pay him back for the good job he do."
Now you know why his bat takes a licking and keeps on ripping.
6. Give Your Bat a Name
The superstition: Naming your bats.
The skinny: Plenty of players name their bats — the phenomenon goes way back to the days of Joe Jackson ("Black Betsy"), Babe Ruth ("The Holy Grail") and Roy Hobbs ("Wonderboy"). But R.A. Dickey went to creative extremes to name his hitting tools.
According to The New York Times, one of Dickey's bats was named "Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver" (from "The Hobbit"), and he called another "Hrunting" (from "Beowulf").
What makes Dickey situation rare is that he was a pitcher who played eight of his 12 major league seasons in the American League and had only 267 career at-bats. While his lifetime average was just .169, the knuckleballer did have almost as many hits (45) as strikeouts (49).
5. Loose Lips Sink Superstitions
The superstition: Don’t talk about your superstitions.
The skinny: Sometimes the best superstition is not telling people about your superstitions.
Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer has a few routines, but he doesn't talk about the "active" ones. This practice goes back to his days with the Tigers.
“I used to wear shorts underneath the pants when I pitched, and there was a game where I actually wore the shorts backwards, and I pitched really well. So I was like, 'I’ve got to do that every time now,' " Scherzer said in 2011. "I ran off like a really long scoreless streak, and as soon as someone noticed they were on backwards, I gave up a run."
Whatever Scherzer is doing now is working. He's only the 10th pitcher in major league history to win at least three Cy Young Awards and is the sixth pitcher to record two no-hitters in the same season.
4. Don't Stop Hitting With a Hitmaker
The superstition: Keep using the same bat if you're getting hits.
The skinny: No one wants to mess with a good thing, and baseball players know a good thing when they see, or use, it. For batters, their livelihood can be determined by a few more grounders getting through the infield instead of being fielded.
When a bat is producing, players don't like messing with a good thing. "There's gotta be a few more hits in there" is how the thinking goes. Until a player breaks his bat and blames the new one for a slump.
3. Lines Are Bad Luck
The superstition: Don’t step on any line on the baseball field.
The skinny: Baseball is all about being in the lines, from the batter’s box to whether a batted ball is fair or foul. But for many in the game, stepping on any line is bad luck, and players are looking for all the good luck they can get.
"It’s like a secret rule of baseball," Blue Jays pitcher told the Toronto Star. "Some guys like to go against the rule and actually step on it but most guys avoid it, I think."
Nobody knows for sure how this superstition originated. One explanation, according to the Star, is that foul lines once weren't flat, so players had to hop over a small bump.
2. Become a 'Chicketarian'
The superstition: Eat chicken before a game.
The skinny: Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was known for his strange superstitions. His most famous ritual was eating chicken.
Before every game, Boggs would consume large amounts of the fowl. He attributes much of his success (3,010 hits, 745 strikeouts and 1,412 walks in 10,740 plate appearances) to this bird, earning him the nickname, "Chicken Man."
"It started in '77. I had a minor league budget and a growing family to feed," Boggs told the Christian Science Monitor in 1985. "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.' "
The rest is history. Boggs finished his 18-year career with a .328 lifetime average and a place in Cooperstown as one of the greatest contact hitters of all time.
1. Quiet — No-Hitter in Progress
The superstition: No one talks to a pitcher during a no-hitter.
The skinny: Baseball might be all about getting dirty (on a field of dreams), but there are unwritten rules of etiquette. The biggest taboo is talking to pitcher once he gets close to a no-hitter or perfect game.
In fact, his teammates often treat the pitcher working on a no-no like he has the measles — clearing the whole area in the dugout so the pitcher can be alone with his thoughts. Often times, broadcasters won't make any mention of the potential no-hitter to avoid jinxing it.
The concept of the no-hitter jinx started in 1947, during the first televised World Series, when Red Barber mentioned on the air that Bill Blevens was working on a no-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 4. Blevens lost the no-hitter and game with two outs in the ninth inning.
"There was a hue and cry that night," Barber said. "Yankee fans flooded the radio station with angry calls and claimed I had jinxed Bevens. Some of my fellow announcers on sports shows that evening said I had done the most unsportsmanlike broadcast in history."
Even if you don't believe in jinxes, do you want to tempt fate?