Baseball Superstitions

Is there any better sign of spring's arrival than the start of the Major League Baseball season?  I was watching the first ballgame last night, my defending champion New York Yankees versus bitter rivals the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.  Ace against ace, C.C. Sabathia pitching against Josh Beckett.  The Yankees had a seemingly safe lead, 5-2, so I posted on Facebook that if the scouting reports were correct, the Red Sox would have weak hitting this year, so I viewed the Tampa Bay Rays as a bigger threat than the Beantown Boys.  Of course, I jinxed the game.  The Red Sox came from behind and won the season opener.

Even though I played no personal role in the loss, even though the Red Sox deserve credit for not giving up and for their timely hitting, and the Yankees deserve blame for Jorge Posada's passed ball, for Sabathia losing steam, for the bullpen failing to stop the bleeding, I still felt like my bravado "jinxed" the game.  Superstition and baseball, after all, go hand in hand.

I am not generally a superstitious man.  I have no problems with cracked mirrors, black cats crossing my path, walking under ladders -- my birthday even occassionally falls on Friday the 13th without any dire consequences.  Nevertheless, if my team is pitching a no-hitter, I refuse to jinx it by mentioning it out loud.  I was a proud preacher of the Curse of the Bambino until the Red Sox ended their chamionship drought (and believe me, I duly noted the omens that preceded it -- Curt Schilling's bloody sock, the blood-red full moon, and others.)

Baseball is a pastural, mythic game, so superstition is part of its charm.  It's fun to see players and fans don their "rally caps" when they are struggling for a hit.  It's enjoyable to watch the superstititous tics of professional athletes -- watching them avoid stepping on the foul line or drawing mystic squiggles in the dirt with their bats or refusing to clean their batting helmets or their uniforms if they are in the middle of a good streak.  Some players are more superstititous than most, believing in the supernatural power of a specific glove or bat or uniform number.  Wade Boggs religiously ate fried chicken, for example, before every baseball game.

The Curse of the Bambino eventually came to an end and so did the Curse of the Black Sox, as both the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox overcame their decades-long bad luck and finally each won the World Series.  Now, the Chicago Cubs look forward to someday winning it all too and ending one of the sillier (but longest-lasting) superstitions in baseball, the Curse of the Billy Goat, which arguably has kept them without the ultimate prize since 1908. That's one bitter goat!

For an interesting article about baseball superstitions and rituals, click here.  And if you want to read about my theory about the New York Mets recent futility, read my essay about the Curse of Shea

Until then, the sun is shining, so let's forget superstition and just play ball!