Baseball is a game that has a long history of superstition. Of course, it’s far from the only place where you can find such a thing. Somewhat famously, actors superstitiously wish each other to “break a leg” before a performance because wishing someone good luck directly would presumably result in bad luck instead. That said, baseball superstitions are so ingrained in the sport that it’s almost impossible to imagine it without them.
It’s impossible to watch a baseball film without seeing at least one example of superstition. Examples range from Pedro Cerrano’s reverence for Jabu in Major League to Bull Durham’s Nuke Laloosh’s choice to wear women’s underwear while pitching (something that may soon be illegal in many states.) Other famous examples of player superstition include players who don’t talk to pitchers who are deep into a no-hitter - this one extends to broadcasters who are expected to not speak of it, either. I expect there are lots of other little superstitions fans aren’t entirely aware of. Lorenzo Cain was a bit locally famous for his routine of constantly undoing and redoing the Velcro's on his batting gloves while at the plate. He might have been doing it to ensure the best feel, but he might also have been doing it as a sort of superstitious move.
But it isn’t just the players who participate in this sort of thing. Rally caps, where a fan turns their cap inside out to encourage their team to turn things around during a losing effort, have long been a staple of the sport. Fans will wear certain articles of clothing, or refuse to wear others. They might even choose not to wash their clothing. Players and fans both have refused to shave during hot streaks.
Why is baseball more superstitious?
It almost certainly has to do with the fact that success in baseball still means failing more often than not. When being great at your job still means only accomplishing your goal three times out of ten, it’s easy to feel like you’re not really in control of events and to desire some outside intervention.
Another difference that stands out is how much control players and coaches have over the results in different sports. In sports like football and basketball, players can more easily control outcomes as they get to manipulate the ball directly with their hands rather than relying on an attempt to use a round bat to “square up” a round ball. Additionally, coaches have more direct control as they can create schemes to counter the play of the opponents in a way that frees up a player to take an easier shot or add a greater margin of error in a pass attempt. These sorts of things simply aren’t possible in baseball beyond the recently banned strategy of shifting infielders to restrict the most likely locations for groundballs to go. Even then, that was more about general odds than it was defeating specific tactics or players.
Beyond those there are many personal superstition stories, as well. Across the parking lot, one football fan gained notoriety when he left a playoff game while the local team was down big right before the team performed an impressive comeback win. Around Royals Review it is far from uncommon to see personal accounts of the team’s win-loss record during attendance in order to deduce some sort of pattern. Game threads are full of mea culpas where fans admit to turning on a game right before a particularly disastrous result.
I, personally, have developed a variety of watching habits from home in order to encourage more luck to the team. Sometimes I turn the game off when they’re down big and check scores on my phone while waiting for a comeback. I’ve also been known to only watch the top half of innings or the bottom half, depending on how I felt my luck was affecting the hitting that day.
These can get really silly, too. I have a habit of playing simple video games while I watch baseball because neither one demands my full attention. At various times I’ve assumed that I was playing the wrong game, or playing it the wrong way and somehow adversely affected the game I was watching.
The weirdest part, by far, about superstitions is that I think 99% of baseball players and fans will admit that they know that these little rituals can not have any effect on the game being played. I constantly remind myself that I’m being ridiculous as I adjust the volume on my TV or change the way I’m sitting. And yet, I feel compelled to do these things all the same.
So how about y’all? Do you have any superstitions you think are unique to you? Do you follow the more common superstitions at all? Do you ever question your sanity when you do so? Do you have any that you have found particularly effective that we should all start trying?