Ken Griffey, Jr. once sold a brand new car he’d purchased because, after driving it a few times, he didn’t believe the car had any hits in it. Baseball players tend to be suspicious like that.
More than a few baseball players engage in certain rituals before batting or playing a game. Pitcher Turk Wendell brushed his teeth in-between each inning. He never stepped on the field before stuffing four pieces of black licorice in his mouth. Jack Glasscock, a Cleveland Blues player in the late 1800s, always swept up a few pebbles from his position at shortstop and stuffed them in his pocket. Every time Kevin Rhomberg got tagged-out while running the bases, he made a point to immediately turn around and touch the player responsible for tagging him.
Wade Boggs played under a litany of specific numbers and exacting times. When playing night games, Boggs always took his batting practice at exactly 5:17. During warm-up, he took 150 grounders, no more, no less. Every time he stepped up to the batter’s box, he scratched the Hebrew “chai” symbol (meaning life) into the dirt with his bat.
The foul line is a big deal.
A great number of players will never step on the foul line as they take the playing field. Turk Wendell took that to the extreme. He leaped over both the line and the dirt path on either side. Then we have a few contrarians: players who purposefully stomp on the foul line each time they walk on or off the playing field.
The list of superstitions and rituals is huge: Don’t talk to the starting pitcher on game day. Always eat the same breakfast on days when games are scheduled. Wear your hat inside-out if you go into a batting slump. Adjust your batting glove exactly so before each swing.
I got to thinking about all of this after watching the Cleveland Indians playing their last two games. We need to watch. That girl is from the Cleveland area.
“There are a lot of beards out there on the playing field,” I remarked as we watched the first game of the playoffs.
“Maybe a lot of played afraid to shave right now,” she said. “Shaving might be bad luck.”
I nodded. That seems downright rational when you start digging in.