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Rituals and Superstitions
2005-08-14 14:03
by Will Carroll
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

There are some famous rituals in baseball - Wade Boggs chicken, Tony Gwynn's video work, Eric Karros' stretching routine come to mind. Break those and there's likely to be consequences. I'm curious - what rituals, routines or superstitions do you know of by recent players and, if broken, what happens?

Think of this as Part One. This is going somewhere ...

Comments
2005-08-14 18:47:40
1.   Voxter
I'm not sure that this qualifies as a ritual, but Nomar Garciaparra has that long sequence of taps, flaps, and tugs that he does between every pitch. I'm not sure I've ever witnessed what happens if it gets interrupted. I assume his head pops.
2005-08-14 20:29:38
2.   Adams
You can't forget Schilling's bizzarre dance with the baselines. He won't step on them. Of course, I have no idea what happens if he does step on them...maybe a busted ankle?
2005-08-14 20:41:32
3.   Ken Arneson
Turk Wendell used to have a gazillion superstitions when he first came up, but he toned it down, I thing. There was something about waving to the centerfielder (who had to wave back)...he would always hop over the lines, he'd brush his teeth between innings...I can't remember them all. I think there was something about eating red vines, too.
2005-08-14 20:42:43
4.   Ken Arneson
I have this superstition about the word "think". I have to spell it "thing". It's just this weird think I have.
2005-08-14 22:49:32
5.   Conor Glassey
Whenever Eddie Guardado comes into the game, he goes through a series of things. I'm not sure I'll remember everything or get them in the right order, but he kicks the dirt a couple times, hits himself in the cup, walks around the mound, and he has to pick up the ball. I remember one time Jose Lopez was standing on the mound with the ball, ready to hand it to Guardado. Eddie's running in from the bullpen just screaming, "DROP IT! DROP IT!" So, I guess that goes to show that if you try to mess with Guardado's routine, he yells at you.
2005-08-15 03:57:26
6.   Marc Normandin
Tim Wakefield eats a pound of spaghetti every night before his start. It probably started out for health purposes and moved into superstition after a few seasons.
2005-08-15 04:43:56
7.   jdrennan
Who can foget Chuck Knoblach and his pre-pitch routine?
2005-08-15 05:57:25
8.   Blah Blah Blah
I'm not sure what would happen if Jim Thome ever failed to point his bat at the pitcher before every pitch.

I'm not sure what would happen if BJ Upton didn't go through his bizarre ritual of kicking a ground ball every night - maybe he would stop hitting? I was there last night in Durham - he didn't let us down! (By the way is Trenidad Hubbard not one of the more unlikely minor leaguers to see kicking around the circuit at this point?)

2005-08-15 06:37:47
9.   RickM
Ichiro! raises his bat and sort of shows it to the pitcher. I'm not sure if it's superstition or habit, but he always does it.
2005-08-15 10:00:15
10.   Indefinite
Sean Casey had a series of checks and pats and movements that he did in the batter's box before every pitch. Not sure if he still does it. I think Mike Hargrove did something like that too in his playing days.

Also, not washing or cleaning their hats/batting helmets is something done by several players.

2005-08-15 10:31:43
11.   Jay Jaffe
A few good Yankee ones:

Bernie Williams lays the bat along the plate and draws a line to position his feet.

Derek Jeter has that raised right hand thing.

Sheffield's bat wagging before the pitch, like a hungry tiger about to pounce.

My all-time favorite, though, and one I emulate to this day any time I've got a bat in my hands, is the Willie Stargell windmill.

2005-08-15 11:26:31
12.   Indefinite
Here are some more from a quick search:

Mark Fidrych talked to himself and the ball before pitching.

Nomar Garciaparra steps on each dugout step with both feet.

Turk Wendell brushed his teeth and ate four sticks of black licorice before he could take the mound each inning. He also had to sprint from the mound to the dugout.

Sparky Anderson never stepped on the foul lines.

Craig Biggio refuses to wash his hat during the season.

Boggs also fielded exactly 150 ground balls before each game, and would take batting practice at exactly 5:17 p.m. and run wind sprints at 7:17 p.m. before night games.

Denny McLain would drink a Pepsi between every inning he pitched.

Joe DiMaggio would never run from the outfield to the dugout without touching second base.

Mike Cuellar, the Orioles pitcher from the early '70s, insisted that the baseball be sitting on the mound when he went out to pitch. He refused to accept it from a player or umpire.

Here's a fun one: "Kiki Cuyler did not play at all in the 1927 World Series because manager Donnie Bush wanted Cuyler to play center field and bat second in the lineup. Cuyler was extremely superstitious about batting in the third spot. Bush benched him, saying Cuyler would not play in the Series unless he would agree to bat second in the order and publicly say he liked it."

2005-08-15 12:30:55
13.   Scott Long
I know that back in the early 90's, it used to be a ritual for some Ranger players, including Canseco and Palmiero to meet by the bathroom stalls, but I have no idea why they did it. Seems like something that should be explored, as it would be a good subject to be covered in a book.
2005-08-15 12:34:09
14.   onetimer
Joe Morgan and his insufferable twitching elbow.
2005-08-15 14:03:07
15.   TFD
What about Mr. Republican (Schilling) kissing his the insignia of his personal savior (that cross) before he starts?
2005-08-15 14:08:12
16.   Voxter
I just thought of another one. I'd been seeing it for years, but didn't realize it until the ALCS last fall: Between each and every pitch, David Ortiz steps out of the box, rests the bat against his leg, spits on his right hand, and claps. He's usually checking the third base coach while he does this, though something tells me the third base coach rarely has anything to say, anymore.

I was at this game (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=250515112) earlier this year, and even in a crowd of more than 45 000, it made this ringing kind of thump, at least if you were sitting close to the plate. Again, I don't know what happens if he doesn't get to do it, because he's done it every single time I've watched him.

2005-08-15 14:11:20
17.   Voxter
From my own playing days, I know that I, personally, never took the field without an ace of hearts tucked into my hat band. If I was catching, I carried it in my back pocket. I don't remember how it started, but I was still doing it when my playing career petered out after high school. I can remember being edgy and nervous the first time I got put in to catch and had to change its location. Pretty sure I put up a goose-egg that game.
2005-08-15 15:54:19
18.   Graham
Turk Wendell also would crouch down every time the catcher stood up, and vice versa.
2005-08-15 18:04:28
19.   Blah Blah Blah
Didn't Brett Butler advise each opposing player as to whether or not he was saved or bound for eternal damnation? Maybe that was Chad Curtis. Or both.

Bobby Tolan held the bat higher than anybody I've ever seen.

Of course a famous one was Pete Rose sprinting to first on a walk. With him, I shudder to think what would happen if he didn't do it, as something sinister always seems to lurk with Charley.

Early in his career John Smoltz did the "fake to 3rd, look to 1st move" every single 1st and 3rd situation, it seemed. And Skip Caray expressed his bemusement every time.

2005-08-15 18:31:27
20.   smitten kitten
"What about Mr. Republican (Schilling) kissing his the insignia of his personal savior (that cross) before he starts?"

What about his complete hypocrisy when it comes to his off-the-field life?

Sorry, couldn't resist.

2005-08-15 20:32:51
21.   Ken Arneson
Just heard on the A's game that Dan Johnson usually has short hair, but he hasn't cut it since he started getting hot.
2005-08-15 20:47:34
22.   Rob Cook
A couple more Ranger ones:

John Wetteland, like Biggio, refused to wash his cap during the season.

Pudge Rodriguez crosses himself before each pitch when hitting.

2005-08-16 02:11:09
23.   tbw
Well, I'm a little late to this party -- apparently I came after everyone else left. Guess I'll talk to the walls and see if my words leave a residue.

The Orioles' Miguel Tejada engages in a choreographed hand-slapping ritual with infield-mates Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts. Usually they do it on the field after the last out of each win, right before the whole team lines up to shake hands with one another. But sometimes they do it in the dugout or the clubhouse to get each other amped up before or during games. A Baltimore Sun columnist dubbed the routine "The Move," although I prefer to call it "The Miggy." It started midway through last season on Tejada's initiative.

I'm not sure what happens when they break the routine. I don't think there's been a game this year in which two of the three players have not been in the Oriole lineup. Tejada has not missed a game in eons. Mora and Roberts have missed some games, but not at the same time as far as I can recall.

2005-08-16 06:49:25
24.   misterjohnny
12 I was pretty sure Denny McClain was a Coke man...
2005-08-16 08:34:27
25.   RickM
some of these, while all entertaining, are hardly superstitions. For instance, a lot of players cross themselves, point skyward, whatever when something good happens. A lot of Latin players cross themselves. Is religion a superstition?

Denny McClain was a Pepsi man. He drank it by the gallon. Not sure if it was a superstition or an addiction. Probably had something to do with his current weight of 300+ pounds.

Some of the things that we call ritual or superstition are just a hitters way of getting set. I remember hearing Joe Morgan talking about his elbow twitch while discussing Sheffields bat wiggle. Both are related to their swing, so yes, in theory, if they quit, it will effect their swing. My previous comment about Ichiro! probably fits this category.

Bobby Tolan can't hold a candle, or a bat higher, than Craig Counsell.

2005-08-16 10:05:16
26.   Blah Blah Blah
I agree that many of these aren't superstitions but do think that most of what's here would fall under (my definition, at least) of "rituals".
2005-08-16 10:09:52
27.   Blah Blah Blah
Didn't Will Clark have a thing where he rubbed his shoulder under his chin on every pitch? I think it was a little ritual designed to make sure he kept his shoulder in or something to that effect. So that would also fit with what Rick was saying....

Coupled with that expression that was reminiscent of a toddler being cut off from his halloween basket, he was entertaining to watch.

Has anybody here mentioned Al Hrabosky? I guess that's one of the most obvious and overt rituals you'll ever see, what he used to do.

2005-08-16 11:05:26
28.   misterjohnny
I guess my McClain joke was a little too subtle.
2005-08-16 11:45:03
29.   RickM
I thought Denny was more of a gambling addict than a drug one ... never can tell though.

I remember Al Hrabosky ... every pitch he's step off the mound, get angry, slam the ball in his mitt and storm to the rubber with a scowl on his face. I thought he looked ridiculous.

2005-08-16 11:48:08
30.   Blah Blah Blah
I laughed at the McClain comment - my recollection is that he was in with mobsters who trafficked in a lot of bad stuff including drugs.

As a Pirates fan when they could play some ball, I also enjoyed that scowl, that ball-slam, and that game winning double off the wall by Al Oliver or whomever. Yes, that was when it really looked ridiculous.

2005-08-16 11:49:39
31.   RickM
I got one!

The year Jason Giambi won the MVP, he had a certain batboy get him lunch from McDonalds everyday. At the end of the season he gave the kid five grand. I guess it's so much easier to keep McDonalds down when your in the middle of a diabanol run.

OK ... I'll admit that I don't know about the diabanol, but the batboy story is fact.

2005-08-16 12:04:04
32.   ruz
"Didn't Will Clark have a thing where he rubbed his shoulder under his chin on every pitch?"

That was Matt Williams, I'm pretty sure.

2005-08-16 12:28:50
33.   Blah Blah Blah
Yes, thanks! Williams. Right team anyways.
2005-08-17 06:39:43
34.   Tom
When Billy Williams came up to bat, he would spit and then hit the gob of spit with his bat.

Eric Chavez also has a bunch of them I read in an interview he gave about the videogame he's on the cover for. I can't remember off hand, but I remember he described himself as being "sick."

2005-08-17 11:22:30
35.   Nick from Washington Heights
Tony Womack has this ritual where every time he bats he either strikes out or hits a weak grounder to second or short.

I'm not sure this fits into a category of superstition or ritual, but anytime a runner is on 2nd, El Duque becomes a mess of odd hand gestures and head movements. Apparently, he's so paranoid about runners stealing signs that he has created a quasi-encryption system designed only for his and the catcher's understanding. When he was on the Yanks, a runner once asked Jeter what he was doing, and Derek laughed, "Oh, that's just El Duque. We have no idea what those signs mean."

2005-08-17 22:19:29
36.   deadteddy8
Some well-known, some more obscure... At least when he was with the Giants, Kevin Mitchell used to only swing left-handed on deck... Craig Lefferts sprinted in from the bullpen at top speed, while the Candlestick PA system played a motorcycle revving (which, coupled with "Wild Thing" played for Mitch Williams, may have been the forerunner to all these closers getting their own theme songs, which is a subgenre of baseball ritual)... Before at least one at bat per game, Tony Tarasco would write in the dirt the initials of a friend of his who'd passed... Sammy Sosa's sprint into the Wrigley outfield... Clemens touching the Ruth(?) monument before starts... I don't think any of these are intractable the way Boggs's chicken thing was, so I have no idea what would happen if these were disrupted.

Slightly off topic, but the greatest sports ritual of all time is the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team's pre-game war dance.
http://www.nootrope.net/haka/

2005-08-19 09:50:49
37.   Ryan
Is religion a superstition?

Yes.

2005-08-19 12:10:04
38.   TFD
Oooh Ryan you're bad - - but I love it.
2005-08-19 18:54:12
39.   Blah Blah Blah
In this place and context that's actually a really stupid comment.
2005-08-19 18:59:31
40.   Blah Blah Blah
I guess I should at least expound minimally on that - but I would certainly bet a king's ransom that significant religious scholars and historians are far more well-educated and studied than ol' Ryan here.

Since the definition of "superstition" cites ignorance as a key component, it would then stand to reason that those less studied may want to use care in their choice of words, lest it be made obvious to whom the "ignorant" tag rightly belongs.

2005-08-20 08:06:36
41.   Ryan
Uh oh. Looks like I struck a nerve. According to Dictionary.com one of the definitons of superstition reads:

1. A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

Sounds like religion to me. But, if believing some frumpy cloud wizard watches and controls things down here makes you feel happy/comfortable/safe, by all means indulge yourself.

2005-08-20 08:14:59
42.   RickM
Point of order here ... I made the original comment/question about religion being a superstition. Some definitions of superstition would include religion, others, do not. Christian religions (and others I'm sure) define superstitions as being an offense against God, per the first commandment.

That said, there are scholars who believe that religion is nothing more than a superstition, albeit a very robust one. Wikipedia carries the definition as "a set of behaviors that may be faith based, or related to magical thinking, whereby the practitioner believes that the future, or the outcome of certain events, can be influenced by certain of his or her behaviors." Sounds like a religion to me, and I'm not sure that the existance of well educated religious scholars and historians makes any of us more ignorant in our fields.

2005-08-20 09:58:24
43.   Blah Blah Blah
What, in the "laws of nature" explains the creation of those objects which were part of the Big Bang? Unless and until you can answer that, we have to agree that there's a spontaneous and/or supernatural force somewhere in the history of the universe - it's only a question of what that is and how many years ago you must go back to find it.

Webster uses the phrase "ignorant and irrational" in its definition.

Sorry, man, Rick, your sort of dismissive elitism elicited in #41 speaks far more of you than it does of those to whom you direct your statements.

Rick, you're absolutely right - and I have spent way too many hours indulging my agnostic tendencies by reading scholarly debate on all (and it ain't just two) sides of the issue. The best scholars on either side know that the issue is far too complicated and difficult to be reduced to simple-minded smarmalade such as that in #38 and #41 which is why I take offense despite my own unanswered questions.

2005-08-20 09:58:49
44.   Blah Blah Blah
I meant "Ryan" not "Rick" in paragraph 3, my bad.
2005-08-20 14:37:43
45.   Ryan
If being dismissive of religion makes me an elitist, I can deal with that.
2005-08-20 17:09:10
46.   Blah Blah Blah
Cool, man.

In the words of The Dean, Robert Christgau, we have nothing in common, intelligence included.

2005-08-20 20:30:20
47.   Nick from Washington Heights
Why does Robert Christgau hate Nick Cave so much, Blah Blah Blah?

This thread took a weird turn. I thought I'd add to it with another non-seguitor.

2005-08-22 13:41:33
48.   TFD
Oooh this is fun. I just tuned back in to find...

"we have nothing in common, intelligence included."

Can't beat that!

Oh but wait...

"If being dismissive of religion makes me an elitist, I can deal with that."

That is nice.

Where have all the good threads like this gone?

And Nick what is a non-seguitor?

2005-08-23 07:57:44
49.   Nick from Washington Heights
I wish I cood spell.

Clam chowder! (in answer to your question as to what I meant (mispelled and all))

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