Baseball Players Do the Darnest Things
While figuring out what I could write about tonight I came across an old story about one of Sacramento Kings Mike Bibby’s superstition. He is known to clip his nails on the bench during every single game.
“Its superstition. I just find stuff to get at, pick at loose skin. They hand me a clipper when I come off the first timeout.’”
Good thing he doesn’t put them all in his mouth and chews on them during the game. Remember pitcher Greg Swindell? He would bite the tip off one of his fingernails before each start and hold it in his mouth for good luck the entire game. But it got me remembering baseball players are the most superstitious of them all. Things such as not talking to the pitcher if he has a no hitter. Not stepping on foul lines. Routines before or during at bats. Those are just the common ones.
So I started to look around to see what some baseball players do. The lengths to which some ball players will go to manipulate their fate is amazing.
+John Smoltz, who once was doing jumping jacks in the clubhouse during an Atlanta Braves rally,was afraid to stop because he didn’t want to be held responsible for the end of the Braves’ scoring. He ended up doing jumping jacks for nearly half an hour.
+Tony La Russa, who received a death threat while managing the Chicago White Sox in 1982 that resulted in him wearing a protective vest. La Russa covered the vest with a warmup jacket — and when the Sox rattled off a winning streak, he kept wearing the jacket, even after discarding the vest.
+Larry Walker is obsessed with the number “3.” He sets his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, takes practice swings in multiples of three, wears No. 33, was married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 p.m., and bought tickets for 33 disadvantaged kids when he played in Montreal, to be seated in Section 333 at Olympic Stadium. His last contract his current contract included a joint $3,333,333 donation to children’s organizations in British Columbia and Colorado. Finally he has 3 kids.
+Wade Boggs. Where do I begin. He ate chicken before every game, woke up at the same time every day, took exactly 150 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17 and ran sprints at 7:17. His route to and from his position in the field beat a path to the home dugout, and he drew the Hebrew word “חי-Chai” (meaning “life”) in the batter’s box before each at-bat (Boggs is not Jewish). He always ended his pregame infield practice by stepping, in order, on the third-, second- and first-base bags, stepping on the baseline, taking two steps in the coach’s box and trotting to the dugout in exactly four steps.
+One of the most unusually famous superstitions came from former reliever Turk Wendell (above). He chewed four pieces of black licorice when he pitched, spit them out after each inning, brushed his teeth in the dugout, and leaped (not stepped) over the baseline (described as a “kangaroo hop”). When he was on the mound, Wendell stood if the catcher was squatting, and squatted if the catcher was standing.
Finally the best one comes from a little known player named Kevin Rhomberg who appeared in a grand total of 41 games for the Cleveland Indians, from 1982-84. His superstition can basically be called a compulsion. There’s no other way to describe it.
His superstition was the need to touch back someone who had just touched him. Like tag during recess in grade school. However doing it when you’re an adult makes you strange. The need to touch someone back was so necessary that if a person somehow eluded his return touch, Rhomberg would send a letter that said, “This constitutes a touch.”
Of course this gets ball players thinking about how they can have some fun at his expense.
Rick Sutcliffe once reached under a bathroom stall to touch Rhomberg on the toe. Not knowing who did it, Rhomberg went around the clubhouse and touched each player. Brook Jacoby once told of tagging Rhomberg with a ball in the minors, then throwing it out of the stadium. Jacoby said that Rhomberg spent two hours looking for the ball before finding it. An umpire once halted play during a game in New York to tell Yankees players to stop touching Rhomberg.
That is seriously so mean but so funny. It’s probably a good thing his baseball career only lasted 41 games. Poor guy had enough torture in those games already.
Feel free to comment and add other superstitions of the rich, famous, and screwed up. I’m sure I’m missing some good ones.