Taking a Look at Superstition in Baseball

superstition in baseball
Maybe your kids’ next superstition can be wearing his favorite Sandlot Swag shorts!

Baseball is an extremely mental game. We learned a little bit about that recently when we look at how to help a youth baseball player break out of a slump. It’s also a very hard game to play, as evidenced by that fact that you’re considered a legend even if you fail 6 out of every 10 times you bat. (That’s a .400 batting average, .034 points higher than Ty Cobb’s record-setting career batting average of .366.) These two facts of baseball, its mentality and its difficulty, combine for some of the most bizarre superstitions in sports. Superstition in baseball has been the focus of many a baseball fan for quite a long time, but why? Let’s see if we can find out.

Why is Superstition in Baseball Such a Big Deal?

While there’s clearly no factual or empirical reasoning behind superstition, there’s definitely reasoning to be found. Because baseball is so mental, it’s all about finding a mental state that works. To start simply, many players will have some variation of a ritual upon stepping into the batter’s box — tapping his cleats or the plate with his bat, toeing at the dirt in the box, adjusting his batting gloves, and the list goes on and on. This muscle memory gets hitters in the frame of mind needed to prepare for the next pitch. But that’s barely superstition compared to some of the stuff that goes on on a baseball diamond.

Wade Boggs is famously known for needing a meal of fried chicken before every single game he played. Other players, notably Joe DiMaggio, make a point to step on second base on their way to and from the outfield, while others make a point not to do so, and others still observe the same tendencies with the foul lines. Why? Who knows. Perhaps fried chicken gives Wade Boggs super baseball powers; he did collect over 3,000 hits in his career. Maybe stepping on the foul line brings bad luck. There is no rhyme or reason other than the fact that the player believes it’s necessary, and that’s all that really matters. If a superstition in baseball gets a player in the mindset to succeed, we don’t need to question why. We just need to sit back and enjoy the show.

Other better connected and better trained baseball writers have touched on the subject in the past, like ESPN Senior Writer and Baseball Analyst Tim Kurkjian, who submitted this piece in September of 2013. We’ll never be able to prove the value of superstition in baseball, but we do know that if your kid hits his first home run this weekend after a Memorial Day barbeque, you’d darn well better get grilling before every game this season.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, good luck in your tournaments and your barbeques, and before we go, we want to send a massive thank you from Sandlot Swag to everyone who has served to protect our country (and its favorite pastime).

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