Baseball is a game deeply plagued with superstition. Being quite an old sport, a number of myths and legends have emerged regarding this game. For the Americans, baseball is a symbol of national pride and is often referred to as America’s favorite pastime. Although the game has gone through a modern shift, there are some old beliefs and legends that are still associated with baseball. Superstitions are often defined as baseless fears and blindly accepted notions, making one beg the question: what purpose do these beliefs fulfill? The debate is a long and elaborate one, making a discussion of the various superstitious beliefs necessary.
It is important to realize that, as for the players, superstitions have a psychological effect. There are players who insist on taking the same path each time they go in a position. At times, such routines can be quite elaborate ones, these may include wearing some specific articles of clothing, eating a specific meal or entering the ballpark in a specific manner. Take the example of the pitcher of the New York Yankees, Denny Neagle. Whenever Neagle is scheduled to start he goes for the movies for some reason. Similarly, Wade Boggs of Detroit Tigers eats only chicken before a game. Whatever the reality maybe, there is no doubt about the fact that such acts increase the confidence of these players.
As previously stated, superstitions are a belief system, therefore, by sticking to this system the players are able to gain a mental edge over others. This is the main reason superstitions have garnered significance in the eyes of players and fans alike. It is interesting to note that the game itself involves repetition of similar actions, therefore, by going through a similar routine the players expect a similarly successful outcome. But this isn’t exactly a science, for a psychological edge can only help you so much, and much like winning, losing is also a part of the game.
Interestingly, for many players these superstitions also take the form of taboos. Taboos take quite unique and odd forms, and while some are observed on the pitch, others take place away from the public eye. According to these players breaking a taboo has unfavorable consequences and, therefore, these taboos are performed slavishly by many athletes. One such example is that of Jason Bere, who did not pitch well after he had eaten a meatball. He then swore to abstain from eating meatballs for the rest of the season.
Superstitious beliefs don’t just affect players, they also affect entire teams. The most talked about superstitious belief is that of the curse of the Billy Goat. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series titles for over a century, and the blame for this period of trophy drought is put on the curse laid on them by Billy Goat Tavern’s owner.
The exact nature of this story is not certain, nevertheless, according to most versions, this happened in 1945 when the owner of Billy Goat Tavern, Billy Sianis, was made to leave the Wrigley Field, home ground of the Chicago Cubs, because his goat was a cause of nuisance for other fans during a World Series game. This enraged Sianis, who (apparently) put a curse on the cubs by saying “Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more.” Whatever the relevance of this story maybe, there is no doubt about the fact that the Chicago Cubs haven’t had much luck since then when it comes to World Series.
Moreover, a similar curse, that is the Curse of the Bambino, was (apparently) laid on the Boston Red Sox team. Nevertheless, this curse is now believed to be broken as the Red Sox have won a World Series title in 2004, after a 94 year period of trophy drought.
After such a discussion, there is no doubt that baseball is deeply affected with superstition. This, however, is nothing but a reminder that baseball is more than just a game. For this reason, these beliefs may still continue to persist. However, to what extent and form? Only time can tell.