Dickson: Baseball hoodoos, superstitions, and rituals

From Paul Dickson at The National Pastime Museum on November 23, 2015:

The level to which baseball players—at every stage of the game—are superstitious is legendary. The belief in ritual magic is hardly unique to baseball, but it flourishes on the diamond like no other sport. Many of these beliefs are hatched in dugouts where players have time to come up with fresh beliefs, while others are carried over from generation to generation. For instance, talking to the pitcher in the dugout during a no-hitter could jinx the outcome and has become one of the game’s oldest and most honored unwritten rules. Then there is the newer variation on that belief—“stating,” as the players call it, is simply jinxing a player by mentioning his excellent statistics.

From the days of the old Baltimore Orioles who drank turkey gravy before important games, jinxes and hoodoos (as baseball superstitions were once called) have been observed and honored with a primitive religiosity often taking inspiration from Old World pagan beliefs involving the magic power of viewing certain omens before a game.

One of the oldest hoodoos, which dated back to the traditional folkloric beliefs of the British Isles, was that the sight of a wagon carrying certain items including empty barrels brought good luck. Manager John McGraw refurbished this one in the form of a beer wagon with empty barrels, which he used to inspire his New York Giants against the Cubs. As Tristram Potter Coffin wrote in his 1971 classic, The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore and Fiction, “After a four-game sweep, presaged by the appearance of the wagon with empty barrels before each game, the players were accosted by a man looking for the manager. He wanted his money for driving the wagon past the ballpark for four straight days ‘just the way McGraw told him to.’”

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/hoodoos-superstitions-and-rituals%E2%80%94baseball-awash

Originally published: November 23, 2015. Last Updated: November 23, 2015.