Top 10 Baseball Player Rituals

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I tend to be a little superstitious. For instance, when I make changes to my files, I'll use normal, ascending nomenclature for each consecutive draft (e.g. _02.doc, _03.doc, etc.) However, before sending my agent the final draft of a novel, I'll always change the nomenclature to one of my lucky numbers, like _27 or _72, even if I'm still only on draft _14. Yeah, writers are a strange bunch.

Turns out, Baseball players are an even stranger bunch. Surely you've seen Nomar Garciaparra ticking through his batting glove rituals, or how Mark "The Bird" Fidrych used to talk to his baseballs. But these are the obvious, well-documented ones. Patrick Saunders, over at The Denver Post, recently wrote about (mostly Rockies) players and their crazy rituals. Stan Grossfeld, at the Globe, threw some light on some other players' quirks. And our own Ethan Trex wrote about athlete superstitions. Between the three, I've mashed up my Top-10 list. 

10. Moises Alou

Most baseball players wear batting gloves to absorb some of the shock of making contact with the ball and to improve their grip on the bat. A handful eschew gloves in favor of a barehanded approach, though, most famously outfielder Alou. Alou does have a system for avoiding calluses and hardening his skin: he urinates on his hands throughout the season. New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada also employs this superstition to aid in his gloveless approach at the plate. The trick may be more gross than helpful, though: a 2004 article in Slate questioned the value of this superstition since urine contains urea, a key ingredient in moisturizers that actually soften the skin. (Trex)

9. Wade Boggs

A former third baseman, primarily with the Boston Red Sox, Wade ate chicken before every game. He took exactly 150 groundballs during infield practice. He also had a fixation on time. At Boston Red Sox night home games, he ran wind sprints at precisely 7:17 p.m. Before each at-bat, Boggs would draw a chai — the Hebrew symbol for life — into the dirt of the batter's box. (Saunders)

8. Turk Wendell

Among Wendell's more notable quirks was his requirement that he chew four pieces of black licorice while pitching. At the end of each inning, he'd spit them out, return to the dugout, and brush his teeth, but only after taking a flying leap over the baseline. An avid hunter, Wendell also took the mound wearing a necklace adorned with trophies from animals he had harvested, including mountain lion claws and the teeth of wild pigs and buffalo. When compared to these superstitions, Wendell's other little oddities (drawing three crosses in the dirt on the mound, always throwing the rosin bag down as hard as he could, and insisting figures in his contract end in 99 as a tribute to his jersey number) don't seem so strange. (Trex)

7. Larry Walker

The former Rockies star was obsessed with the number "3." He set his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, took practice swings in multiples of three, wore No. 33, was married 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. (Saunders)

6. Clint Barmes

Once, Barmes sprained his ankle and had it taped up. He began hitting so well that once the ankle healed he kept on getting it taped. In the minors, Barmes ate a Subway sandwich for lunch and hit well that game. He ordered the same sandwich at the same Subway for more than a week until he cooled off. (Saunders)

5. Kevin Rhomberg

rhombergRhomberg played just 41 games in parts of three seasons with the Tribe from 1982-84. But in that short span, the outfielder managed to assert himself as possibly the big leagues' most superstitious player ever. Rhomberg's most peculiar superstition was that if someone touched him, he had to touch that person back. Although this compulsion was not as much of a liability as it might have been in basketball or football, it still led to some odd situations: if Rhomberg were tagged out while running the bases, he'd wait until the defense was clearing the field at inning's end to chase down the player who'd touched him. Rhomberg also refused to make right turns while on the field, because baserunners are always turning left. So if a situation forced him to make a right turn, he'd go to his left and make a full circle to get moving in the correct direction. (Trex)

4. Jason Marquis

In the minors, if he spit on the field, he had to make sure it wasn't on the mound. If he did happen to spit on the dirt, he wiped away the spit with his shoe. If his team was ahead and he was in the dugout, Marquis always unbuttoned his jacket when there were two outs in the ninth inning. (Saunders)

3. Coco Crisp

aagv138-2006studiopluscoco-crisp-postersCenter fielder Coco Crisp does the same ritual during every at-bat. "I pick up dirt, spit on my hands," he says. Then, coiled in the batter's box, he wiggles his fingers as if they've fallen asleep. "I don't wear batting gloves. I move my left hand. It relaxes me and helps my timing. I stomp my front foot down. It's a habit. I'm not that superstitious, although sometimes I skip over the line." (Grossfeld)

2. Yorvit Torrealba

Before leaving the dugout for an at-bat, Torrealba takes a drink of water from a paper cup and tosses the cup. If the cup stays right side up, he figures he's going to get a hit. "I know for a fact that I'm going to get a hit, probably a double. At least it's worked a few times," he said.

In the on-deck circle, Torrealba spits out his bubble gum and tries to hit it with his bat. If he connects, he's confident he'll get a hit. (Saunders)

1. Jason Grilli

In his Little League days, Grilli put a two-sided baseball card in his shoe. On one side was Ken Griffey Jr.; on the other side was Nolan Ryan. On the days Grilli pitched, Ryan was face up in the shoe. On other days, Griffey faced up.

"I guess I thought it would somehow absorb their abilities, gain some of their super powers," Grilli said.

Back when Grilli was a starting pitcher, he ate linguini with clam sauce before every start. Grilli did, after all, pitch for Italy in the World Baseball Classic this spring. (Saunders)

July 9, 2009 - 5:00am
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