10 Bizarre Superstitions of 19th-Century Baseball Players

Major League Baseball has announced that in 2023, Opening Day will be March 30, when 30 teams will play 15 games. There is a lot to be said about baseball players. Athletic. Intelligent. And surprisingly superstitious.

The superstitions followed by some baseball players are things that most people would consider quite bizarre. For example, Wade Boggs ate fried chicken before every game, while modern players have lucky underwear. However, baseball players have followed strange superstitions since baseball was first played.

Following the end of the Civil War, the game underwent a substantial period of growth. The first baseball players were amateurs who played in front of large crowds. Over the years, amateurs were replaced by paid players between the 1870s and 1905s. While 19th-century baseball players were an unusual bunch, some of the superstitious stories about 19th-century players are noteworthy and unmatched even in today’s league.

Related: 10 Times Old Superstitions Turned Deadly

10 Drink hot turkey gravy

For the first time, the Baltimore Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894 after winning 24 of their 25 games. In the last Temple Cup contest, the Orioles finished second behind New York in a 4-0 series. Every man in the starting lineup hit above .300, while five players drove in more than 100 runs. The team also featured six Hall of Famers. But that is not strange, what is strange is the superstition that the team believed that it brought them good luck.

Each member of the Orioles team drank a glass of turkey gray each day before batting practice. This weird superstition probably had nothing to do with why the Orioles won the pennant that year. The team has also been known to cheat in a number of ways: icing the balls, placing soap around the pitcher’s mound so the other team’s pitcher couldn’t hold on, and making their baselines skew so tags would get past the ball. free throw line.[1]

9 the evil eye

William “Billy” Moffat Earle was a catcher for Major League Baseball from 1889 to 1894. Although he played for five teams during this time, he had a reputation as one of the best catchers in the league. Billy was almost as well known for being “creepy” as he was for being a good catcher. He viewed himself as a hypnotist and made many of his classmates uncomfortable due to this and other superstitions. In his final season of 1894, he played with the Louisville Colonels, where he hit and hit well. After being released in July, he signed a one-month deal with the Brooklyn Grooms.

One post claimed that Earle could hypnotize people and had magnetic powers. Players on Billy’s teams, however, felt that he had an “evil eye”, a superstitious belief caused by a person’s gaze. In 1887, Billy was in a boating accident with two teammates on the Mississippi River. Billy and one of his teammates survived while the other teammate drowned. The surviving teammate remembered the creepy look in Billy’s eyes as he watched the man drown. Ultimately, superstition and not his talent prevented Billy from continuing his baseball career.[2]

8 Not talking to your own starting pitcher

A lot of nasty things could be said about Cap Anson, such as displaying racist tendencies and refusing to play baseball if the opposing team had African-Americans. Anson was also allegedly a member of the Klu Klux Klan. While Anson was not directly responsible for the segregation of African-Americans from professional baseball for years, his actions contributed. In 1876, Anson joined the Chicago White Stockings, where he played 22 seasons for the team that would later become the Cubs. When he retired in 1897, Anson held several Major League Baseball records for doubles, runs, and hits.

In addition to his racist history and great performance as a player, Anson is also remembered for a strange pre-game superstition. It’s common before baseball games for teammates to talk to each other about all sorts of things. Anson avoided this, especially if the pitcher was involved. Anson refused to speak to his own starting pitcher. How this became a superstition to Anson remains uncertain, but it was indeed strange.[3]

7 Believing that his bats had individual personalities

Louis Rogers “Pete” Browning (or as he was better known, “The Louisville Slugger”) was a Major League Baseball outfielder from 1882 to 1894. He spent most of his time with the Louisville Eclipse (later the Colonels). He was unusually the first baseball player to have custom bats, starting a practice that still exists today. The Louisville Slugger also played despite serious medical conditions that left him nearly deaf and gave him headaches.

Recent scholarship has suggested that Browning might not have been as good a player as legend makes him out to be. Various reports indicated that Browning played defense with one leg, so other players did not run into him, while other stories exist that he was a poor fielder because he often played drunk.

Browning took his bat superstition to another level. He named his bats, talked to them, and even retired them after a brief period of use. Browning later commented that he believed each bat only had a certain amount of punch built into it.[4]

6 Put stones in your back pocket

John Wesley “Jack” Glasscock, a Major League Baseball shortstop from 1879 to 1895, earned the nickname “Pebbly Jack” because of his love of pebbles. Glasscock was one of the best players in the 1880s when baseball was still played barehanded. Glasscock was the first player to appear in more than 600 games at shortstop. He finished his career with various records for games, assists, double plays and total chances.

Glasscock was known for searching for small pebbles in the dirt on the field, which he would place in his pocket to prevent the baseball from experiencing bad bounce. Other infielders who did not follow this practice were more inclined to experiment with poorly jumping ground balls. This is perhaps the only case where a baseball superstition made a player tangibly better.[5]

5 Believing that a cross-eyed woman put a spell on a game

Known as “Blackjack,” John Joseph Burdock played second base in Major League Baseball for more than 20 years. He was known as a skilled fielder and even had a hidden ball trick. However, by the late 1880s, Burdock was facing injuries and addiction to alcohol. Burdock was released from the Boston Red Capps in 1888. He soon signed with the Brooklyn Bridegrooms for the remainder of the 1888 season. He did not play for the next two years, retiring in 1891 with his last season with Brooklyn.

An interesting superstition of Burdock’s was revealed in a June 1879 issue of the Chicago Tribune. While on his way to play against the Cincinnati Reds, Burdock noticed a cross-eyed woman in the window of a building. After Burdrock’s team lost, he claimed that the woman had put a hex on the team. The article goes on and, in inappropriate and racist language, details how the Red Caps declared a young African-American man “lucky” and paid him half a dollar to come back the next day.[6]

4 Never go from the bench to second base

Always annoying, Bill Eagan played well and was a crowd pleaser. He even earned the nickname “Bad Bill” due to his rude attitude, which led to his suspension in August 1891. After a night of cards and drinking, Eagen lied to the team owner, claiming that an injury to his the finger prevented him from playing the next day. . Another story goes that Eagen threw empty beer bottles out of his hotel room and nearly hit the skulls of several passing Sisters of Mercy nuns.

Eagan’s superstition was that he would never go straight from the bench to second base. Instead, Eagan would either tiptoe to the third base line from home plate and around third or climb to the first base line and around first. [7]

3 Always shooting the first ball

Beginning in 1877, at least 70 African Americans played in minor league baseball until the late 19th century, at which time segregation separated African Americans from playing with whites. John W. Jackson (“Bud Fowler”) was one of the first African-American baseball players and the first player to play for ten seasons. He was also an exceptionally good baseball player for his day and helped other African-American players find opportunities.

In 1889, while Jackson was playing second baseman in the Michigan State League, the Grand Rapids Democrat he described a peculiar superstition that Jackson had developed. Jackson followed the superstition of hitting the first pitch over the plate no matter what, even if he was way over his head or if he hit the plate.[8]

2 Using children, dogs and monkeys as good luck charms

William “Buck” Ewing was one of the greatest catchers of the late 19th century. He also hit over .300 ten times. After starting out with the Troy Trojans in 1880, Ewing then moved to the New York Giants in 1883. An arm injury ultimately cut short Ewing’s career in 1891.

Ewing loved good luck mascots, which included a line of little boys like William Breslin. These youngsters were generally recruited on the streets of New York by gamblers looking for a good luck charm. In addition to children, the New York Giants also had a mascot in the form of a ring-tailed monkey and a toy barking dog.[9]

1 Redheads carrying bats were bad luck

William “Bill” G. Gleason played shortstop in Major League Baseball from 1882 to 1889 for several different teams. He first entered the majors in 1882 with the Saint Louis Browns, where he and his brother were the first siblings to play in the same major league infield. On the field, Gleason is remembered for his gruff personality.

During an interview with the Harrisburg Telegraph in 1884, an “old base player” who attended the game brought up a list of superstitions known among famous baseball players of the day. The “old point guard” mentioned that Gleason had a superstition against redheads and would turn ghostly white whenever he saw a redheaded kid carrying his bat bag. Gleason saw a redhead carrying his bat as bad luck of the worst kind. [10]

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