The St. Louis Cardinals rallied around the superstitious powers of a furry animal during their World Series run in 2011.
MLB players are always a superstitious group, but they take it to new extremes during the postseason.
Not stepping on foul lines and avoiding pitchers during a no-hitter are standard practices now. The playoffs, however, bring out the likes of monkeys and squirrels and beards—OH MY!
Here's a look at just how superstitious baseball players can get when October rolls around. Remember, it's only weird if it doesn't work.
The Baltimore Orioles provided a new twist on an old baseball superstition during their recent ALDS Game 4 win against the New York Yankees.
With the game tied 1-1 and dragging on into the 13th inning, Joe Saunders began leading cheers and superstitious activity in the dugout.
First, the Orioles turned to a new form of "rally caps" by lining their hats along the dugout railing pointed in the direction they wanted the ball to go—the outfield wall. This latest addition of "Orioles Magic" produced the go-ahead run.
Baltimore then quite literally shook things up in the bottom of the inning. Each player grabbed a Gatorade bottle and—you guess it—shook it. No one knows why the Oriole players did these things. Even Saunders himself admitted to making it all up as they went along.
But it worked, so it's not that weird. The Orioles soon sealed their 2-1 win, forcing Game 5 in New York. Here's Craig Sager's report from the field during the TBS broadcast.
San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff flaunts his rally thong during the team's World Series parade.
The topic of MLB postseason superstitions covers just about everything—even Aubrey Huff's backside.
Well, not all of it. Huff supported San Francisco's 2010 World Series run with a lacy, red, rhinestone-encrusted thong.
The uniform alteration didn't begin in the postseason. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Huff began wearing his new undergarments during a regular season 3-for-32 slump. While the thong didn't help him at the plate, the team did go 3-1 during the, uh, stretch.
Huff's fashion statement stuck, and so did his team's winning ways. The Giants continued to roll into October with a 25-2 record since the thong's first appearance. Baggarly later reported that the company producing Huff’s preferred brand of thongs sent three giant boxes of their products in every color of the rainbow to the team clubhouse.
Huff became a giddy, thong-flinging Santa Claus this morning, distributing them to everyone in the clubhouse.
After the Giants won the World Series, Huff celebrated at the team's victory parade with a tribute to Zoolander by pulling the rally thong out of his pants.
On a similar but less-lacy note, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't wash or change his underwear during his team's 12-game winning streak in September of 2011.
Daniel Descalso (33) and Jason Motte (right) continued the team's tradition of wearing high socks every sunday during a win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Keeping the theme of recent fashion statements are the St. Louis Cardinals, who celebrate "High Sock Sundays" every weekend.
According to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, the tradition was started by Daniel Descalso during the regular season, publicized by Jon Jay on Twitter and literally picked up by many others in the Cardinals' clubhouse. Participation grew last month when manager Mike Matheny also gave in, and the Cardinals haven't lost on a Sunday since.
Although the team's manager isn't too keen on the look himself, he publicly agreed to continue joining in during the playoffs.
St. Louis continued its winning streak on High Sock Sundays with a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants during Game 1 of the NLCS. Although the Cardinals seem to keep loose no matter what deficit they face late in games, expect their socks to stay high and tight—at least on Sundays.
The Washington Nationals also wanted to make a fashion statement for their city's first postseason series in 79 years.
Instead of using their uniforms, however, Washington showed its playoff Nattitude with hair cuts.
Nathan Fenno of the Washington Times reports that a late-night phone call brought in Hugo Tandron to be the team's playoff barber. He was barred from wearing any St. Louis gear, and even refused a request from Jon Jay to sneak over to cut the Cardinals.
The Cardinals, of course, later cut the Nationals from the playoffs. At least Washington looked good while it lasted.
Tandron estimated that he gave 20-30 haircuts during his brief stay with the team. Gio Gonzalez requires a hair cut every two days to maintain his sharp look. But Danny Espinosa's beard was by far Tandron's most challenging customer.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson
Speaking of hair, playoff beards are always in fashion.
This superstition really belongs to hockey, but it has certainly caught on in baseball. Brian Wilson and Jayson Werth are two recent examples, but let's not forget about Bill Lee, Johnny Damond, Bruce Sutter and Jeff Bagwell.
The NLCS alone features an All-Star team of beards currently in the postseason. Check out Lance Lynn, Jason Motte, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, Skip Schumaker, Mitchell Boggs, Tony Cruz, Sergio Romo, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford. And you have to at least applaud the effort from last year's hero, David Freese.
Unfortunately, the ALCS almost balances it out completely. Prince Fielder has the only noteworthy beard. CC Sabathia's scruff is about as cavalier as the the clean shaven New York Yankees will allow facial hair to grow.
Hunter Pence is relatively new to the San Francisco Giants dugout, but that's not stopping him from being heard.
Tim Lincecum, Clay Hensley, Javier Lopez, Brian Wilson and other San Francisco Giants players arrived at Wednesday's Game 4 of the NLDS with the same street clothes they wore to the ballpark for Game 3 a night earlier.
Their real superstition this October, however, revolves around just one player.
According to Andrew Baggerly of the San Jose Mercury News, Hunter Pence gave a rousing speech before Game 3, the first of three road wins against the Cincinnati Reds to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the five-game series. Although he hasn't repeated the fiery oration word for word, he does continue to address his teammates before each playoff game.
“The momentum we started was having Hunter and his motivational speeches,” Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum said. “They are extremely inspiring. They raise us up and they bring us together at the same time.
“You just want to go alongside him and tag along. He hasn’t been here for long, but he stepped up like he’s been here for six years. He’s just an extremely intense personality.
Sunday's loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS was the first time Pence's words did not produce a win.
The "Rally Monkey" made his first appearance on June 6, 2000 (via ESPN's Doug Williams). It became a legend during the Los Angeles Angels' World Series run in 2002.
LA began that season 6-14 before rallying to win the American League Wild Card. The team then swept the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins in the first two rounds of the playoffs before rallying from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Los Angeles finished 24-16 when the Rally Monkey appeared late in games that season.
The monkey magic was at its peak during Game 6 of the World Series. Down 5-0 in the seventh inning, Los Angeles rallied to win 6-5.
No animation is needed for the comeback mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals. A live, wild squirrel sprinted its way into playoff lore during the team's improbable World Series run in 2011.
The Busch Stadium "Rally Squirrel" made its first appearance by running across the infield during Game 3 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies (via Erica Smith of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). It is most known for its appearance during Game 4, when it skipped right in front of Skip Schumaker at home plate.
St. Louis trailed 2-1 in that five-game series, but rallied to win the final two contests for a spot in the NLCS. The Cardinals went on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers in six games before making a historic comeback to win the World Series against the Texas Rangers.
The Rally Squirrel now lives forever, earning a spot on the team's World Series rings.
The Rally Squirrel wasn't the only superstition powering the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series run in 2011.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rafael Furcal coined the phrase "Happy Flight" for motivation to win on the getaway day of each series.
The Cardinals won 17 consecutive games immediately preceding a flight to another city in 2011. Before the Rangers won Game 2 at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals had not lost on 15 consecutive getaway days since Aug. 3. A win in Game 5 would have been their 18th victory in 19 tries on a day that the Cardinals know as "happy flight" because Furcal be-boped through the dugout during the game repeating the phrase.
Both of the Cardinals' postseason clinchers leading up to the World Series came on the road, meaning a "happy flight" followed. That's why "happy flight" was often heard as they sprayed champagne in celebration.
For all the many playoff superstitions that help teams win, some of the most famous playoff superstitions keep teams losing.
The Chicago Cubs are still searching for their first World Series title since 1908, a drought for which many fans blame the "Curse of the Billy Goat."
As legend has it, local tavern owner Billy Sianis brought his goat to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. The Cubs owner had Sianis and his goat ejected from the ball park during the game. Sianis responded by verbally cursing the Cubs, proclaiming they would never win another pennant or play in another World Series at Wrigley Field again.
On the south side of Chicago, the "Curse of the Black Sox" is the spell blamed for the Chicago White Sox's 90-year World Series drought. The curse dates back to 1919 when the White Sox threw the World Series in exchange for payments from gambling. Chicago finally broke the curse in 2005 when it defeated the Houston Astros in the Fall Classic.
"The Curse of the Bambino" was blamed for the Boston Red Sox's 86-year title drought. This curse dates back to 1920, when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. This curse's source began one year after the Curse of the Black Sox, but it ended one year earlier when Boston swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series.
What are your favorite MLB postseason superstitions? Do you have any superstitions of your own? Let's hear about them in the comments.
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