The sport of baseball certainly has its share of oddities and peculiarities. For instance, it is the only professional major sport which doesn’t have a clearly defined playing field—each individual stadium is completely different in its outfield dimensions. There is no defined time, as one game can be as short as 90 minutes, while another can be well over four hours (excluding extra innings).
Its uniqueness is what sets it apart from other sports. However, even more unique are the unusual idiosyncrasies that many ballplayers bring to the game. While some of them are actual superstitions, many others are just forms of habits or mannerisms developed by players over the course of time.
Dictionary.com defines idiosyncrasy as “a characteristic, habit, mannerism, or the like, that is peculiar to an individual.” However it is explained, many players in Major League Baseball have been defined by those peculiar characteristics.
Here is a list of the 25 best player trademarks, or characteristics, in MLB history.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.
Ernie Banks, the Hall-of-Fame shortstop who played his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, had an unusual quirk that became synonymous with his stance and swing.
As Banks would grip the bat, waiting on the pitcher's delivery, he would rotate his right thumb before settling into his stance.
Joe Morgan has become known in recent years for his work with Jon Miller on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball for 20 seasons, and on NBC for baseball coverage as well.
However, during Morgan's career, which was good enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, Morgan developed a mannerism where he would instinctively flap his right elbow before each pitch.
Former ballplayer Nellie Fox originally suggested to Morgan that he start the flapping like a chicken in order to help keep his front elbow up.
Former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton became famous for his book Ball Four, which chronicled life in the major leagues and divulged details about the antics and foibles of major league players, most notably Mickey Mantle.
However, Bouton also became known for a rather peculiar quirk. Every time he delivered, his cap would come flying off his head after each pitch.
You would think he would have found a cap that fit him better.
Mel Ott, who plied his trade for the New York Giants for 22 seasons and amassed 511 home runs, became well known for his prodigious blasts, especially from a man who was only 5'9".
Ott also garnered recognition for his trademark leg kick. Ott would go into a pronounced kick with his front leg in the batters box as the pitcher was into his windup. Ott later claimed that the leg kick helped him with his timing.
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been a huge hit in Boston ever since his arrival in 2003, slugging 54 home runs in 2006 to break the longtime club record held by Jimmie Foxx.
Ortiz is also known throughout baseball for his trademark habit before each at-bat, during which he spits on his batting gloves and then claps his hands together.
The country of Japan prides itself on its culture, rich tradition and its observance of long-standing rituals. Many of the country's baseball players are no exception.
Current Oakland Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui is one of those players. Before each pitch, Matsui looks back at the bat before he sets his feet to make sure that the bat is pointed the way he wants it, because it's important for him to have the logo of the bat positioned properly.
When Matsui first came to the New York Yankees, some players thought this ritual was a way of him stealing signs.
Throughout his career in baseball, Wade Boggs was famous for having a great eye at the plate, hitting .328 for his career. Boggs was also one of the most superstitious players in baseball history, eating only chicken before each game, taking exactly 100 ground balls fielding practice and running sprints at exactly 7:17 p.m. before each night game.
Boggs also had another habit. Before each at-bat, he would draw the Hebrew word "Chai", meaning "life", in the batter's box before each at-bat, even though Boggs was not Jewish.
During his stellar 21-year career, catcher Ivan Rodriguez has been selected to 14 All-Star teams, has won the Gold Glove award 13 times and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1999.
Pudge has also had the ritual of blessing himself before every pitch he sees in the batters' box.
Other players have been known to do this as well. Current Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen blessed himself before each at-bat.
For 18 seasons now, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has been one of the most consistent producers in the National League, recognized for his achievements with six All-Star selections along with the National League MVP award in 1999.
Jones is also associated with his front toe tap in the batters' box, in which he taps his front toe to the timing of the incoming pitch.
One look at the attached photo and you will know why San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal made this list.
Marichal, who won 243 games during his career and had six 20-win seasons, defied gravity with his pronounced leg kick that often put his foot high above his head.
While Barry Bonds has taken a lot of heat for his supposed use of performing-enhancing drugs and being known as one of the more cantankerous individuals in baseball, he did have his own rituals that he abided by.
After every single home run, Bonds would kiss the cross at the end of the necklace after touching home plate, and would point up to the sky in apparent appreciation of receiving some type of divine help.
Relief pitcher Turk Wendell probably had more superstitions and rituals than any other ballplayer in history. Between brushing his teeth between innings, leaping over foul lines, and a myriad of other strange characteristics, Wendell just might be the king of MLB oddities.
One other famous Wendell trademark was that before the start of each inning, even before he threw a warmup pitch, he insisted on waving at his center fielder, and would not throw a ball until his center fielder waved back.
During the 15-year career of Cliff Johnson, he became the all-time leader in pinch-hit home runs, a record since broken by Matt Stairs in 2010.
Johnson also had the unusual trademark of going into the bat rack and grabbing any good bat he could find, never actually using his own.
Until last season, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland could almost always be seen in the dugout, puffing on his Marlboros. The city of Detroit instituted a ban last year on smoking in public places, so Leyland had to hide his habit.
Being a season-ticket holder for the Florida Marlins back in 1997, I would often see rings of smoke coming from the dugout, so you knew exactly where Leyland was sitting.
During the incredible career of Ted Williams, he became well-known for a particular trademark—or lack of trademark, depending upon how you look at it.
Williams was absolutely adored by the fans in Boston, however, he never once acknowledged their adulation with a tip of the cap.
In his rookie year of 1939, Williams hit 31 home runs, and had no problem tipping his cap. However, the following season, Williams slumped, and after making an error in one particular game and being booed, he vowed never to tip his cap again at Fenway Park.
However, as his legend grew in Boston, and fans came to love the Splendid Splinter, he stuck to his vow, even during his last at-bat in 1960 when hit a home run.
Former Major League Baseball great Eddie Collins, who served as general manager for the Red Sox from 1933-1947, once remarked: "If he'd just tip his cap once, he could be elected Mayor of Boston in five minutes."
Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, who is now just nine home runs short of 600 for his career, had made a living off the long ball.
Thome, before each pitch thrown while in the batters' box, famously points his bat in the direction of the field, something he attributes to helping with his timing of the pitcher's delivery.
When Fernando Valenzuela burst onto the scene in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, little was known about the youngster from Mexico. He had gotten a brief call-up the year before, but on April 9, 1981, Valenzuela was pressed into duty as a spot starter. And the rest is history.
Valenzuela went on win both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards that season, helping to lead the Dodgers to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees.
Valenzuela became known for his unique windup, during which he would look up to the sky before delivering his pitch.
When catcher Benito Santiago broke into the majors with the San Diego Padres, he became known for his 34-game hitting streak during his rookie season, setting a Major League Baseball record and earning him Rookie of the Year honors in 1987.
Santiago was also well known for his trademark throws to nab would-be base stealers, which isn't unusual upon itself, however, Santiago did it while throwing from his knees.
While relief pitcher Al Hrabosky was well-known for his nickname, "The Mad Hungarian," he was also well known for another trademark.
When Hrabosky was called out of the bullpen, after he arrived at the mound and took his instructions from the manager, he would amble behind the mound and meditate for a moment, then turn and smack his fist into his glove with a mighty scowl on his face.
Gary Sheffield had what could only be called a tempestuous career in the major leagues, often at odds with managers and team officials, and known for his famous temper. He was also a prolific hitter, amassing 509 home runs during his 22-year career.
Sheffield was also known for what was probably the most pronounced bat wiggle in the history of the majors. While he was at the plate, his bat was in constant helicopter motion up until the time the pitcher went into his delivery.
Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo burst onto the Major League Baseball scene in 1995 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning Rookie of the Year honors and throwing two no-hitters during his career.
Nomo was also instantly recognized by his extremely quirky windup, which eventually earned him the nickname "Tornado."
When Nomar Garciaparra came up with the Boston Red Sox in 1996, few people knew of his talents, and his quirks.
That quickly changed the following season, when Garciaparra won the American League Rookie of the Year award, and followed with consecutive batting titles in 1999 and 2000.
Garciaparra also became instantly known for his pre at-bat routine, famously tugging and re-tightening each batting glove, and then stepping in the batters' box and timing his toe-tapping with his practice swings.
There may have been no quirkier player on the pitcher's mound than Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych. After bursting onto the scene in 1976 with the Tigers, Fidrych literally became known as a household name, and not because of his 19-9 record, 2.34 ERA and Rookie of the Year honors.
Fidrych would talk to the ball, would throw a ball back to the umpire if he felt the ball still had hits left in it, and would also bend down and carefully manicure the mound at the start of each inning.
While Sammy Sosa was well known to Chicago fans for his ability to hit monstrous home runs, he became a household name, along with Mark McGwire, in 1998 while the two were chasing after the single-season home-run record held by Roger Maris.
Sosa also became known for his signature "bunny hop," making the trademark hop after every home-run clout.
There is no question that Mike Hargrove belongs on the top of this list. Hargrove, who played for the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians during his 12-year career, also won the American League's Rookie of the Year award in 1974.
Hargrove became known as "The Human Rain Delay" for his unusually long ritual of adjusting just about everything on his body before stepping into the batters' box.