It's no secret that out of all athletes, baseball players are the most superstitious. As an ex-player, I can attest to this. In the 14 years that I played, I never once spoke about a big game out of fear of jinxing it. Whenever I came to bat (this was primarily in high school), I took four practice swings: one for my brother, one for my sister and one for each of my parents.
Yet, on the professional level, baseball players seem to take superstition to a whole new level. Whether it's always eating the same meal before each game, avoiding certain actions on the field or some crazy fashion decision, baseball players take their rituals seriously. To give an example, former pitcher Roger Clemens (pictured) always used to wipe his sweat on the Babe Ruth monument in center field when he was with the New York Yankees.
That is just one of many Clemens superstitions that will be discussed later, but let's also talk about some of his fellow players. Here are the Top 10 most superstitious baseball players in MLB history.
Nicknamed "The Bird" because of his apparent resemblance to a certain Sesame Street character, pitcher Mark Fidrych certainly established himself as one of baseball's quirkiest players during his four major league seasons. Whenever he pitched, he would literally talk to the ball and bark instructions at it. On top of that, he would constantly reject balls his catcher threw back to him for "having a hit in them."
The 1976 AL Rookie of the Year was forced to retire in 1980 because of chronic arm problems, but there's no denying that when he was playing regularly, he was the most superstitious player of his time.
In baseball, there is one superstition that I still don't quite understand. Apparently, it's bad luck to step on the foul line. Former New York Yankees pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez made a point of avoiding stepping on the line every game he started.
Given how after his first couple of years in the majors, Hernandez's numbers dropped immensely, perhaps a step on the foul line would have done him good.
Much like Hernandez, Oliver Perez also made a habit of avoiding the foul line. Yet, rather than merely step over it, he would do a little bunny hop. Again, perhaps actually stepping on the line would have aided him during recent and forgettable tenure with the New York Mets.
Here we have one of the strangest and funniest superstitions in the history of the game. In 2008, first baseman Jason Giambi (then with the New York Yankees) was mired in a horrible batting slump. Rather than try to adjust his swing or his timing, Giambi chose to work through his batting woes another way: wear a gold lace women's thong he had received as a joke gift in 1996.
As crazy as this sounds, wearing the thong worked and Giambi went on a tear, ultimately finishing the season as one of the Yankees' most productive players. Even crazier, he apparently convinced teammates Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter to wear the thong when they were in slumps. I'm not sure how much I believe that part, but Jason Giambi and his golden lingerie will definitely cement their place in history among baseball's most superstitious players.
Many of you have probably never heard of Turk Wendell, and that doesn't surprise me at all. He was never really a household name and spent practically all of his career as a middle reliever/setup man. Yet, based on superstitions and personality alone (moreso the latter), Wendell was the Brian Wilson of his time.
First, Wendell made a point to slam the rosin bag to the ground before throwing a pitch. While pitching, he would chew four pieces of black licorice instead of the tobacco that most players chewed at the time. In between innings, he could be found brushing his teeth in the dugout. Not the locker room, but the dugout!
Yet, Wendell's most notable superstition was his infatuation with the number 99. Not only was it the number he wore throughout most of his career, but he insisted that his contract with the New York Mets be worth exactly $9,999,999.99
Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Turk Wendell practically wrote the book on superstition.
Out of all of the players of his generation, Nomar Garciaparra was easily the most superstitious. He would get dressed the same way each morning and would always walk up the dugout steps one by one, making sure to put both feet on each step. Yet, his primary superstition was one that infuriated the opposition.
Before facing any pitch, Garciaparra would tap home plate with his bat, adjust his batting gloves, touch his helmet and do many other uniform-related actions before settling in to let the pitcher do his job. I can only imagine what umpire Joe West thought of Garciaparra's actions. If he's going to point any fingers about teams slowing down the game, perhaps he should blame Garciaparra first!
We've already briefly touched on the superstitions of Roger Clemens, but let's discuss them in greater detail. Whenever pitching in Yankee Stadium, Clemens always made a point to wipe some sweat on and touch the head of Babe Ruth in Monument Park before going to take the mound. Besides that, Clemens also apparently changed his jersey multiple times throughout games he started.
Yet, the craziest of Clemens's superstitions comes in the naming of his children. He and his wife, Debbie, have four sons: Koby, Kacy, Kory and Kody. All four were named to honor their father's strikeouts, sometimes referred to as K's in baseball.
I don't know whether his sons being named after his strikeouts means that Clemens is superstitious, full of himself or both, but it's pretty crazy just the same.
Before he was a successful manager for teams like the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners, Mike Hargrove was easily the most superstitious player of his time. He took his batting ritual so seriously that opposing players referred to him as "The Human Rain Delay."
Hargrove's batting process was as follows: walk up the first base line, take three swings, get in batter's box, adjust uniform a million times, use elbow to wipe sweat from lip, dig hole with left foot and tap helmet. Keep in mind, if a pitcher began his windup before Hargrove was done, the frustrated hitter would call time and begin all over again.
Some batters undergo similar rituals, but only do it for the first pitch. Not Hargrove. He pulled his batter's box shenanigans with each and every pitch, and opposing teams fumed.
Throughout his entire 18-season career, Wade Boggs was considered one of the most superstitious players not just of his time, but in baseball history. He ate chicken before every game and was thus dubbed "Chicken Man" by Boston Red Sox teammate Jim Rice. When up at bat, he would always draw the Hebrew word "Chai," or life, into the dirt.
Yet Boggs's most interesting quirks were seen in his pregame warmups. In fielding practice, he took exactly 100 ground balls. He always started batting practice at 5:17 and hit 150 balls. He began his springs at 7:17.
If a player today did that, he would be labeled as crazy by fans, writers and experts. However, let's not forget that Wade Boggs is a Hall of Famer. That being said, his rituals must have counted for something.
On paper, Kevin Rhomberg is a forgettable player. In parts of three seasons with the Cleveland Indians, he only appeared in 41 games for his career. Yet, he is still No. 1 on this countdown.
Let me put it this way. If I had to give Rhomberg a nickname, it would be "Mr. OCD." In his short career, Rhomberg had a crazy habit of touching.
If someone touched him, he had to touch them right back. If he was tagged out running the bases, he would be sure to touch the fielder who committed the act as soon as the teams switched sides. I don't know about you, but having a teammate obsessed with touching me and other people if we so much as made contact with him would drive me nuts.
Still, as unconventional and as crazy as it is, Kevin Rhomberg is easily the top superstitious player in baseball history. To think anyone else is would just be wrong.