Superstitions in Baseball and the Effects on Performance Trail (Park Ridge)
September 9, 1969: Ron Santo is on deck waiting to bat while eyeing a black cat running behind him on the field.
New York Yankee player jumping over the foul line after the completion of an inning.
Nick Lee of the Auburn Doubledays steps over the foul line before and after every inning he goes to the mound to pitch.
Backstory and Context
In the paper, one of the interviewees named Vince Lloyd talks about a second-hand account involving a former Chicago Cubs player, Ron Santo, in Park Ridge, Illinois. One superstition that seemed to “bother him the most” involved the Cubs third baseman, Ron Santo, “who stepped on third base at the end of each inning” (McNulty, 1966). When Vince was able to ask Ron later on after the game why he would do such a thing, Ron replied: “I have been doing it since I started in Little League and it has brought me a lot of good luck so far.” It seems as though this is a personal endeavor for Ron as it was something he lived by that got him a long way, all the way to the majors, even though it may have seem like a childish superstition. However, Ron believes this attributed to his good fortune, and that baseball has always been about luck and curses. This superstition truly seems to take a toll on Ron when later on Vince notes, “This can be shown to be true by the fact that he had one of his worst games last season when he forgot to touch third base after the third out had occurred. He struck out twice, and on a sure double, he was called out at first base for failure to touch it surrounding the bases” (McNulty, 1966).
Based on the results from this one game, this seemingly random superstition really did have some sort of effect on how well Ron would be performing. Whether or not the superstitions were true, they obviously had some sort of outcome for Ron personally, even if it was just for this single game. Another source from Baseball Superstitions, also discusses the notion of stepping on third base. An IU player at the time was recorded as saying, “I always step on third every time” (Phillips, 1981). This is something that the IU baseball team followed routinely. 15 years apart and we see two examples of the exact same superstition by 2 completely different players on teams and regions that were somewhat near each other. This parallel supports the continuing appearances and efforts of superstitions in baseball.
Another superstition that has struck many different areas of baseball throughout the United States and across time has consistently been the unspoken rule of: “no stepping on the foul line.” This is viewed as a universal baseball rule that is followed by many and known to be one of the most renowned baseball superstitions that still continues to this day. It is treated almost as common sense nowadays and those who don’t abide are shunned out. In an interview conducted by Gary Gates titled Carl Erskine talks about Baseball Tradition, Gary and Carl talk about the importance of not stepping on the chalk line and the consequences that one could suffer from doing it. They believe it is complete blasphemy to even think about stepping on the line and go as far as to say, “no player even with a tiny bit of superstition would ever step on a chalk line… never step on a chalk line” (Gates, 1961). Once again, another connecting parallel of this example is seen in Baseball Superstitions, which delves into superstitious acts that the IU baseball team followed in their club. One of the team’s most renowned rules for every player was “don’t step on the lines” (Phillips, 1981). Not following this particular rule could lead to misfortunate events such as the player who stepped on it going hitless in a game, or even worse, the team who stepped on the line would go on an unforeseen losing streak. This very act in itself has been known to lead to unsuccessful seasons and bad mojo for any team that commits this act of disrupting the evenly chalked foul lines.
It is evident throughout these sources that there is a pattern of recurring superstitious acts that players have held across time and that some of these superstitions do in fact play somewhat of a role in how well a player may perform. As is shown in McNulty’s interview, Ron Santo truly believed and lived by his personal suspicions and believed that they really would bring him fortune, or in the case of not stepping on the third base line a game of misfortune. We also see connections and similarities across the U.S. and on the IU team that go to show that these superstitions are being passed along from player to player and are seemingly becoming more popular with time. In our modern day and age, we are not only seeing an increase of superstitions in baseball but throughout our daily life as well that people continue to abide by.
Boman, Kim. "Superstitions of Baseball Players" 75/171, U.S., Indiana, Marion Co., Indianapolis. IU Archives at Bloomington, Indiana. November 26, 1976.
Gates, Gary. "Carl Erskine talks about Baseball tradition" 74/18, N. America, U.S, Indiana. IU Archives at Bloomington, Indiana. June, 1961.
McNulty, Terry C. "GSC 313, Jordan" 67/82, N. America, U.S., Illinois. IU Archives at Bloomington, Indiana. January 29, 1966.
Phillips, Pat. “Baseball Superstitions” 81/117 N. America, U.S., Indiana. IU Archives at Bloomington, Indiana. April, 1981.