Baseball Superstitions by Pat Phillips
Pat Phillips 1981 folklore paper on baseball superstitions
Backstory and Context
In this document, Phillips argues that superstition is a part of folklore, calling it "folk belief." He went into the report with three questions, are superstitions passed down between players, are they taught informally or formally, are these rituals conscious or unconscious. To answer these questions he interviewed three baseball players at Indiana University, all three were from separate towns. The three players he interviewed were Jay, a Senior, was a center fielder from Illinois, Larry, a sophomore, was a pitcher from Michigan, and Harold, a junior, who played short stop and was from Illinois. By interviewing these players he hoped to draw more stories about their superstitions out of them.
In the document, Phillips has transcribed the interview he conducted with these three players. During which he uncovers several important details about the players superstitions. For instance Harold at first denied having any superstition, he quickly revealed he had many, such as always touching the same base when he ran out to the field and eating the same food if his team was wining. One of the largest trends he uncovered with these three players was their obsession with clothing. Many of their superstitions involved clothing, whether it was wearing the same socks for every game or reversing an armband when they started a losing streak. After looking through the transcripts, its's easy to see that Baseball players are superstitious, even if they would never call themselves so.
Looking beyond this document, it's plain to see that the history of superstition among baseball player's is heavily documented. In a blog post by the Indiana University Archives, Matthew Meyer writes about superstitious baseball players. Meyer mentions Dodgers pitcher Billy Lowes and his superstitions such as sitting on the same spot on the dugout and wearing the same clothes to every game. Meyer also mentions Cubs Phil Cavaretta who would always take two practice swings and then hit his own spit out of the air for the third. Another source we can compare this document to is Rachel Marcus' ESPN article, where she interviewed current players in the College World Series about their superstitions. She also found a trend of superstitious players, and just like Phillips' document, modern college players focus on clothing and food. This shows how the superstitions surrounding college Baseball has not changed in 40 years.
This document is significant because it gives us an insight into the superstition of college and high school level players. When research is done on player's superstition, it is usually always conducted on Major League players. But Phillips has broadened the area of study that can be done on player's superstition, if only by three college level athletes. As later entries on this trail will show, the superstitions that surround baseball have changed very little over the years, and can be found in every level of play.
Baseball Superstition by Pat Phillips, 1981, C627, Box 34, 81/117, Indiana University Folklore Institute student papers, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, Indiana
“Blogging Hoosier History .” Blogging Hoosier History (blog). Indiana University Archives , March 28, 2019. https://blogs.libraries.indiana.edu/iubarchives/2019/03/28/superstitions-in-baseball/.
Marcus, Rachel. “College World Series Players Dish on Their Best Superstitions.” ESPN, June 21, 2019. https://www.espn.com/college-sports/baseball/cws/story/_/id/27009181/college-world-series-players-dish-their-best-superstitions?platform=amp.
Indiana University Archives