There is probably some level of superstition in every sport, but in general, baseball players are the most superstitious bunch of athletes out there. Ask any ballplayer and you will learn that they have a lucky bat or a specific routine that they believe enhances their game.

It is silly, we know, to believe that a pair of unwashed socks have the power to add points to the scoreboard, yet athletes continue to cling to lucky talismans, assign power to rituals, and even believe in curses. Let’s look at a few of the most bizarre baseball superstitions we’ve found.

The Role of Superstitions

Curses and lucky charms aside, superstitions are causal relationships gone awry. In typical causal relationships, there is an obvious correlation between the activity and the result. For example, the activity of putting your hand over a flame results in you getting burned because, of course, fire is hot.

Source: Chicago Tribune

In a causal relationship gone awry, there is no real, provable correlation between the activity and the result. If, for example, a pitcher fails to eat his Wheaties for breakfast and then cannot strike out the batters, there is no way to prove that his choice of breakfast cereals directly correlates to his ability to pitch. The correlation is imaginary.

Superstitions Give Us a Sense of Control

Although most of us know that superstitions are not real, many people still put stock in them. Why is that? The answer is simple … by engaging in an activity with a superstitious causal relationship, we feel a sense of control in a situation in which we have no control.

Source: Unsplash/KS KYUNG

The outcome of a baseball game depends on many different factors. An individual player really only has control over his own activities. But when they engage in a superstitious activity, they feel like they are doing something that will have a positive impact on the end result … even if they know deep down that it doesn’t.

The Steve Bartman Incident

Poor Steve Bartman just wanted to cheer on his Chicago Cubs in a MLB post-season game against the Florida Marlins on October 14, 2003. It was game 6 of the National League Championship Series and the Cubs were leading going into the eighth inning when Marlin’s hitter Luis Castillo hit a ball into foul territory. As the ball came near, Steve Bartman instinctively reached out to catch it.

Source: Youtube/MLB

Cubs outfielder Moises Alou attempted to catch the foul ball – which would have been the Cubs’ second out of the inning – but Bartman got to the ball first. After that, the Cubs simply fell apart. They allowed eight runs to score that inning and lost the game and the championship. For Cubs diehards, Steve Bartman embodied the curse that had been tailing the Chicago Cubs for nearly a century.

The “Chicken Man” Wade Boggs

Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs truly believed in superstitions. He once said in a press conference, “Believe me, I have a few superstitions, and they work!” One superstitious ritual he had was to eat a hefty meal of chicken before each game … which earned him the nickname “Chicken Man.”

Source: Major League Baseball

His superstitions didn’t stop there. At every practice, he fielded exactly 150 ground balls … no more and no less. He had a pair of lucky socks that he wore during every game. As he approached the batter’s box for every at-bat, Boggs went through his pre-bat ritual. He wrote the Hebrew word for “life” in the dirt with his bat then used his left foot to wipe the dirt. After that, he tapped his glove three times and straightened his hat. Then he was ready to bat.

Greg Swindell’s Lucky Fingernail

It is not uncommon to see a pitcher chewing tobacco or bubble gum on the mound, but left-handed pitcher Greg Swindell, who played for several MLB teams from 1986 to 2002, had a rather gross superstition regarding the item he chewed on the mound.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Action SuperStars

Prior to each game, Swindell would chew off one of his own fingernails. He then kept the fingernail in his mouth, chewing on it throughout the game. He believed this stomach-turning ritual brought him good luck.

Roger Clemens and Babe Ruth

Between 1999 and 2003, Roger Clemens pitched for the New York Yankees. Before each game, Clemens tried to channel the great Babe Ruth to watch over him and help him excel in the game. To do this, he ducked into Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Ed Brown

This open-air baseball museum is located right at the stadium in the Bronx and features retired jerseys, plaques, statues, and memorabilia from many of the greatest players to play the sport. Clemens went straight to the statue of Babe Ruth and wiped the brow of the bronze Babe as a way to capture a bit of Ruth’s good luck.

Rico Carty’s Bizarre Toilet Ritual

During the early 1970s, Rico Carty of the Atlanta Braves was one of the league’s best hitters. In fact, he won the batting title in 1970 with his .366 batting average. He credited his hot bat with his strange and bizarre toilet ritual.

Source: Unsplash/Niklas Hamann

Before each game – whether it was a home game or a road game – Carty would float five candles in his toilet and light them for good luck. To him, the five flaming toilet candles represented a five-hit game. Yes, he packed floating candles in his suitcase and performed this ritual in hotel bathrooms, too.

Justin Verlander’s Very Specific Taco Bell Order

Houston Astros pitcher Justing Verlander is like many baseball players in that he has a strict routine that he follows prior to each game. Deviating from this routine, he believes, will upset the baseball energies and result in a bad game. One of these routines involves the dinner he eats the night before each game.

Source: Taco Bell

No, Verlander doesn’t eat spaghetti to help him load up on carbs or a salad to take it easy on his digestive system. Quite the opposite, in fact. Verlander visits the closest Taco Bell and orders the exact same menu items – three crunchy taco supremes with no tomatoes, a Mexican pizza (also with no tomatoes), and a cheesy gordita crunch.

Jason Giambi’s Magical Gold Thong

Yes, you read that right. First baseman Jason Giambi, who played from 1995 to 2014, had a magical gold thong that brought him luck. Whether he was wearing the uniform of the Oakland Athletics, the New York Yankees, the Colorado Rockies, or the Cleveland Indians, Giambi often had a shiny gold thong under his clothes.

Source: Barstool Sports

Giambi was generous with his lucky talisman. He offered to let several of his teammates wear his lucky gold thong when they were in need of some assistance from the baseball gods. And, reportedly, many players took him up on the offer. Among them was Derek Jeter who donned the magical gold thong to help him get over a slump.

Strange Rituals from Baseball’s Greats

Considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Satchel Paige rubbed axle grease on his throwing arm before each game. That’s odd, but a lot better than Moises Alou’s ritual of urinating on his own hands. As disgusting as that is, Alou swore his pee toughened his skin and gave him good luck.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Acme Newspictures

Dick Stuart, who was called “Dr. Strangeglove” when he played in the major leagues from 1958 to 1966, has a peculiar pre-game ritual. He chewed a piece of gum and then threw it across home plate. His rationale was that if the gum could cross home, so could he.

Don’t Mess with the Billy Goat

Perhaps the best-known curse and superstition in baseball is the Chicago Cubs’ Billy goat curse. As the story goes, William Sianis and his pet Billy goat, Murphy, went to Wrigley Field in Chicago to watch the Cubs play in the 1945 World Series. The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908 so hopes were high in the Windy City.

Source: Chicago Tribune

The goat, however, caused a disruption in the stands. Sianis and Murphy were kicked out of the game. Irate, Sianis shouted, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” He was right. The Cubs lost the World Series and continued to lose — thanks to the curse of the Billy goat – until 2016 when the curse was finally broken.