“Two Strike Noise” is all about baseball. In its weekly episodes, hosts Mark and Jeff chat about Hall of Famers, baseball traditions, news, and more. They are often joined by baseball experts and guests such as author John Vampatella. Some of “Two Strike Noise’s” favorite topics include Red Sox history, but they picked superstitions and rituals in a fascinating episode.
Baseball is possibly the most superstitious of all sports. On “Two Strike Noise’s” “Superstitions” episode, Mark and Jeff unpack the strangest superstitions, some occurring on the field mid-game and others as pre-show rituals.
This spooky season, Podsauce has been interested in sports lore. We listened to podcast episodes on “The Curse of the Great Bambino,” and “The Curse of the Billy Goat,” which “Two Strike Noise” explains in this episode. They also describe ways people tried to undo the curses, such as ideas to burn contracts at Fenway Park and showing up to games with goats. In “The Curse of Colonel Sanders,” people dove into the river to retrieve the barnacled statue, which is now on display in Japan.
If you’re a baseball fan, you might realize how players refuse to touch the foul line. Players will jump over it and the hosts said they cringe whenever they see someone stepping on the line. Way back when, the foul line was not drawn with paint. Instead, the line was drawn with lye, a caustic chemical that could burn skin, cause blindness, or kill you if ingested. And lye could burn through players’ shoes. So this is why players would jump over it, and continue to follow suit today.
Pitcher Turk Windell
Pitcher Turk Windell is known as one of the most superstitious players of all time. Besides dramatically springing over the foul line, he would draw three crosses in the pitcher’s dirt mound, then lick the dirt from his finger in games. When starting innings, Turk would turn around and wave to the centerfielder then start when the centerfielder waved back. Apparently, Turk started the wave ritual when he played on Little League as a kid. Turk could not stand at the same time as the catcher. If the catcher stood, he’d squat.
As a health-conscious dude, Turk would chew black licorice instead of tobacco, but he didn’t like the way it made his teeth feel. Turk would brush his teeth after snacking during innings, and was often spotted, toothbrush in hand, in Wrigley Field’s dugout mid-game.
When Turk needed a new baseball, he asked the umpire to roll it to him across the field, and would step out of the way if the umpire threw it. Instead, he let it roll before retrieving it.
After claiming socks were “useless,” Turk adapted to wearing high-top cleats and that became a ritual. Turk wore a custom necklace filled with animal trophies from his hunts, complete with mountain lion claws and teeth from wild pigs and buffalo. As a fan of number 99, he wore the number at one point, and all his contracts had to end in 99.
Larry Walker was obsessed with the number 3. He did batting practices in multiples of three, would set his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, and his player’s number was even 33. He got married on November 3rd at 3:33PM. When he was with the Montreal Expos, he bought 33 tickets for disadvantaged kids for section 333 for every game.
Wade Boggs took his many rituals seriously. He would schedule batting practice at 5:17PM and sprint at 7:17PM. In the field, Wade wrote the Hebrew word for life, “chai,” in the dirt. Before each game, he ate chicken among other rituals.
From 1982-1984, Kevin played 41 Major League games. If he was tagged, he had to tag the player back. If a player escaped him before he could touch them back, he would write them a letter that substituted for a touch. Kevin would never turn right, and would turn himself all the way around if he had to.
Pitcher Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens had a pre-game routine including jumping into hot tubs or smearing hot ointment on his body. Before games, he would visit Babe Ruth’s plaque in the stadium, touch his forehead, and then rub the plaque.
These are just some of the many superstitions mentioned in this episode of “Two Strike Noise.” Jeff and Mark said they enjoyed this topic so much, they’ll have to include more superstitious-based episodes on their podcast.
To learn more about sports lore, check out this full episode of “Two Strike Noise” and Podsauce’s spooky sports coverage this season.