Halloween may have come and gone but Friday the 13th has officially arrived, bringing with it all kinds of spooky tidings and potential bad luck.
For baseball players, the concept of luck can be a fickle but highly important component to a successful game, season or even career, and many have gone to extreme measures to try and keep Lady Luck on their side.
From Little League on, every ballplayer has their opinions on things like rally caps, stepping (or not stepping) on the foul line chalk or remembering to wear their lucky socks, and those kinds of traditions can follow a player all the way to the big leagues.
Here now we’ll take a look at some of the notable superstitions over the years that members of the New York Yankees have employed in the hopes of fostering good luck out on the field.
The mammoth Yankees outfielder doesn’t need much extra help when it comes to finding success at the plate or in the field, but one ritual he’s utilized has to do with his chewing gum routine. At the start of each game, Judge told YES Network back in 2017, he pops two fresh pieces of gum into his mouth. If he gets a hit, the wad of gum stays. If he doesn’t, out goes the old wad and in go two new pieces. If all goes well, No. 99 will finish his day with a flavorless, over-chewed piece of gum that’s been between his jaws for hours, but he’d surely trade that unpleasantness for a 4-for-4 day at the dish.
Nicknamed “The Rocket,” the seven-time Cy Young Award winner Clemens was as formidable a force on the mound during his career as anyone in baseball. Clemens spent six seasons with the Yankees, striking out over 1,000 batters in pinstripes, but before every home game he made sure to pay Monument Park a visit to touch the head of Babe Ruth’s statue for good luck.
Even off the field, Clemens wanted to keep the good vibes going by giving each of his four sons names beginning with the letter “K” -- Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody. When all was said and done, Clemens retired with 4,672 strikeouts, the third-most in baseball history, so perhaps the superstition worked.
Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, a.k.a. Mr. October, was one of the most prolific hitters of his era, collecting 563 home runs and a lifetime WAR of 74.0. His tenure with the Yankees from 1977 to 1981 consisted of five straight All-Star seasons, four years receiving MVP votes and a Silver Slugger in 1980. Jackson was not short on talent by any means, but he grew so fond of the batting helmet he wore as a Bomber that when he signed with the Angels after the 1981 season, he kept the same Yankees helmet and had Angels logos and colors painted over it so he could continue to wear it with his new club.
Most people prefer a diet full of variety and different flavors to keep things fresh and interesting, but for Wade Boggs, famously known as “Chicken Man,” that was hardly the case. Before every game, Boggs maintained a strict routine that began with an entire chicken for dinner, which he ate before every game of his career dating back to his rookie year in 1982. He even published a book of his favorite chicken recipes aptly titled Fowl Tips.
“[Boggs] began eating chicken at least once a day in 1982, won the batting title the next season and hasn't changed his culinary habits since,” wrote Ira Berkow for the New York Times in 1985. “He credits his success in baseball to a daily diet of that plump bird, which he finds not only delectable but exceedingly healthful.” Boggs retired with a .328 career batting average and more than 3,000 hits, so perhaps there really was something to his pregame chicken ritual.
It’s hard to pinpoint a more quirky superstition than the one used by former Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, who sported a “gold lamé thong with a flame-line waistband” underneath his pants when he needed to break out of a slump, Mark Feinsand reported back in 2008.
“It works every time,” said Giambi, who first began using the thong method as early as 1996 during his days with the Oakland Athletics. The ritual was so successful, in fact, that other members of the Yankees including Derek Jeter gave it a try, but not before it was properly laundered in between uses.
Just goes to show what lengths a player might go to just to get a base hit.