Baseball is an uncertain game, and can change in an instant, so I asked my informant, a long time player, if he had any particular routines that he has never broken, and what this does.
RC: “I don’t know, each time I hit, I go out and readjust each batting glove once, then I hit the plate twice; I do this in-between each pitch. It’s a repeated habit and you don’t want to get out of that habit. If, not, it would get you out of your rythum and get out of your head.”
Me: Do you or anyone ever change these habits?
RC: “Often people change if they want to get out of a funk. So if you are in a slump, and you go pants up all the time or pants down all the time, and if you go into a slump sometimes you change to see if can get you out of a slump, same goes for batting gloves or no batting gloves or pulling out the pocket of your pants. Stuff like that, small changes that can change your entire mind and pull you out of a funk.”
Sports, especially baseball are full of small superstitions such as these. This is most likely because the game is so uncertain, and often out of a single player’s hand, that they will do anything that will boost their luck. Luck is often the center of such superstitions, they will do anything to get luck and avoid poor luck. The game can change in an instant and to players the difference is in the details such as pants or gloves. Because the game is so based on repetitions and routine, any small change is highly noticeable to the player, which is why change to “get out of a funk” is so impactful on their mindset. Knowing that there is a change, and something may come of it, affects a player’s whole mindset. Additionally these routines are assurance that I can play good in this game despite anything else because before when I have done this, I have done well. There is also comfort in routine and in such a high stress games, these little routines and habits are a comfort to the player.
Me: “So what is the general idea of the rally caps?”
Informant: “Ever since I have played baseball I have known about ‘rally caps.’ Essentially, when playing a baseball game, if a team is down in the later part of the game, it is tradition to wear the baseball caps inside out and/or backwards. I’m not sure exactly why this is but it’s a superstition that is believed from kids all the way up to professional players.”
Me: “Does it matter whether the hat is inside out or backwards or both?”
Informant:”Typically the hats are worn inside out and then if the players want to, they can wear them backwards.”
Me: “Do you have any personal experiences with the rally caps actually working?”
Informant: “Yeah actually when I was a Freshman in high school, we were down by three runs in the bottom of the 7th inning, which is the last inning in high school baseball. We were the last ones at bat because we were playing at home. Realistically, we didn’t think we were going to win but some of us just put our hats on inside out to see if somehow the rally cap could trigger a win. Ironically enough, the first pitch of the inning we hit a home run. From that point on we knew it had to be the rally caps, haha. The next batter grounded out but then the next two batters got hits. Eventually we scored in the runs and won the game. Because we put the rally caps on from the start, our superstition was confirmed.. Well at least for the time being.”
Me:”Do you know where you first heard about the rally caps from?”
Informant:”Honestly I have no idea. It was just one of those things that you know growing up as a baseball player.”
Analysis: Like many other superstitions, this form of Folklore was a superstition that involved an item used within the particular sport. The roots of this lore are unknown but continue to be widely used in all levels of baseball. One can see players with stacks of inside-out caps on their heads during the latter parts of baseball games.
Information of the Informant: The informant is my brother who played baseball up until he was seventeen years old. He is an avid baseball watcher and could essentially state every stat from every player in the MLB.
Information on the Informant: The informant, Awari Muoneke, is one of my best friends who is currently a college baseball player (he plays outfield) at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has played baseball his entire life and has always been one of the best players on the field when he played. He grew up in Rolling Hills Estates, California and attended Loyola High school. He is of Nigerian descent and is about as big of a baseball fan as you can possibly be. He is currently 19 years old and turns 20 in November of 2016.
Me: “So what exactly is your superstition with baseball?”
Informant: “I never step on the chalk lines that go through the base paths on a baseball field. Every time I run out to go to the outfield I jump over the chalk lines because I feel like it will jinx my performance on the field.”
Me: “Is there any reason exactly why you do this?”
Informant: “Well, when I was about 11 years old in little league, we were in the playoffs for my All-Star team. It was the later part of the game and we were up by two runs. I had never thought about the whole stepping on the chalk thing before but for some reason when I ran out to the outfield in the last inning I noticed because I stepped on the chalk and it got all over my cleats. I went in to the outfield and within 20 minutes we gave up three runs and lost the game. Being an 11 year old kid, I got unnecessarily upset and cried because I was so devastated about the game. From that point on I really just made it my mission to never step on the chalk. I’ve lost many games without stepping on the chalk but for some reason I just feel like if I jump over it, something better will happen.”
Me: “Do you have any current or former teammates who did this?”
Informant:”Actually, yeah. I’ve seen teammates do this but I’m not really sure if its for the same reason or something different.”
Analysis: Unlike some other superstitions in sports, this one started for the informant because of a personal reason. It was interesting to find out that he has teammates who also did the same thing but not necessarily for the same reason. To this day, in college baseball, he still jumps over the chalk just as a personal habit. Although the act started at a superstition for good luck, it could be possible that he just does it as of habit now because it started 8 years ago.
Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.
Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.
“J: We’re at game four, 2012 playoffs, and it was the As- Tigers. I’ve been an A’s fan my whole life, I grew up an As fan, even when my brother switched teams… I idolized him when I was a kid… I stayed an A’s fan, beacuse I love the As! This was the first time since the playoffs that I really cared a lot alot, I mean I cared when I was a kid but I started getting more and more interest and this is the first time they went to the playoffs in 7 years.
So we were really excited, they weren’t supposed to make the playoffs, they weren’t even supposed to win 70 games… they were the worst team in baseball. So we were at this game and it was a, if they win they got a, they got to play the next game but if they lost it was over. Everything was done for.
Me: Mmmm hmmm
J: So in this game they were losing 3-1 at the bottom of the ninth, and we were just depressed, thinking it was over with, we’re done. Except for they started to rally and they rallied, and this, Seth Smith went up and hit the game tying two win double. Everyone just started going crazy, we all started jumping up and down… we couldn’t breathe we were so excited and actually the guy behind me didn’t really think it was going to happen as well, because the whole stadium was kind of praying that this would happen. It was against the best closer in the game, and he got up and got really excited and actually spilled his beer on my shirt. I didn’t really think anything of it because I was so happy that we were winning. I noticed it after it happen and was like “oh my god you spilled beer on my shirt”, he tried to clean it up but it didn’t really work it was already past, we were celebrating for like five minutes.
And so, after that happened, with two outs, the same guy on second. Coco Crisp went up and hit a game winning RBI single and the whole place went crazy. That was one of the coolest if not the best game I ever went too. Period.
J: I felt like that shirt, every since it happened, had to be lucky. They did this amazing thing, this improbable thing. It’s something that no one could have ever seen them doing. Since that day, any time I got to an As game, I wear jerseies over it since it still has a stain and everything but I wear my shirt over that jersey, and every since that year they’ve got back to the playoffs every single time.
So I believe anytime I wear that shirt under my jersey, they got back to the playoffs.
Me: The next game in the playoffs, did they win that, were you wearing your jersey?
J: No. We went straight to it the next day, we were trying to do everything to make them do better but I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time, I just thought “beer-spilt shirt”. I think maybe if I wore it it would of been better, I really think it would of been better seeing how good the shirts been every since then…
Granted the As lost the next game, and unfortunately they lost the playoff series, but I felt like that shirt, ever since that happened had to be lucky. Because they just did this amazing thing, this improbable thing, that no one ever could have seen them doing. They just did it. So since that day, whenever I go to an As game, I wear jerseys over it, because it still, it still has a stain on it and everything, but I wear that shirt under my jersey, ever since that year they’ve gone back to the playoffs every single time. So I believe that as long as I wear that shirt under my jersey, they’ll go back to the playoffs.
Me: That next game that they lost that, did you not wear your jersey?
J: No. I wasn’t at it.
Me: Do you feel personally responsible for the loss of the As?
J: A little bit. I’d rather not. I mean it was just a hard game and we just got back, we were actually at football practice and we came back and we were all sweaty and the game was on and we just went straight to it at one of my friends house. We were trying to everything to make them do better, but I didn’t have my jersey on. I didn’t think about it at the time after, because I just thought it was just this weird old shirt. But, after maybe if I wore it it would have been better. I really think it would have been better seeing how good the shirt has been ever since then, but i’d rather not take blame for it because it was really depressing.”
Analysis: The informant J has this folk belief that his shirt is “lucky” and can influence how his team plays. Although he doesn’t seem exactly sure that his jersey has this strong influence, and he cannot prove it does, he still has the belief that if he does not wear it, his team won’t do as well. He even mentioned that he feels some responsibility for having his team lose when he didn’t wear the jersey, and he really thought it would have gone better if he had. Folk beliefs around lucky items of clothing, especially for sports teams, seems very popular. Many times the people who wear the lucky items of clothing do not want to question its validity in case this somehow takes the luck away. This can lead to wide spread beliefs such as the one J explained above.
In high school on the baseball team, we had this pregame ritual … and we did this thing and it changes from year to year, um, um, on what it’s called. But, usually it’s called the Beaver Call.
We get in a circle behind the dugout and we do this… well my senior year, we tried to change it to the rat call for this guy, “Rat”, and uh.. there are talks of my brother being in the middle next year and they’d call it the Budde Call (pronounced like booty call).
But basically you just jump up and down like idiots and do this chant.
Beaver 1, Beaver All
Let’s all do the Beaver Call
(makes noise with mouth)
Beaver 2, Beaver 3
Let’s all climb the Beaver Tree
(mimes climbing a tree)
Beaver 4, Beaver 5
Let’s all do the Beaver Jive
Beaver 6, Beaver 7
Let’s all go to Beaver Heaven
(points up, dances more)
Beaver 8, Beaver 9
Stop! It’s BEAVER TIME!
(freaks out, dances/jumps crazily)
Was the Beaver your school mascot?
Why did you do this?
Tradition. It was just like every year we did it- it’s a pregame warmup. And it hypes you up for the game.
How long has it been a part of your team?
No idea… well beyond my knowledge.
How do you learn it?
Just from older guys on the team before it. Just Varsity does it. So, sort of yeah, a rite of passage.
I asked my friend to tell me if he had any baseball rituals because I knew he played in high school. This was the only one he had, but he let me record him doing it while he got ready for a formal event, which I thought was very funny. It was supposed to be a one on one collection, but his roommate, a separate informant, was in the room and interjected that he had also done the Beaver Call except at his camp.
Sports rituals, especially ones that are only for the Varsity team or older players, also seem to be rites of passage. I wouldn’t be surprised if kids on the JV and freshman teams also know the Beaver Call but know not to do it until they are in that inner group and have the honor to dance about.
Also, it was interesting how perfectly he remembered it and told it without embarrassment.
My informant is a 47 year old psychotherapist from Hermosillo, Sonora, in northern Mexico, who currently resides in Mexico City with his wife (my aunt) and two young sons. He told this joke at a family meal in Mexico, during a very long exchange of jokes among family members.
“Anda un vato de Nabojoa en el supermercado así gateando en el piso todo así *lowers down* y entonces anda en el super aqui y se encuentra con un vato de Guaymas, y que le dice “y que andas haciendo guey” “pos aqui buscando los precios mas bajos!”
Es regionalismo, la gente de Guaymas y Hermosillo se sienten superiores a los de Nabojoa.”
“Donde lo oiste?”
“En el estadio de beisbol, en un juego entre los Naranjeros de Hermosillo y los Mayos de Nabojoa.”
“A dude from Nabojoa is at the supermarket like that crawling on the floor all like this” (lowers down) “and then he’s in the supermarket there and he finds himself with a dude from Guaymas, and who tells him ‘and what are you doing man’ ‘well I’m just here looking for the lowest prices!’ It’s regionalism, the people from Guaymas and Hermosillo feel like they’re superior to those from Nabojoa.”
“Where did you hear it?”
“In the baseball stadium, at a game between the Hermosillo Naranjeros and the Nabojoa Mayos.”
I have another take on this joke from my informant’s son, who knows a different version where the guy on the floor is just a son and the guy asking him what he’s doing is a mom instead. I think it makes sense that the younger boy knew this version because of what it has to do with being young and misunderstanding things. His father, on the other hand, associates the joke with a rivalry between his hometown and another Sonoran town, especially since he heard it at a baseball game between his hometown team and the opposing team. So while his son uses the joke to play on his identity as a young person and a son, his father uses it to play on his identity as a person from Hermosillo.
This informant is my roommate, who grew up in Laguna Hills. He played baseball up until high school, when he quit to play lacrosse.
Baseball has a ton of superstitions and lots of players do weird shit, like never wash their socks if they are on a winning streak or something, but the “Rally Cap” is known by all players. It doesn’t matter if you are in Little League or the Majors but if your team is losing and you need a good inning everyone wears their hats upside-down, which is suppose to make your team play better or hit homeruns or something.
I know from my few years in Little League that the rally cap is a very prominent folk belief in baseball regardless of how effective it really is. While neither my informant nor myself know how it originated, I can guess that it stuck into the baseball culture because of the “hat’s” importance to the sport. Many people refer to hats as “baseball caps,” regardless of the embroidering on them and hats really aren’t worn in any other sport, making them unique to baseball. From this perspective it sort of makes sense that a folk belief like this stuck for good. Altering an item of clothing that embodies baseball seems natural, especially when a hats appearance is so easy to change by flipping it.
The informant (my father) grew up in various areas of California, but spent his high school years in Chino, CA and has lived in the Rancho Cucamonga area for most of his adult life. He has been an avid baseball fan for as long as I can remember and sometimes refers going to Angels games as a child and knows a lot of the history behind how the Angels teams has moved around and changed names(from Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, etc.) Though we did not go to a lot of games when I was a kid, he listens to most games on the radio or watches them on TV, much to the good-natured annoyance of anyone who wanted to watch or listen to something else.
I asked my father if he had any good luck charms or rituals and he explained briefly about what he does to make the Angels win, though he noted “it didn’t seem to be helping lately,” as the Angels are not doing very well this season. He said he feels like if he accidentally neglects to listen or watch the games that the Angels will not do as well. It did not seem that watching/listening more was “good luck” but that watching/listening less was “bad luck.” He also drinks out of a special Angels cup gotten from some promotion years ago to help the Angels win. The cup is old, but has a near-permanent place on the kitchen counter in my parents’ house.
Interestingly enough, my dad did not mention any of the things that the Angels fans are known for, like the rally monkey that comes out if they are tied or losing in the 7th inning, or any of the phrases typically associated with the Angels like “bring out the red.” Additionally, there was no special mention of any Angels clothing even though he has multiple Angels t-shirts and baseball caps that he wears regularly throughout the year. He seems to focus on his attention and specific actions as what is important to helping the Angels succeed. Even though the outcome of the game is not changed by actions and I think he understands this for the most part. The most important part of this idea of good luck is remembering to drink out of his cup and watch/listen to the game. It is more about his attention to them than it is about the action of drinking out of a special cup.
Okay, uh, in like, um, in like 2000, so like the 2000, 2001, baseball season, uh, the Los Angeles Angels, who, er, at the time they were the Anaheim Angels, uh, they were losing in a regular season game with the Giants, and, uh, during like the bottom of the 8th inning, uh, one of the, on the Jumbo Tron, one of the graphics people, uh, played a clip from Ace Ventura, the Jim Carrey movie, that had like uh, uh, a foot long monkey running around, and they wrote, uh, “Rally Monkey” on it, and so the crowd that went to the Jumbo Tron, and I guess they kind of laughed about it, and in that inning the Angels came back and won, and so that became a huge phenomenon for like Angels fans and stuff. Even throughout the MLB it was like a iconic thing. It was like the Rally Monkey they would call it. And, uh, it got to the point they would bring, they actually, the Angeles organization actually bought like a monkey, I guess, and they had like a little Angel’s hat, and they’d bring it out, uh, in between innings. And the crowd would go crazy for it, and they started selling, uh, like plush toys of it that people would buy. Like I had one. And, um, so like whenever in the later end, the later innings, when the Angel’s were losing, uh, you’d like swing the monkey around, so you’re in the stadium, there’d be like hundreds—like thousands of people, all just like swinging monkeys around, and yelling, like, “Rally Monkey time!” And in the 2002 season, uh, they ended up winning the World Series, and it was like at the height of like the Rally Monkey era, like they would play it on the Jumbo Tron and it was like there were known for like, “Oh, the Rally Monkey!” stuff. And so they won the World Series and that’s the highest honor you can get, and so that was like a huge part of the season. And, um, after that season the Rally Monkey was around, but they started losing a lot, and now it’s gone forever. And it was kind of like, uh, a 2 season thing that’s gone now.
This is the story of the rise and fall of a sports tradition. The Rally Monkey was a superstitious, homeopathic form of magic, where swinging a plush monkey could bring luck to the players of the Angels. The tradition died after the Angels won the World Series and started losing, and it is now a part of the team’s and the fans’ heritage. Knowing about the Rally Monkey also was a way of creating group identity and community. One had to be initiated into the team fan group to be aware of the superstition, and to understand why Ace Ventura would play at the Angels games. At the time you were not really a fan unless you knew the tradition and participated.
Uh, so baseball players are really superstitious, because it’s a really slow game unlike other sports. And a lot of it’s, like, mental, um, and so uh lots of players are like extremely superstitious so like if they’re hitting very well or the team’s winning, they’ll do like the same pregame rituals before every game. So, uh, if for instance someone’s like in a slump and they’re not doing well for like 6 or 7 games, and the next game he hits a home run or he does really well, uh, he’ll at whatever he ate that morning and he’ll like that superstition of how he did well. And also he’ll, he’ll eat the same meals before games and then uh in his head I would assume he’s attributing that to his better play. Um, and other players will like wear the same socks, or they’ll like won’t wash their Jersey, uh, cause I guess, uh, Baseball’s so streaky that players like attribute lots of their success to like these weird superstitions.
Uh so in baseball, uh, it’s pretty rare that a pitcher throws a no-hitter, it’s—it probably happens two or three times, maybe, a season. But it’s always uh it’ll be prevalent in games a lot and it’ll be broken up by the end, and so uh about like 5 to 6 innings into a baseball game, if a pitcher hasn’t allowed a hit in yet fans and like stat people will kind of like when there’s a no-hitter like possibility, it’s always like a big deal. They’ll like alert, ESPN will alert viewers and stuff, and, um, and during that time no one will talk to the pitcher, there’s just like an unspoken rule that like whenever they haven’t allowed a hit the managers, the pitching coaches, like the numerous coaches won’t talk to him, other players wouldn’t talk to him, and so the pitcher would just be in his zone, he’ll just like walk back and sit in the dugout while he’s waiting, um, yeah.
Baseball players are superstitious, and believe that once one is performing well at the sport, one must not make any changes to one’s routine or endanger themselves to falling out of “the zone.” The belief in and practice of these superstitions make the team closer and identify them as ball players, and baseball is perhaps the most superstitious of the major American sports due to its mental nature. Practicing these superstitions also provides a placebo effect, as the belief that it keeps the players in “the zone,” likely succeeds in helping keep them focused on the game.