USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘baseball’
Musical

“Sweet Caroline” at a Red Sox Game

Background:
Going to a game at Fenway park is a unique experience. There’s nothing like being surrounded by thousands of devoted Boston fans all with the same mentality of victory or death. There is truly an unmatchable energy at Red Sox games in Fenway park. My stepfather is from Boston so when we go to the games we bring several members of his family with us and we travel as a small gang. One tradition that stands out amongst the lot is that Boston fans will sing Sweet Caroline by Neil diamond after the seventh-inning stretch. The whole crowd will cheer that melody- “SWEET CAR-O-LINE” and so on.

Piece:
Me: “why do we sing this?”
S: “I don’t really know. But I do know it started during my lifetime.”
Me: “what do you mean? Well why do you think?”
S: “about 20 years ago I remember the song coming around and for some reason it stuck so I’ve been singing it ever since.”
Me: “Do you like it?”
S: “I love it.”

Discussion:
Immediately after the conversation I looked up the reason for this song being used at the games and there wasn’t much story to be told. A woman named Amy Toby like the song and she played it during a game and everyone knew it fit perfectly. It started out only been played at random games but then in 2002 it became the official Fenway tradition. I believe that this song resonates well with Boston people because of the emotional impact it has on the crowd. People can get rowdy during baseball games, especially people from New England but, this song has an exciting feeling that is both calming and unifying. This song was even used as a memorial after the Boston marathon bombings. There is no piece of evidence stronger than that to exemplify how important this song is to people of Boston.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Musical

Baseball Superstitions

Abstract:

This piece is about superstitions a baseball player had before games in high school.

Main Piece:

“S: One baseball superstition I had was when we were on a hot streak, I would play the same exact songs, in like a 20 or 30 minute ride, I would play the same exact songs. In the same order.

C: Did that get old?

S: No, it was getting me hype because I attached it to baseball.

C: Did the order change every year?

S: Yeah so, every season the songs would change. But during the season it was those songs. Once I got on the field, the songs would change because they would be different songs. I would let it fly.

C: So this was on the bus?

S: No, those would change too if we rode the bus. I would drive myself to games and when I was younger my parents would drive me. There is one song I remember, Kiwi by Maroon 5. If you would talk to my parents today, they would know that song and that I would scream Kiwi on the ride. So yeah, same songs. Another baseball superstition is to not step on the foul line. If you talk to any baseball player they will know that. No one really knows why, just don’t step on the foul line. Because then you’re going to lose. And there are certain things like during the playoffs if we were winning or I was doing really well, I would wear the same outfit.

C: Every game? Or every day?

S: Every game we’d play it’d be the same thing. And you don’t wash your uniforms during the playoffs if you’re doing well. I would even go so far as to wear the same outfit to school the next day.

C: To make sure the luck was there?

S: Yeah I was very a superstitious guy.”

Context:

The informant is a 20 year old from Bentonville Arkansas who has played baseball since he was 9 years old. He continues to play baseball for the USC Club Baseball team.

Analysis:

I think it makes a lot of sense to have superstitions and precautions when preparing for a game in any sport, but it seems like baseball has a lot that you wouldn’t realize unless you played it. I think it is important to have superstitions because they bond people together through this belief. If everyone has the same superstitions, then it becomes something people can be “checked” on too. It creates a team sense of identity and if you don’t follow or believe in the superstitions, it makes you “other.”

Folk speech

Baseball Slang

Abstract:

This piece is about different phrases or words that deal with baseball slang.

Main Piece:

S: The first one I’m going to talk about is like when someone is pitching if they hit the dirt, like if it goes short of the plate, like a low pitch, you call it a worm killer.

C: A worm killer? Why?

S: So baseball is this very mental game, it is more mental than any other game because if you let something affect your mind, you’re going to play worse. Like it is one of those sports, I was actually talking to my boss about it the other day, they’re directly correlated to one another. Your mental and physical performance. And I truly believe that a lot of the slang comes from trying to jab the other players.

C: Get in their head?

S: Yeah, get in their head. I think it is the most mental game out of all the major sports, because it’s all chatter. Like worm killer, you’re going to yell it to make fun of the pitcher for sucking. I say a lot of things like, well I don’t know how you would transcribe this, so when someone is batting and you’re on their team, and the player is batting, you kind of say gibberish almost. Like “um-nam-um-nam-um-nam.” You kind of just keep going. It’s kind of like, the main basis of it is “come on now.” if you can kind of hear it in there. So everyone is just doing that in the dugout like that Spongebob episode.

C: That’s funny.

S: Yeah, so there’s that and there’s “get off me ball.” It’s what you would say if the pitcher hits you, then it’s like check that ball. Make sure it’s okay or the player’s okay. There’s “wear it.” Wear it means like if you’re a batter and a pitch comes into the batter’s box, but you like turn away to get out of the way, your own team will yell wear it. So you can get on first base.

C: If it hits you?

S: No if it doesn’t hit you, but you like get out of the way of the ball. People would say “wear it” like you should have gotten hit. Which is obviously kind of hard, like you don’t want to sacrifice your body, but you know there’s that. Another thing we’ve been screaming is “Is he a diamond back because he’s rattled.” So if the opposing pitcher is pitching and we are getting hits on him.

C: So he’s doing bad?

S: Yeah so “is he a diamond back because he’s rattled” like rattled would mean he’s all screwed up in the mind. That means we really got to him. These are the funny ones. I mean there’s actual baseball lingo that is kind of serious. Like “dinger” means homerun.

Context:

The informant is a 20 year old student from Bentonville, Arkansas. He has played baseball since he was 9 years old and continues to play on the USC Club Baseball team. He has picked up this lingo and slang from years of playing on different teams and learning about the customs.

Analysis:

I think the informant was right about the purpose of this particular slang. Baseball seems to be all about what goes on behind the scenes, this slang included. Getting into a player’s head seems to be key in how well you play as well. I think one aspect of this slang that was not touched on in this piece was how it affects your own head. The informant described how to get into other players heads, but it would be interesting to learn if there were methods players took to block out distractions.

Customs
Foodways
Material

Noodles and Ketchup Before Games

Abstract:

This piece is a ritual of eating noodles and ketchup before every baseball game.

Main Piece:

“S: Okay so baseball superstitions, there’s a lot. And even for me personally. When I was younger, before every baseball game since I was probably 9, which is like 8, 9 years of my life after this, the meal I had before was noodles and ketchup.

C: Noodles and ketchup? Is this just you? Like did you choose this?

S: People eat noodles and ketchup. But like to me… it was like a little bit of vinegar and carbs. The carbs to give me energy. So I would have the carbs and that would be great. And I would have that beore every game. My mom would cook that before every game. She is stoked with noodles because she knew… And like three games a week, it was noodles before every game. Even if it was in the morning.

C: Was that like… like did you enjoy eating it? Or was it like something you had to do?

S: No, I enjoyed eating it.

C: I’ve never heard of that before.

S: I never eat it outside of that. It’s like attached to baseball for me. And I ate it so much.

C: Wait, ketchup right?

S: Yeah ketchup, butter, and noodles.

C: I can’t imagine those together.

S: It’s really good. You should try it.”

Context:

The informant is a 20 year old from Arkansas who has played baseball for most of his life. When he started playing baseball at 9 years old, this food custom began and he has eaten this particular meal before every game, for good luck. His mom is the one who first introduced the noodles and ketchup to him.

Analysis:

I think eating noodles and ketchup is more of a good luck charm than anything else. Though it has a link to baseball, it seems that it’s most important role is to bring good luck before the game and eating the meal will insure that in the mind of the informant. It makes me think of the Spanish ritual of eating 12 grapes at the New Years to insure good luck and well being for the coming year. That is the same type of food related tradition of eating something before an event to insure good luck.

Folk Beliefs

Baseball Hats at Baseball Games

What is being performed?
JJ: So if it’s late in the game and your team’s losing. You turn your hat, like, inside out and wear
it on top of your head to bring good luck.
AA: What teams do you do this for?
JJ: Well, I’m pretty sure all of baseball does this but you’re only supposed to do it for the team
you want to win.
AA: Have you ever done it?
JJ: Uh, yeah, at almost every game, actually. It’s a pretty big thing.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: Where did you learn this trick?
JJ: I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and watching Red Sox games with my dad.
AA: Do you think it works?
JJ: I mean, I don’t know. But it makes you feel better. You feel like there’s still something you
can do and it’s not over yet.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
This is usually performed at baseball games or wherever people are watching baseball on TV.
This doesn’t happen in other sports but baseball fans participate.

Reflection
I am not a big baseball fan or big sports fan in general but this is interesting to me. I see this
mostly as a way that baseball fans, who aren’t on the field and have little control over what
happens in the game, get to feel as if they can control the fate of the game. I think it just shows
how serious people are about their sports teams and how much they can identify with a single
team.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The White Foul Line

Baseball is rife with superstitions, my informant is a long-time player and as a pitcher he describes to me the longest-stranding baseball taboo.

“You don’t step on the white foul line when taking the field, ever, not just pitchers, but all players, but especially pitchers. When I go out to the mound I jump over it with my right foot, and always my right foot. It’s bad juju if you step on the line, nobody steps on the line, it just isn’t done. It’s bad luck. It’s always been that way. I don’t know who I learned it from, it’s just always been done as long as I can remember.”

Analysis:

Baseball superstitions, rituals, charms, and taboos usually are surrounding those circumstances which are not totally in the player’s control, that is pitching and hitting usually. This particular superstition is not stepping on the foul line when taking the field. It is quite an old superstition that has no particular origin with a certain player, but one players of all caliber pay attention to. It is supposed to prevent bad luck in a game when one play can change the entire game. Because it is so old and established as a taboo, players simply adhere because all those players before them have done so, so it must work, and the players will do anything that works. One bad pitch or one great hit and the game could turn for the worse. A pitcher can do all he can to play perfectly, but he cannot control the batter’s actions, therefore this leaves a lot of room for superstitions. It is human nature to want to control one’s surroundings and this is just a little taboo that allows a player in his mind to control the outcome however small.

 

general
Protection

Baseball Superstitious Habits

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.”

Analysis:

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.

 

general

Rally Caps

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.

general

Not Stepping on the Chalk-Baseball

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.

Game
general
Magic
Protection

A’s Baseball Game “Lucky Shirt”

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.

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