Is 13 Really Unlucky, Even in Baseball?

 

 
 


I really do not understand the big thing about the number “13”. And the huge voodoo curse of doing anything important on this day is just plain nonsense to me. Come on, how many people actually suffer from Triskaidekaphobia, and is it more mental than physical anxiety?  I guess it depends on who you ask that question towards, and you might get a different answers every time. I mean maybe I am just not that effected because I was born on Saturday the fourteenth and missed this great day by about 6 hours. I mean when did this fear begin, and why is it that even today we are so afraid of anything 13-related.

 
 

Of course the common origin of this fear was brought about by the writing of early Christians who spoke of the thirteenth member at the table during the Last Supper of betrayal and dishonor. We all know the Sunday School story of Judas, but could this be the true origin of this cursed number. In actuality, the number is not all that forbidden and cursed in Christian literature.  Most religions and belief system still adhere to the thirteen attributes of God. The Torah and some Christian churches still use the attributes in sermons and teaching. But for all its evil intentions, the number is still just 3 plus 10 to some cultures, and doesn’t hold the bearing of  evil, or even impending doom.

 


In 1881, several prominent New Yorkers, including Civil War Captain William Fowler decided to test fate and formed the Thirteenth Club.  This was to be a dinner cabaret club where guests  guest met for the first time on Friday January 13, 1881 at 8:13 pm. To play further on the play of the number, they had thirteen guests  attend the dinner in room 13 of the venue. The venue also took upon itself to throw other superstitious behavior at diners as they had to enter the room under open ladders, and they were seated among small piles of spilled salt.  Even with them trying to evoke the evil spirits and summon danger to their personal well being, all 13 of the diners did survive the night.


 
 

But Friday the 13th still holds a fear in some Western cultures. In Romania, Greek and Spanish cultures, they still hold a fear of bad luck and terror on this day. They also consider Tuesday the 13th to also hold an evil connotation.  But why is it that baseball doesn’t really take to this superstition. Even though baseball players can be some of the most superstitious people on the planet, they do not hold a judgment on the number 13. Several famous players have garnered this numerical evil and done quite well for themselves in the sport.

 

So are there any baseball players who have taken it upon themselves to laugh at the devil and any evil that might surround the number and wear the 13 jersey. In actuality, there have been a few examples of positive and negative action and reactions to people who have worn the number 13 jersey.  If the numbered jersey really can have a mental or emotional effect on the person wearing it is going to be left to the guys with the big leather couches and the wood-lined bookcases. I mean the jersey has had it share of negative actions, but were these caused by the number, or could the player wearing the number just had a bad game or bad outing. It is just speculation and your own personal beliefs on the subject that will define your answer. Take for example  Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Bianca, who defiantly wore the “13” jersey and even posed with black cats before the 1951 playoffs. He would become famous in the 1951 playoffs for surrendering Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world” home run, one of the most famous home runs of all-time. 
 
 

Here is a little known fact, and the only people who might know this answer would be true baseball researchers and older Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Though this Hall of Famer was best known for wearing the number 21, Roberto Clemente started his career with the Pirates in 1955 wearing the number 13. Both a powerful batter and a brilliant right fielder, Clemente garnered many awards during his career with the Pirates, including National League MVP in 1966, 12 consecutive Golden Glove awards, and World Series MVP in 1971. He was the first Hispanic American elected to the Hall of Fame.
 

 


 

Even though the number can be considered evil, mean and nasty, is it all just hype, or does this number really have the power to take your best and make it change 180 degrees on you like Jeff Fassero,who wore no. 13 in 1999 for Seattle and Texas and compiled a 5-14 mark with a 7.20 ERA, the worst major league single-season ERA (for pitchers with 150 innings) since 1937.  But even battery mates can find the number to have a bit of an unlucky hue at times.  Buck Martinez is considered to be a great catcher, but was his decision to wear number 13 be his down fall during his career. Martinez wore no. 13 as a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. He lasted 17 years in the big leagues but had a career batting average of just (gulp) .225. In 1985, he was bowled over by a player attempting to score and severely dislocated his ankle, effectively ending his playing career. He even wore the number again as manager of the Blue Jays in 2001-2002.
 

 

Current New York Mets closer Billy Wagner also wore the ill fated number back in 1998 with the Houston Astros and  missed time in 1998 after a line drive struck him on the left side of the head. He made a successful return in 1999 but missed most of the 2000 season after elbow ligament surgery. When he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005, he still dressed out in his usual 13 jersey. With the Phillies, he encountered  a shoulder strain that effectively shut him down for the season. Wagner again had this cursed number on his back in 2008 when he went down with a torn medial collateral ligament in his elbow and also in his flexor pronator
, which meant Tommy John’s surgery for the young star. 
 

Even though some found only pain and sub-par performances in the number, players like Jeff D’Amico of the Milwaukee Brewers did have  some mixed results while wearing the number 13. He did enjoy one truly excellent year, 2000, during which his ERA hovered around 2.00 for much of the season and he contended for the NL ERA title. Needing just a few innings to qualify for the title on his last start of the season, he surpassed the 162 inning minimum threshold, but in the process gave up enough runs to lose the title. He was expected to be the ace of the Brewers staff in 2001, but injuries kept him from ever returning to form.

 

Adrian Brown did not play long in the major leagues, but he did have the ability to play all three outfield positions, mainly center field. He reached the Majors in 1997 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, spending six years with them before moving to the Boston Red Sox (2003) Kansas City Royals (2004), and Texas Rangers (2006). His most productive season came in 2000 with Pittsburgh, when he posted career-highs in batting average (.315), home runs (4), RBI (28), runs (64), doubles (18), and stolen bases (13) in 104 games. Edgardo Alfonzo is a former Major League Baseball infielder currently playing for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Alfonzo has worn the number 13 since his Major League debut, however switched to the number 12 in March 2005 giving former teammate, and current San Francisco Giants shortstop, Omar Vizquel the number 13 to honor not only the longevity of Vizquel wearing the number, but also because the wearing the number 13 is a term of respect and honor to Alfonzo and Vizquel’s fellow countryman Dave Concepción (all three from Venezuela ).

 
                  
 

Speaking of Omar Vizquel, he might be one of the most famous to wear the number and have success on the field. People forget he was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Mariners back in 1984. Omar Enrique Vizquel Gonzalez is currently playing for the  Texas Rangers organization. Previously, Vizquel played for the Seattle Mariners (1989-1993) the Cleveland Indians (1994-2004) and the San Francisco Giants (2005-2008). Vizquel is considered one of baseball’s all-time best defensive shortstops, winning nine consecutive Gold Gloves (1993-2001) and two more in 2005 and 2006. He also tied Cal Ripken’s AL record, since surpassed, for most consecutive games at shortstop without an error (95 between September 26, 1999 and July 21, 2001). On May 25, 2008, Vizquel became the all-time leader in games played at that position, passing Luis Aparicio.
 

 

And there are many current players including the New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez who find no fear or evil in their number on their back. In some instances it is considered a lucky charm to the players.  Recent troubles in Rodriguez’s life might be turned around and blamed on the number, but the instances might have happened without the uniform firmly on his back. If this does become a turning point in his career, would he consider changing his number to remove a jinx, or does he feel like several other players that it is just a number and doesn’t have evil intentions to it.
 

 

Current Tampa Bay Rays left fielder and All-Star Carl Crawford first wore number 8 when he came up, but quickly changed when the number became available since it was the same number he wore in high school while in Houston, Texas.  The number was my personal favorite all the way through college too. I have always found the numbers “1” and “3” to be lucky for me, so the addition of including them both on my uniform was just a progression.  I was wearing the number ” 33″ when i almost broke my neck playing football, so the 13 curse did not follow me beyond college.
 


 

I am also one of those people who do not walk around ladders, steps on cracks and also pets the black cats. I think that if you have positive thinking and a mental basis of knowing you make or cause your lucky to change based on your own intentions and action, then what number you wear will be a mute question. But I know there are people who subscribe to this level of thinking that the number has negative connotations. But that is what is so great about being individuals. We make our choices in life based on our belief system and our personal habits. I got to go right now, there is a black cat in the middle of the road and I have to go chase it beyond the cracked sidewalk…………Wish me luck!!!!
 
 
 

Photo Credits: 1) PixelPackingMama@Flickr.com
                       2) Lizo18@Flickr.com
                       3) Subtle_Device@Flickr.com
                       4) RRCollections

20 Comments

You know, baseball players have to be some of the most superstitious people on the planet. Between the refusal to wear certain numbers on their jerseys, all of the facial hair that has to be groomed a certain way, wearing women’s underwear, and even more disgusting rituals that I don’t even want to get into, these guys really take this stuff seriously. And who knows? Maybe it works simply because they believe in it.Great post, though. I had never really thought about where a lot of our superstitions about the number 13 and stuff originally came from. That’s interesting.
-Erin
http://plunking-gomez.mlblogs.com

I try and let people use that big muscle between their ears every once in a while.
I try not to make it too tough.I would hate to sprain a braincell myself. Seriously, I know a lot of other superstitions and wild goings on, but some will go to my grave with me………….they are both weird and totally outsdie the collective box.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I’m superstitious about black cats and ladders but not the #13 for some reason. I always wondered why elevators in high-rise buildings skip the number. Seems like that’s taking it a little far, but I guess people really do get freaked out by the 1-3. Interesting post as usual!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Loved it Rays! I knew about high-rises skipping the 13th floor. I always feel that we make our own luck. Nothing is really a “bad luck charm” unless we allow it to be! It is mind over matter. If you believe you can do it, you will find a way yo do it!

Great Post! And I think Friday the 13th was lucky for my Red Sox last night! ;-)

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

The worst birthday of my life happened on a friday the 13th. I’m not very supersitious, but I do have my quirks.
i have go agree with Erin, the players do have these weird rituals they follow. Even hockey players do these things. Some, of them I don’t even want to hear about!
Great post, Ren!
Canuck

Thanks Jane,

I know that there is a racetrack out on California that has about 35 horse stalls out in their pasture area. 13 is a powerful number it hold so much power for just two numbers.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

The problem with some player superstitions and this date situation can hamper a players development and even a teams’ ultimate goals. Problem with most numerical superstitions, because of the limited numbers in some sports, and the teams retiring jerseys, players might have to decide on higher digits instead of traditional lower numbers.

The Yankees are a great example of a team retiring their lower numbers and almost everyone else will have to wear at least two numbers soon. You know that number “2” will be retired after Derek Jeter is finished playing.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Of course we all have superstitions, but most might think thay are just lifestyle decisions, and not even think of them as superstitions or rituals.
I know I try and drive to the stadium the same way every night. I go in the same gate, and also be sure to say hello to certain stadium workers on my way to my seat.

And that is just at the ballpark. Even as I drive, or live in my house, I have certain rituals that have to be done or the day seems a bit weird.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I don’t get the Friday the 13th fear either. It does remind me of a Mitch Hedberg skit. “Some hotels don’t have a 13th floor because 13 is an unlucky number. Well then so should the letter B, because B looks like a scrunched together 13.” I, too, am one of those people who’ll step on cracks, walk under ladders, etc. And I actually prefer black cats because I think they’re cuter. And my first cat was Soxx, black with white feet. :)
Jen
http://ajroxmywhitesox.mlblogs.com

Jenn,
Why would I expect you not to have a black cat. I never thought about the letter “B” like that, but you are right. I am glad not to have a “B” in my name now.

I have never seen the Mitch Hedberg’s skit. I might have to dig and try and find that one.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlbloglogs.com

My neighbor has 2 black cats…one of them is very freindly. My friend lives in a building with no 13th floor, which I find amusing…but then the 14th floor is really the 13th, so shouldn’t they just build an empty 13th floor or something?
Maybe it originates from people having horrible years when they are 13 (I know I did)
http://imbringingdiamondback.mlblogs.com

I know another legend to the origin of the 13 curse is that the Vikings feared their god Loki, who was the 13th elder or entity. He is also said to have killed Baldr,another god, and then was the 13th person to enter into his funeral.

I know I would live in building 13, or apartment 13, but I still get a kick out of the Munster’s living at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
By the way, my address numericals first two digits are “13–“.

Rays Renegade

http:raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Maybe because your address starts with 13, you’re immune to it! Sounds good anyway…

Oh yes and before I forget, I owe you this. ****POKE*****
What IS this picking on Kazmir on Jane’s blog? I know you’re just using him as an example, but come on! I know he had his problems…blah, blah, blah…but can’t you find another pitcher to use for your examples?! (there must be someone else, i just can’t think of any right now)

Ok, I’m done picking on you now…I’ll go back to being good…for now.

Canuck

Okay, since I got to watch him first hand throw his pitches before games both during the regular season and the playoffs, I know that he abandoned his slider unless he had to use it in 2008.

He used to have that pitch in his back pocket as his out pitch. But after his elbow situation last spring, he did not use it because he did not have confidence in the pitch at that time.

He knows me, and I have never pulled my opinion for him or anyone else. He lacked the killer instinct in 2008. He looked more controlled today in his win over Cincy, but he is still not using that pitch as much. For him to go to the next level, he needs three pitches that are at the MLB level. His slider used to be one of the most devastating pitches he threw, now it is an after thought.

Rays Renegade

http;//raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I know he didn’t use it last year. I hope he’ll get the pitch back, it was a killer. Is he working on anything new for this year? Can he get the slider back or is he giving up on it?
Canuck

You didn’t have to justify yourself! I watched the games last year – I saw that he didn’t use the pitch. Besides, I was just picking on you! Do you really think I would say anything bad about Kaz? Please. Why do you think I have 19 in my screen name! (and please don’t say it’s because you think it’s my age! I had to deal with that last night!!LOL!)
Canuck

he used it a bit today, but he has been toying with a change-up too. But it is not a major league level pitch yet.

He looks to be hitting his spots quicker in the at bats so far this spring. I do not think he will anywhere the year he suffered with last year.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I do not know why you had 19 on there.
I just state the fact ma’am as Joe Friday used to say.

You know he used to be number 26?

Rays Renegade

Htpp://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I love #13 :O) Dan Marino!!! When I was in college, my roommate and I actually requested room #1313 in one of the campus dorms; the “upscale” dorm was really hard to get into and we figured no one else wanted that room….so, we got it :O) In fact, they were happy to be rid of it! Ha, ha!

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

If I was writing about football, Marino would be on his list for sure.
I actually got to play against him in his Dolphin days and he was one of the best of looking down his list of receivers and going back to the first option in a nano second. His guys were small enough then for me to bully them and make him switch targets. But I loved the way he played ball.
If he was a baseball guy, he would have been in the American League playing first or third base and crushing the ball for average and showing power when he needed it.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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