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