Why is There Such Fear and Loathing for the # 13?

I really do not understand the big brouhaha or problem with about the number “13”. How many people actually suffer from Triskaidekaphobia, and is it more mental obsession than an attack of physical anxiety? I guess it depends on who you ask with that line of questioning, because you might get a different viewpoint from every person.

When did this fear begin, and why is it that even today so many people still have such a fear of anything 13-related. If you dive into the research online, you will find the first common fear of this set of numerals was written by the early Christians who spoke of the thirteenth disciple setting the norm after his attendance at the Last Supper. We all know a version of the 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 systems still adhere to the thirteen attributes of God. The Torah and some Christian churches still use these same formal attributes weekly in sermons and teachings. 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 a darkened cloud of impending doom.

In Romanian, Greek and Spanish cultures, they still believe in a cultural fear of bad luck and terror on this calendar day. These cultures also consider Tuesday the 13th to also hold the same evil intentions and superstitions. But why is it that baseball doesn’t really take to this superstition.

Even though Major League Baseball players have been characterized as some of the most superstitious and ritual-based athletes on the planet, most do not hold a negative or evil judgment on the number. Several MLB players have garnered this numerical evil and done quite well for themselves. Several MLB players have taken it upon themselves to basically “laugh at the devil” and any evil intentions that might surround the number and wear the 13 jersey.

There have been more than a few examples of both positive and negative actions and reactions to players who have worn the number 13 on the field. The number “13” jersey has had it share of negative actions, but were these commotions caused by the number, or could the player possibly just mentally jinxed himself into experiencing a bad game?

For example, Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Bianca defiantly wore the “13” jersey and even posed with black cats before the 1951 playoffs. Bianca would become famous footnote in baseball lore for surrendering the pitch that San Francisco Giant great Bobby Thomson’s slammed to the heavens for the proverbial “shot heard round the world” playoff defining Home Run. This event has been viewed by many as one of the most famous Home Runs of all-time. Did the number on the back of Bianca’s jersey or its psychologial effect play into the final events unfolding? That depends on your own superstitions.

Pittsburgh Pirate legend and Baseball Hall of Fame member Roberto Clemente was remembered eternally for wearing the number 21, but did you know Clemente started his career with the Pirates in 1955 wearing the number 13?

Both a skillful hitter and a brilliant right fielder, Clemente garnered many awards during his career including the 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 Baseball 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?

I would be curious to ask this of former MLB pitcher Jeff Fassero,who wore no. 13 in 1999 for Seattle and Texas while compiling a 5-14 mark with a 7.20 ERA, the worst MLB single-season ERA (for pitchers with 150 innings) since 1937. Fassero’s nasty events aside, even battery mates can find the number to have a bit of an unlucky hue.

Current TBS baseball commentator Buck Martinez was considered a great catcher during his MLB career, but was his decision to wear number 13 the beginning of his eventual downward spiral? Martinez donned the # 13 while playing behind the dish for the Toronto Blue Jays. Martinez did last 17 years in the big leagues but held a career batting average of just (gulp) .225.

During the 1985 season Martinez was bowled over by a player attempting to score and suffered a severely dislocated ankle. The injury eventually ended his playing career. Martinez again wore the number 13 when he was hired as the Manager of the Blue Jays from 2001-2002. Martinez never seemed to gain the support of ownership or his team, and his tenure was short-lived in Toronto.

Former MLB closer Billy Wagner wore the ill-fated number back in 1998 with the Houston Astros and missed considerable time during the 1998 season after a line drive struck him on the left side of his head. Wagner did make 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, Wagner encountered a nagging shoulder strain that effectively got worse and the Phillies shut him down for the season. Wagner again had this cursed number on his back in 2008 when he went down in a heap on the mound with a torn medial collateral ligament and damaged flexor pronator ligament. The prognosis meant the season-ending Tommy John’s surgery. Did the jersey number play a part in the end result, or did Wagner’s hard-throwing style play into it? Depends on your beliefs in the numerical evil, or just an ironic set of coincidences.

Even though some found only pain and sub-par performances with the number 13, some MLB players like former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jeff D’Amico had some interesting mixed results while wearing the number. D’Amico posted some truly excellent stats during the 2000 season when his ERA hovered around 2.00 for much of the season and he contended for the NL ERA title.

Needing just a few additional innings to finally qualify for the NL ERA title during his last start, D’Amico surpassed the 162 inning minimum threshold, but during the contest gave up just enough earned runs to see the title slip out of his grasp. With his great showing, D’Amico was expected to be the ace of the 2001 Brewers staff, but injuries kept him from ever returning to form, effectively cutting short his MLB career.

Adrian Brown did not have an extended stay in the MLB, but he did have the great flexibility to play every outfield positions. Brown reached the Majors in 1997 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, spending seasons with them before moving to the Boston Red Sox (2003) Kansas City Royals (2004), and Texas Rangers (2006). Brown’s 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 was a former Major League Baseball infielder who worn the number 13 ever since his MLB debut, but switched to # 12 in March 2005 to give the # 13 to his former San Francisco Giants teammate Omar Vizquel. It is said Alfonzo gave up his long time number to honor not only the career longevity of Vizquel wearing the number, but because wearing the number 13 is a term of respect and honor.

Fellow countryman and former Cincinnati Reds SS Dave Concepción who also hailed from Venezuela wore the number his entire MLB career. Another son-of-Venezuela, current Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen has worn the number 13 his entire playing ( D-Rays 200 season) and managerial career and has had some mixed results, but still be bears the number on his back.

Omar Vizquel might end up being the most famous MLB player to wear the number. forget he was signed as a free agent by the Seattle Mariners back in 1984. 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 MLB all-time leader in games played at that position, passing the great Luis Aparicio.

Many current players including New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez find no fear or evil with the 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. Former Tampa Bay Rays LF Carl Crawford wore # 8 when he first came up with the team, but quickly swapped for the # 13 since it was the same number he wore in high school.

I wore the number # 13 in high school and college. I am also one of those people who do not walk around ladders, I step on cracks and pet black cats. I think that if you have positive attitude and a mental foundation of knowing you make your own luck based on your own intentions and actions, then what number you wear is an innate decision.

I know there are people who subscribe to the thought process that the number 13 is steeped in 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 through the painter’s ladder on the cracked sidewalk…………Wish me luck!!!!

Post Script: Not sure why my Font changed from yesterday….Could there be an evil presence?…….Gotcha!

2 Comments

I don’t understand it either. 13 has always been my lucky number, I even won a couple of raffles with that number. It’s also interesting to mention that last year was the Rays’ 13th season, and nothing seemed unlucky about that incredible year.
The Rays Rant- http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

Yossif,
It was actually their 14th season in 2011. Still, 2010, which was the 13th season did not end up as a disaster either. I also wore “13, 31 and 33″ in both high school, college, the pros and in various sports during my life. 1 and 3 are my lucky numbers also and I tend to push my own Lotto and betting sequences that direction. Still, it is a personal choice to believe, think or respond to these susperstitions. Some players eat a PB&J sandwich before games ( JP Howell), other Popeye’s fried chicken (Matt Garza). It ends up falling into your own beliefs, superstitions and want to produce, bring positive results and strive as an athlete.

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