It's Keep America Weird Week on Woot, and we ask: Is there anything weirder of more American than baseball? The game's 150-plus-years of history are positively packed with oddity, bizarreness, and good ol' fashioned incomprehensibility.
But how well do you know your weird baseball history? Below are six eldritch baseball tales. Three are true, and three are wholly fabricated. Can you separate baseball fact from baseball fiction? (Answers in the link at the bottom) Story #1:
1910s Boston Braves pitcher Hub Perdue is considered the godfather of baseball superstitions. In a sport rife with voodoo incantations, bald paganism, and unflinching belief in the supernatural, Perdue stands alone. Some notable purported habits:
- Perdue would not only spit after every pitch, but religiously alternated his expectorations between the right- and left-hand side of the pitcher's mound.
- He never ate before a game (remember: all games were day games), but would eat a plate of sausage and boiled cabbage immediately after each game.
- He remained wholly mute during games, refusing to talk to teammates between innings. One story claims that a brash rookie infielder once asked Perdue directions to first base during a game, and received a businesslike punch to the face in response.
Detroit Manager Jim Leyland wore the same pair of unwashed underwear every day during a 2011 12-game winning streak. Leyland was surprisingly candid with the press about his questionable undergarment hygiene. “I will wear these underwear until we lose,” Leyland said. “I can tell you that right now. And they will not be washed. And I don't give a (expletive) who knows it.”
Plenty of Major league teams have curses, from the Red Sox's erstwhile "Curse of the Bambino", to the Cubs' ongoing "Curse of the Billy Goat". But the weirdest curse of all is found in Japan, (we know, this is about weird AMERICA, but it'll come back around), where the Hanshin Tigers were once under the dreaded "Curse of the Colonel". In 1985, the Tigers won their first Nippon-League championship. Lost in the throes of passion, fans threw a statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken founder and clandestine-herb/spice-mixologist Colonel Sanders into the Dōtonbori River.
Following this wanton military-fast-food-icon hurling, the Hanshin Tigers suffered a shameful 18-year losing streak. The Colonel haunted the murky depths of the Dōtonbori, bringing seppuku-justifying dishonor upon the franchise until 2009, when his likeness was finally dredged.
Joe Dimaggio's short-lived marriage to Marilyn Monroe is well known. However, the blonde bombshell's purported dalliance with Yogi Berra in 1955 remains a topic of debate among baseball cognoscenti. The pair allegedly shared a penthouse suite in Las Vagas for a long weekend in the early spring of 1955 (a year in which the wisecracking catcher's production numbers noticeably improved). Some believe the Yogi-ism, "We made too many wrong mistakes" referred to the couples' weekend of passion. However, skeptics point out that there is no hard evidence to support the story, and its veracity is likely to remain uncertain indefinitely.
Pitcher and officially-ranked weirdo Rube Waddell remains a near-inexhaustible fount of the baseball bizarre. Waddell was a feared strikeout artist, but was so confident in his ability that he would insist on pitching portions of exhibition games without the defense behind him. The stunt almost backfired in a league game in Memphis, when Waddell pitched the ninth with only himself and battery-mate Doc Powers on the field. Three runners managed to reach base on softly-hit pop flies, but Waddell struck out the final batter and escaped with the win.
Outfield fences were uncommon at professional parks until the turn of the century. Prior to their adoption, various demarcations were used to bound the playing area. In Baltimore's Belaire Lot, the outfield was marked with a rope staked into the ground. It is said that canny Baltimore fans used the boundary to their advantage, secretly lifting the stakes out of the ground and moving the rope in during the bottom of the inning, and back out at the top. Officials eventually got wise to the trick, but it remains unknown how many home team runs were scored in thanks to these scofflaw fans.