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Baseball fans are a particularly superstitious sort. This is, perhaps, because it doesn’t take much for a curse to take root in the sport. Denying a goat access to a ballgame can give fans a reason for the longest title drought in baseball history; the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and San Francisco Giants have all been afflicted by a curse at some point.
And so fans turn to ritual and superstition to combat evil forces, much of it manifesting in the clothes they wear. If you think your team is still paying the price for banning a billy goat, the best thing you can do is push as much good luck out there in the form of a lucky hat, jersey, or pair of earrings.
But as we learned talking to five diehard baseball fans, lucky items are often about so much more than sports. The items we wear connect us to our hometowns and loved ones, provide a security blanket, and even curry favor from the universe when sports aren’t involved.
Writer for espnW and ESPN the Magazine
I became a Yankees fan after a class trip to Yankee Stadium in 1996. Little did they know that would start an entire dynasty, let alone my career. It was just this feeling I felt in the pit of my stomach — it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. You look to your left and you look to your right and there are 80-year-olds and 20-year-olds and white people and black people; it was so New York. I had never felt more connected, I had never felt more of a sense of community, and I had never felt more American than in that moment.
I got my lucky earrings on the way to a game in the middle of the 2009 season. I was passing by a local shop that had these really beautiful baseball-shaped rhinestone earrings, and I was just enamored with them. I think they were maybe $6. I started wearing them to games as kind of a kitschy thing. Then we won the World Series that year for the first time in nine years. I know that doesn't sound like a long time, but that's a lifetime for a Yankees fan! And so I've been wearing them to every game ever since.
The earrings were an addition because it’s hard to make authentic baseball jerseys chic. I won't buy jerseys unless they're authentic, and that's hard for women because a lot of leagues don’t cater to our sizes and our shapes and things like that. But finding the earrings was really nice because I could kind of feminize, if you will, the sporting outfit.
Former Naval officer who now works in cybersecurity
The earliest memories I have as a Cubs fan are from the summers when my grandfather and I would do a bunch of yard work and then we'd head inside. He would sit with his Busch Light and watch the Cubs on WGN and I’d sit with him. I haven't been to a game with him, but he's turning 95 in August and my plan is to take him.
I got my Carlos Zambrano jersey when I was maybe 10. My grandmother bought it for me at a flea market in Wisconsin; I saw it and I really wanted it. It was a nightgown on me when I watched games in it as a kid, but it fits alright now. I loved Zambrano because I've always had an affinity for the rougher, hot-headed sports stars of Chicago, like Dennis Rodman.
The jersey really became a sentimental item for me when I was in the Navy. About seven years ago, I brought it with me onto the ship because it reminded me of home. Sports is a big way to show where you're from in the Navy; there are these big rivalries with all your buddies, 'cause everybody's from somewhere.
Senior account supervisor at Turner PR
My dad got me this hat because the Brewers used to have a ball-and-glove logo with an M and a B, which are my initials. I think they retired it around 1993. He put my last name on the back, like how players all wear their last names on jerseys.
The hat has been really lucky for me, even outside of sports. It's led me on some adventures. I’ve lost it a couple times, and the people who have found it have all been really interesting. I once met a nice couple from Milwaukee when I was out in LA because they found my hat. They were related to one of the guys in the minors for the Brewers, and I actually ended up meeting up with them at a Brewers game the next year.
I carry my hat with me at all times. If I'm going in for a job interview, or even non-baseball sporting events where I really want my team to win, I'll always bring it with me. Even when I fly I bring it with me. It's almost like a security blanket; it makes me feel better.
It's kind of beaten up and I haven't ever washed it. I've sweated in it so many times at ballgames, I've gotten makeup all over it, I’ve gotten it dirty. But I don't wash it because I feel like it'll lose some of the luck.
Graphic designer for Scholastic
I create a shrine for big sporting events involving a Cleveland team. During the World Series, I hung an Ohio flag from the shelves above my TV, and I’ll line up any sort of related hats I have. I leave my Browns hat tucked away, but I’ll use a couple Indians hats and a Cavs hat. I'll leave it up for the duration of the playoffs, and if things go a little awry, I'll shuffle them around a little. I love the shrine.
A lot of my weird superstitions come from my parents. They’re huge Indians fans as well, and it's funny, they typically don't watch together. My dad will be in their bedroom and my mom will watch in the living room or kitchen. If something good happens, my dad will come down the stairs and they'll talk about it. Then my mom will be like, "Go back upstairs, you're going to ruin it."
When I watch baseball, I wear a Cavaliers shirt because maybe some of their magic will rub off on the Indians through, of course, some random guy in New York City wearing a T-shirt. I may mix up all my Cleveland gear, but it’s important for me to wear something Indians-related too. I have to show the Baseball Gods how devoted I am; it's like I've got to put my faith and myself out there.
Marketing coordinator at Adidas
I became an A’s fan because we got free tickets growing up. My dad worked in the same building as the A's front office, or they were next door. We would go to the Oakland Coliseum all the time, and that was that — we grew up on the A's.
I am a very superstitious person. My dad got me the hat during spring training. I started wearing it, and they won a couple games. Then it was just in my mind that when I wear it, they win. The power is in the A logo on the hat. I rub the A, that's the thing. It releases the good luck. If they're doing really bad, sometimes I take it off.
The hat solidified itself as my lucky item in 2012 when the A’s were playing the Rangers. I flew on a red-eye from New York City into Oakland to watch the game. I was only staying for one night, so I didn't bring anything with me and just wore what I was wearing on the plane. It was me and my hat. I wore it the entire time. It was really when they won then and we became division champs that it became my playoff hat.
In 2014, the A’s blew a lead to the Royals in the wild card round, and I was a little insulted by the hat. Me and the other A’s fans at the bar were wearing our A’s things, and you could tell we were all just like, fuck, it really didn’t work.