Superstitious Superstar

Major League Baseball has been in operation for over a century, with the National League claiming a birth year of 1876.  But over the course of MLB history, a mere 27 players have amassed 3,000 or more hits.  Of those 27, twenty four have been eligible for the Hall of Fame — all 24 were selected for the Hall on their first ballot for entry.  The “3,000 Hit Club” is a hallmark of excellence and a fraternity of rare induction.

Wade Boggs, the legendary player for the Red Sox, Yankees, and then-Devil Rays, is one of those men.  On August 7, 1999, at age 41, Boggs — not known for being a slugger (his 118 career home runs is, at best, a paltry sum for someone whose career spanned 18 seasons) — hit a home run into the right field seats at Tropicana Park in Tampa, Florida.  This was his 3,000th hit.

Before his at bat, Boggs almost certainly followed, quite precisely, the same path he took to the batters box during each of his at bats at the Trop that year.  When he got to the batters box, he most likely drew the Hebrew word “chai” (which means “life”) in the batters box.  And before the game, he probably ate chicken.  We know this not because of the box score (it’s silent as to Boggs’ pre-game meal, for sure) nor his post game interview, but simply because this was Boggs’ typical routine — he’s incredibly superstitious.  It even says so on his Hall of Fame plaque, pictured above-right (larger version here).

Per one report, one year, the Toronto Blue Jays’ scoreboard operator decided to play a prank on Boggs by exploiting his knowledge of the player’s superstitions.  Boggs’ habits included, for night games at least, stepping into the batter’s box at exactly 5:17 PM and starting wind sprints at exactly 7:17 PM.  One evening, at 7:16, the Toronto scoreboard operator flipped the clock to 7:18 PM, skipping Boggs’ magic number.

Bonus fact:  Boggs’ wasn’t shy about his superstitious habits.  He published a book of his favorite chicken recipes called Fowl Tips (if you want to buy it, sorry! — but here’s the cover art) with his wife, Debbie.  He also reportedly wasn’t shy about his drinking — legend has it that he once drank somewhere between sixty and seventy beers on a cross-country flight.  Boggs admitted to the binge but claimed the number was much lower, yet still freakishly high — which if you’re a Simpsons‘ fan, shouldn’t surprise you.

From the Archives: Little Fields of Dreams: A faux, mini-version of the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park — built in someone’s backyard.

Related: “The Techniques of Modern Hitting” by Wade Boggs — which may or may not include “eating a lot of chicken” as a tip.

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