Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston recently made headlines when he voiced his desire to ban the use of “smokeless tobacco” products from Fenway Park. According to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, the idea is a good one. There are many solid reasons for this, largely pertaining to cancer and other diseases that can be caused by the use of tobacco. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is also behind Walsh’s plan, stating: “If this law stops just one child from starting, it’s worth the price.” But does that price entail the loss of one of our oldest baseball traditions?
When it comes to baseball traditions, the use of chewing tobacco is certainly among them. In fact, there’s even an entire brand of chewing gum based around the idea that tobacco is one of the most easily recognizable baseball traditions. The fact is, however, that it will become a thing of the past if the courts decide that it is too dangerous to allow this tradition to continue in stadiums such as Fenway Park.
We are not here to tell people what to do with their bodies, so we will neither fight nor endorse this decision. Instead, we would like to pay tribute to the potential loss of one of the oldest baseball traditions in history by talking about some other crazy baseball traditions that should probably be retired. The following ten baseball traditions are among the top examples of baseball customs that should probably find their way off the diamond and into the history books.
(Note: Don’t take this too seriously. These are just some baseball traditions that seemed fun to talk about.)
10. Shaving Cream Pies
Those who don’t follow baseball too closely may not be familiar with this one. It isn’t exactly as common as hot dogs or seventh-inning stretches or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” In fact, not all players participate in this particular custom. Nonetheless, the first of our insane baseball traditions is the tendency for some players to greet teammates who score a walk-off win with a shaving cream pie to the face during their post-game interview.
If there’s one solid argument for this to become one of our nation’s banned baseball traditions, it’s Chris Coghlan. Back in 2010 when Coghlan still played for the Marlins, he suffered a meniscus tear while putting a pie in the face of teammate Wes Helms. Many had thought that such an injury would be more likely to plague former Yankee A.J. Burnett, another player who openly embraces the pie custom. So there you have it. Tobacco gives you cancer, which is bad for you. But throwing pies at teammates puts you on the disabled list, which is bad for the whole team. Which of these baseball traditions is more dangerous? Actually, it’s probably still the tobacco. Still, this one could easily go away.
9. Angry Managers
This may not sound like a tradition, but it really is. In fact, one Reddit user even posted a topic last year asking why baseball managers seem to get so angry. And the overwhelming answer was simply that it’s one of our beloved baseball traditions. According to some, there are managers who will even act angry when they agree with the umpire’s call. It’s a way of getting the crowd excited, and anyone who’s been to a live game is well aware that it works.
Of course, this isn’t just done for the sake of maintaining baseball traditions. Sometimes, managers just get belligerent. And it doesn’t always happen during a game. In case you missed it the last time we talked about it, you might want to take a look at this video of Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price losing his cool over a few honest questions from a reporter. This is most definitely NSFW—Price drops the F-bomb almost 80 times during the interview. Since there was no game in progress, it’s safe to say that he was not doing this for the fans. If we had the opportunity to brainstorm new baseball traditions, maybe mandatory anger management would be a better idea.
8. K for Strikeout
There’s really nothing wrong with this one. As far as baseball traditions go, it doesn’t hurt anybody. Not only that, but it’s actually a pretty solid part of baseball history. The use of the letter K to denote a strikeout was first used by journalist Henry Chadwick, one of the men responsible for the box score as we know it today. In other words, stat-crazy baseball fans (including us) owe the man a debt of gratitude for helping to give us a workable system of tracking stats that has influenced how we go about handicapping baseball.
But not everyone is interested in baseball history. More casual fans might easily be confused when they see the K signs flash across their TV. We can’t use S (which means “sacrifice”), nor SO (which means “shutout”). What really seems insane is that “strikeout” was the last of those terms to receive an abbreviation. But for more casual fans, wouldn’t the letter X seem like a better choice? If you asked a few people who were unfamiliar with such statistical baseball traditions what the letter X would mean, we’d be willing to bet that they’d guess “strikeout” every time. Or at the very least, “strike.”
Hey, it works for bowlers.
7. Designated Hitters
Before you say anything, know that we aren’t necessarily saying that designated hitters should be taken out of baseball. The real problem with this one is that the American League and the National League should not have baseball traditions that put them on uneven footing. That said, it seems as if it would be fair to either do away with designated hitters or start using them in the National League as well.
Some have advocated for the use of designated hitters in the National League ever since Adam Wainwright injured himself trying to run the bases. Pitchers just don’t tend to perform well at bat, so it makes sense to replace them with someone a bit more skilled at the plate. To be fair, there is something to be said for strategy, and knowing when to pull a pitcher off the plate in favor of a pinch hitter is certainly an act of strategic thinking.
But having both leagues operate by different standards made a lot sense back when they existed as wholly separate entities. This isn’t the case with the World Series, in which the pennant winners are either allowed to use a DH or not depending upon who has home field advantage. Is having home field advantage not enough on its own anymore? So either have designated hitters or don’t have them. But if we do decide to keep pitchers at bat, then they should all bat like Bartolo Colon. For strategic reasons, obviously.
6. Beanball Wars
This might not really belong on a list of baseball traditions, solely for the fact that it’s already known that players shouldn’t do it. Still, it happens. One team’s pitcher hits another team’s batter, either on purpose or by accident, and the other team decides to retaliate. Not only is it a slap in the face to anyone who cares about sportsmanship, but it’s frankly rather childish.
To be fair, some athletes handle this like true adults. Back in March, Corey Black let the ball get away from him and put Hunter Pence out of the game with a broken arm. Fans were angry, and threatened to hunt Black down for what he had done. But he was truly apologetic, and Pence was understanding. The two handled the situation with all of the grace that you would expect from a professional athlete.
On the other hand, you have the current situation between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Andrew McCutchen seems to take more beanings than anybody. But when the Pirates retaliate, it’s not like they’re usually beaning one of the Reds’ pitchers. They’re hitting players like second baseman Brandon Phillips. Players who are innocent, playing no part in the beanball war whatsoever. It’s just ridiculous to put an innocent player’s safety in jeopardy out of spite for someone else’s actions.
5. Sausage Races
This is one of the more common baseball traditions, and it’s another one that shouldn’t necessarily be executed. It’s just insane due to the fact that it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the sport or even the teams involved. When you think of mascot races, you might think that the mascots of the competing teams race against each other. But no, that would make too much sense.
The Texas Rangers feature the Dot Race, which an odd number of people like to gamble on (despite being told not to by the PA announcer). Chuck Morgan, the man who helped create it, has no idea why it’s popular. But aside from the dots in Texas and the Presidents Race hosted by the Washington Nationals, most mascot races are about foot. Pittsburgh has the Great Pierogi Race. The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians both use hot dogs. Some just use mascot races as an excuse to feature their sponsors, such as the Houston Astros (who race packets of hot sauce from Taco Bell).
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Sausage Race, however, is definitely one of the most popular. Unfortunately, it’s had its fair share of issues. In 2013, someone stole the Italian sausage costume. Local merchants offered a year’s worth of mustard and sauerkraut as a reward, but the cryptic men who returned it (while making thinly veiled threats against the primary witness) did not claim their rewards. Because, seriously…why would they?
A more “serious” incident occurred in 2003 when Randall Simon of Pittsburgh tried to playfully tap the Italian sausage with his bat and accidentally knocked over the teen girl wearing the costume. Simon was fined $432, which even the victim of Sausagegate did not appear to believe necessary (although she accepted the free trip to Curaçao that she was offered). Oh, wait, did we say $432? No, that was just by the sheriff’s office. Bud Selig fined him two grand and gave him a three-game suspension.The issue was naturally blown completely out of proportion in the following weeks. Deadspin collected a few snippets of journalism on the incident back in 2013, one of which compares Simon’s actions to Kobe Bryant’s alleged sexual assault. Because sausage races are serious business.
4. The Roll Call
This is another one of those baseball traditions that we have to admit is pretty cool. For those who are unfamiliar with what we’re talking about, the roll call is a chant of sorts performed by the Bleacher Creatures, a die-hard group of Yankees fans who sit in Section 203. Vinny Milano, also known as “Bald Vinny,” cups his hands around his mouth and shouts the names of the players on the field until they wave, point, or otherwise acknowledge the fans. You don’t always get to see friendly interactions between fans and players during the game, so some might consider it one of the greater baseball traditions in existence.
But, as we’ve said before, fans can be pretty crazy. And there are people who don’t like the Bleacher Creatures because they can often be rude and personally insulting to other fans. People who paid good money to follow their team to New York. Fans who don’t feel the need to shout, but simply want to support their teams wherever they go. A lot of people think of baseball as a sport in which fans respect each other, as well as good plays made by opposing teams. Not only do the Bleacher Creatures not do that, but they apparently think that their own particular baseball traditions are copyrighted.
That brings us back to the roll call, and the backlash that arose when a member of the 7 Line (a New York Mets fan group) tried to imitate it. People on Twitter were angry, with one person saying that Mets fans should “just cheer normally.” Other members of the 7 Line were less insulting, but directed the fan not to do the roll call again. Apparently, Bald Vinny has the most level head of anyone. He applauded the 7 Line for their enthusiasm, and said that he’d like to see the same from his fellow Bleacher Creatures.
In other words, the guy who actually leads the roll call seems to be the only one who isn’t trying to enforce some insane trademark on it. Which makes him one of the best possible representatives for the Bleacher Creatures. Because it isn’t the roll call that really qualifies as one of our top insane baseball traditions—it’s disrespecting other fans for trying to enjoy themselves.
3. So Many Eras
Some baseball traditions don’t really affect the game, or even the fans, all that much. Some baseball traditions affect journalists. That doesn’t mean that true buffs of America’s favorite pastime don’t still enjoy talking about the many eras and how the sport has changed throughout each one, but fans don’t lose anything if they lack the knowledge to do so. Which is probably good, because there are nearly a dozen different eras, some of which are only vaguely defined and many of which overlap with one another.
Some of these eras are pretty easy to define. You can probably guess when the Pre-1900 Era and the World War 2 Era were. The Segregation Era was pretty important, although it’s unclear why the source linked above designates it as ending in “1947ish” rather than just 1947 (the year Jackie Robinson opened the gates for athletes of color). Integration was a slow process, but Robinson was still enough of a legend to warrant being credited with the end of segregation in baseball.
Some eras are still current, such as the Designated Hitter Era, the Free Agency Era, and the Wild Card Era. Some eras are particularly well-known, such as the Dead Ball Era and the Steroid Era. The Dead Ball Era actually occurred twice, interestingly enough. It basically just refers to a couple of periods in which offense was lacking from the game. The Steroid Era ended in 2005, which no one apparently told A-Rod or Biogenesis. (Kidding. We know how to forgive, just not how to forget.)
The problem with having so many eras is simply that they cause confusion. No one’s technically forced to refer to them. In fact, this is the first time we’ve ever mentioned them at all. And true, they can be helpful in some types of journalism. But every once in a while, someone will write about a “new era in baseball,” and readers can never be sure whether they mean an actual defined era or just a minor change that the writer thought was kind of cool. For instance, is the game really changing and entering a new era just because we can use computers to call strikes now? Probably not.
Although, multiple sources such as Gammons Daily and the Associated Press have credited a new era to the emergence of players such as Mike Trout, who they believe will revitalize the sport. But in truth, eras just aren’t that easy to define. Maybe they aren’t one of the most “insane” baseball traditions, but they’re frustrating. Because we’ll likely never really know whether or not we’re in a new era until we’ve already entered the next one.
By the way, in case you’re wondering who comes up with these, we have no idea. The National Baseball Hall of Fame does have Eras Committees, but they only define three eras: the Pre-Integration Era, the Golden Era, and the Expansion Era. That’s just way easier.
2. Ketchup on Hot Dogs
We said that we weren’t going to focus on certain baseball traditions such as hot dogs or the seventh-inning stretch, and we’re technically not. We aren’t the types to go around bashing hot dogs. Randall Simon already did that a few entries back. But next to the classic American grill-out, baseball games are one of the most common places for hot dogs to be consumed. And believe it or not, there’s quite a bit of debate regarding whether or not ketchup is acceptable.
You might be wondering at this point what we’re trying to say here. The roll call wasn’t insane, but the debate over it was. Is that what we’re going for with this entry, too? No. Putting ketchup on your hot dog is insane. Put it on your fries. Put it on your hamburgers. Put it on your eggs and hash browns if you’re one of those people. But nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.
We aren’t alone in this. Foodie website CHOW received a ton of backlash for putting ketchup on a hot dog in one of their videos, to the point that they felt the need to investigate. They found that many believe ketchup (which contains sugar) to overwhelm the taste of food. But not everyone feels that way. New York-based website Gothamist had staffers become embroiled with one another when debating a ruling by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council that, as a matter of etiquette, no one above the age of 18 should ever put ketchup on a hot dog. By the way, the Council also gave Mandy Block (the girl who got hit by Randall Simon in the Sausage Race) a certificate of bravery. Because what else does a hot dog council do with its time?
Hatred for ketchup is especially strong in Chicago, where they have their own way of making a hot dog. Granted, the Chicago dog is pretty laden with condiments. Mustard, onions, relish, tomato slices, pickled peppers, a pickle spear, and usually a bit of celery salt. It’s good, but it’s a lot to take in. You wouldn’t give that to your kid at a baseball game, especially when some little kids barely possess the motor skills to eat a hot dog with ketchup and mustard alone.
It kind of sounds like we’re not talking about baseball traditions such much as food in general, but the ketchup debate has actually had an impact on the sport. More specifically, it had an impact on Charlie Marcuse, the famous singing hot dog vendor of the Detroit Tigers. Apparently, he was one of those who believed that mustard was far superior to ketchup in every way. Unfortunately, he felt so strongly that he couldn’t keep himself from openly judging anyone who purchased a ketchup dog. As such, he was fired from his position as a hot dog vendor in 2013.
Granted, the debate is probably going to die off pretty soon. It seems that one of the newer baseball traditions revolves around making food as ridiculous as possible. We have no idea how Marcuse would have felt about the poutine dog released to Tigers fans in 2014. It certainly sounds better than the bacon dog with Cheez Whiz released to fans of the Philadelphia Phillies that same year. Also released that year by the Arizona Diamondbacks was the Venom Dog, because forget about baseball traditions. What we really want is food that’s so bad for you, they actually named it after poison. Arizona actually has a number of such signature food items. They also released the 18-inch D-bat Dog last year, followed by this year’s 1117-calorie Churro Dog.
It makes sense. Hot dogs are too easy, regardless of whether or not you take them with ketchup. But signature food items are preferred by team owners because they fulfill one of the oldest baseball traditions of all time—making money. And in the case of the Churro Dog, it’s working. They sold roughly 1000 of them on opening day this year. That’s over a million calories worth of fake dessert hot dog. The good news? Probably not one person put ketchup on them.
1. Everyone Is Cursed
Baseball is a superstitious sport, and that’s one of the reasons it will always stand out. But that leads to one of the most insane baseball traditions, which is the tendency to label every run of bad performances a curse. Granted, this isn’t technically limited to baseball. For instance, hockey has the Curse of 1940. But baseball seems to have some of the most interesting sports curses around.
Most of these curses revolve around specific players. Probably the most well-known is the Curse of the Bambino. Back during the first Dead Ball Era, the Red Sox owned Babe Ruth for a time. And it was going pretty swimmingly. He played for them for eight years, during which they won four World Series. They had won the first ever World Series in 1903 (back when they were the Boston Americans), so this was nothing new to them. But it was while playing for the Red Sox that the Great Bambino developed into one of the greatest players who ever lived, so it was easy for people to credit him for their wins. Then, in 1919, the team’s owner decided to invest in a Broadway play called No, No Nanette. For that, he needed money. So he decided to sell the Babe to the New York Yankees. Considering that Boston and New York have been rivals since before baseball even existed, you can imagine how badly the trade was received by fans.
It didn’t help much that the Sox failed to win the World Series after Ruth was traded. Even worse, the Yankees won three times in the next decade, having never won prior to the trade. The Curse of the Bambino lasted for 86 years, with Boston failing to win a single World Series while the Yankees won 26 of them. It did not end until 2004, during which Boston finally broke their streak (and won a few more times in the following years). But the Red Sox are not the only team who have trouble believing that they could possibly fail to win a championship without some type of curse in play. In fact, they seem to have passed their curse back to their rivals when it was broken.
We’re referring to the Curse of A-Rod, a curse that afflicted the Yankees right after the Curse of the Bambino was finally ended. The Red Sox were actually trying to acquire Alex Rodriguez prior to their 2004 World Series win, but the deal fell through and he went to the Pinstripers instead. Interestingly enough, the reason that the players’ association rejected A-Rod’s move to Boston was because they didn’t like that he would receive a cut in pay. After he moved to New York, a lot of people were bound to think that he deserved it.
It was lucky for Boston that the Yanks took Rodriguez, because they would have gone another few years without lifting the Curse of the Bambino. We say a few, because the Curse of A-Rod only lasted from 2004 to 2009. In 2009, the Yankees were able to net their 27th World Series win. Not only that, but their win was largely attributed to the efforts of Alex Rodriguez himself. Game after game, he knocked the ball out of the park, leading some to wonder if there was ever truly a curse at all. Which there wasn’t. Considering that there are eight teams who have never won the World Series at all, it shouldn’t take that much humility to accept the fact that it doesn’t take a curse to lose for five years.
Not all curses revolve around just one player. In fact, some curses tie into other baseball traditions. For instance, the Mets (as well as many other teams) like to give away bobbleheads modeled after their players, which led to the inception of the Mets’ Bobblehead Curse. The first of the New York Mets to be afflicted with this curse was Mike Piazza, back in 2002. He hit 33 homers that year, but only 11 the next year. It also hit great players such as Kaz Matsui, Pedro Martinez, Paul Lo Duca, and so on. Every year, a great player was given a bobblehead, and it never failed that their numbers went down the following season. That’s why this year, Jacob deGrom was immortalized as a garden gnome. And so far, he’s having a statistically good season. Which is especially funny since the Mets almost traded him to the Red Sox back in 2012. The Red Sox just can’t seem to stay out of these curses.
Well, that’s not quite true. A completely different Sox team owns our next curse. You’ve probably heard of the fabled Curse of the Black Sox, as it involves one of the biggest scandals to ever sweep the world of baseball. A few members of the Chicago White Sox decided to throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for pay from a few men who planned on wagering large bets against the team. The men were banned from playing, but the Curse of the Black Sox haunted the team for roughly the same length of time as the Curse of the Bambino. It was broken in 2005, one year after the Red Sox had put their own curse to rest.
More than eight decades is quite some time to go without a Series win, but it isn’t the longest a team has ever gone. There are two unbroken curses, one of which is responsible for the longest championship drought in baseball. The first unbroken curse is the Curse of Rocky Colavito, which began in 1960 when Colavito (the home run king of that year) was coldly traded by the Cleveland Indians because they didn’t want to give him a raise. They haven’t won the World Series since 1948. Their streak continued even after bringing Colavito back in 1965, leading him to state that owner Frank Lane was the one truly responsible for the curse.
The second unbroken curse, and the one responsible for the longest drought in history, is the Curse of the Billy Goat. The best part about this one is that it involves a man literally cursing the Chicago Cubs during the 1945 World Series. After William Sianis, charismatic owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was asked to leave the stadium due to the owner of the pet goat that he had brought with him, he yelled that the Cubs “ain’t gonna win no more!” And boy, was he right. They hadn’t won since their back-to-back wins in 1907 and 1908, but they were leading in 1945. After Sianis uttered his curse, they lost the World Series and haven’t even won a pennant since then. Some think that this is the year, since the Chinese lunar cycle dictates this as the Year of the Goat. Others think they’ll win with the management style of Joe Maddon. After more than 100 years, we’re thinking they’ll take a win any way they can get it just to end this curse.
Actually, you know what? We’d like to change our earlier stance. Curses are the least insane of all baseball traditions. If a team can become cursed for over a century because of a man and his goat, then we aren’t going to play around with that kind of power. Baseball gods…we apologize.