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Top 5 moments in superstition history

By Larry Stone
On September 28, 2005

1. One of the earliest examples of obsessive adherence to superstition occurred in 1927, when Pirates manager Donnie Bush wanted star outfielder Kiki Cuyler, a future Hall of Famer, to move from third to second in the batting order. Cuyler refused to do so because of his superstitious devotion to hitting third - and superstitious fear of moving to the No. 2 hole. Bush - already upset with Cuyler for not sliding hard enough for the manager's liking to break up a double play earlier in the season - suspended Cuyler just before the World Series. The Pirates, batting just .223 as a team, were swept by the Yankees - and Cuyler was traded to the Cubs in November.

2. Ron Wright, once a top prospect in the minor leagues, got in the habit of shaving his forearms when he played for the Macon Braves in Class AA. He originally shaved to facilitate a bandage wrapping for a jammed left wrist, but began hitting so well that he incorporated the manscaping into his routine for years.

"I'll keep shaving them until I have a bad year,'' Wright said in a 1997 interview.

There is no official word on the status of Wright's forearms when he finally made his major-league debut, with the Mariners in 2002, after eight years kicking around the minors.

Called up when Edgar Martinez went on the disabled list, Wright started one game as designated hitter, on Aug. 13. In his major-league debut, Wright struck out against Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers. In his second at-bat, he grounded into a triple play. In his third at-bat, he grounded into a double play. Three at-bats, six outs, surely a major-league record for singular futility. Wright was sent back down to Class AAA Tacoma shortly thereafter without another plate appearance, and has never returned to the major leagues.

3. Back in 1984, Minnesota Twins pitcher Frank Viola noticed a large banner at the Metrodome that said "FRANKIE SWEET MUSIC VIOLA." He also noticed that whenever the banner appeared, he seemed to pitch well, and, in fact, never lost. According to Sports Illustrated, the banner's creator, a fan named Mark Dornfield, introduced himself to Viola in 1987, and the two talked for two hours. That season, Viola went 15-0, with four no-decisions (all Twins victories) in banner games.

The Twins made the World Series that season, and Viola learned that Dornfield didn't have a ticket. That prompted Kathy Viola, Frank's wife, to call Dornfield up and offer him tickets to Games 1 and 7. As SI reported, "With the banner proudly unfurled, Viola won both games and was named Series MVP."

4. Teams and players have come to dread being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and for good reason. In 2002, researchers at the magazine pored over 47 years worth of covers, and reported that 37.2 percent of the time (913 out of 2,456 covers to that date), something negative happened to the cover subjects. That includes nearly 12 percent that suffered injuries or death.

The so-called "Sports Illustrated Jinx" starts with Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Mathews, who was on the very first SI cover while the Braves were in first place. Mathews promptly hurt his hand, missed seven games, and the Braves fell out of first place.

5. Baseball fans are intimately familiar with the Curse of the Bambino, which mercifully ended its reign when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series - 84 years after Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

Most baseball fans are also acquainted with the Curse of the Billy Goat, which according to legend was bestowed upon the Cubs when Chicago tavern owner William "Gus" Sianis was upset that his pet goat was denied entrance into a World Series game in 1945. Sianis supposedly declared that no World Series would ever again be played at Wrigley Field, and despite numerous efforts by the Cubs and their fans to lift the curse, the World Series has continued to evade the Cubbies.

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