Everyone knows that baseball players are superstitious. Wade Boggs ate only chicken before games throughout his 18-year professional career, and Nomar Garciaparra's pre-pitch routine while batting was nearly enough to make onlookers anxious. Yet, instead of emulating Boggs, Garciaparra or any number of other superstitious stars, when two Dallas-Fort Worth area teens were looking to break out of an early season slump they took a nod from cinematic baseball's past, allegedly sacrificing live chickens.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Associated Press, among other outlets, two baseball players for Western Hills (Texas) High have been banned from the school's team for the remainder of the 2011 season after police began investigating reports that the unnamed teens sacrificed live chickens on the Western Hills baseball field. The teenagers were reportedly looking for ways to improve the Cougars' 7-14 early season performance, and decided a live animal sacrifice might change their luck. It's unknown the age of the animals involved, but the Star-Telegram speculated that baby chicks may have been used.
"Baseball is very superstitious, and I assume [movies like 'Major League' and 'Bull Durham'] are where they got it from," Western Hills coach Bobby McIntire told the Star-Telegram.
In the movie "Major League," the team jokes about sacrificing a live chicken in the clubhouse to end a batting slump, only to then bring in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. In a more oblique reference, Kevin Costner's "Crash" character in "Bull Durham" says "[we] need a live chicken to get the hex off Jose's glove" during a famous mound conference scene, though no chicken is ever seen or sacrificed in the film.
Wherever the players got the impetus to kill live animals on the field, the action didn't go down well with McIntire or other officials in the Fort Worth school district. The sacrifices allegedly took place over spring break, with the team returning to action this week.
Though it seems ludicrous to say that there actually is a connection between the actions of the students in question and their team's performance, the Star-Telegram reported that Western Hills did win a Wednesday evening game, 11-1, thanks to a one-hitter thrown by pitcher Payton Baskette.
It's unknown whether the students involved, whose names will not be released due to privacy issues, will face criminal charges. Regardless, at least one official from the Humane Society of North Texas said the sacrifices underscore just how detached from animals many teens are, even in the ranch-thick state of Texas.
"[To these kids] chicken comes from a plastic bag, and they may not understand that chickens are living creatures that feel pain and feel fear," North Texas Humane Society Equine and Livestock Coordinator Sandy Grambort told the Star-Telegram. "You have to look at the intent behind these kids' acts. That's what needs to be addressed."