Colin C. Rhodes: COLUMN: Sausages and superstitions

May 16—The Minnesota Twins have one of the most intriguing rituals in baseball. Players will tap an unopened summer sausage before their at bats for good luck.

It started during the April 24 game against the Chicago White Sox, and the sausage has made an impact. The Twins are 15-4 since the sausage came along after going 9-14 before.

It's the latest example of how superstition has a seat at the sports table. Many players and coaches have pre-game, mid-game, or post-game rituals they believe help them or the team perform better and win more games.

Baseball has the strongest history of superstition. People have written entire books on the topic, such as "Jinxed: Baseball Superstitions from Around the Major Leagues True Stories" by Ken Leiker and "Field of Magic: Baseball's Superstitions, Curses and Taboos" by John Cairney.

Bleacher Report published a 50-item listicle (story with the information in a list format) in 2012 with some of the "weirdest all-time superstitions," according to the title. And some of them are pretty weird.

You may already be familiar with Jason Giambi wearing a gold thong when he got in a slump or former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland wearing the same pair of boxers without washing them when his team was on a win streak. But did you know that Turk Wendell would chew four pieces of black licorice every inning he pitched, spit them out after each inning, brush his teeth, and then put four more pieces in?

Superstition can be found in all levels of baseball. Indiana University Libraries has an archived story from 2019 online mentioning college players at IU eating the same thing before every game, whether it's a hot dog or McDonald's.

Some high school players also have superstitions. On East Fairmont's baseball team, Carter McKnight eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before games, and Danny Raddish eats pepper beef jerky. Nate Whiteman's ritual of wearing his belt upside down goes back to sixth grade.

"I accidentally put it on upside down," Whiteman said. "I went 3-for-4 on the day, and then I just kept on playing with this since."

Fans can also get into the superstition action. Fans will join players during late-game rallies from behind by turning their ball caps inside out. A similar ritual has been seen in hockey where players wear their helmets backwards during shootouts.

While this article has mostly been about baseball, superstitions exist in other sports. In the NBA, Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina practice shorts under his uniform shorts his entire career. Former Timberwolves and Celtics star Kevin Garnett, like McKnight also ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich ritual has an interesting story. Garnett, on the Celtics at the time, really wanted a PB&J before a game. After eating the sandwich, he stepped on the court and performed really well. It caught on with the rest of the Celtics and later the whole league after players left Boston and took the ritual with them.

While the Minnesota Twins (hopefully) aren't eating their summer sausage, it's possible the rest of Major League Baseball, or even all of baseball, starts tapping their bats on an uncooked piece of processed meat for good luck. It's not likely, but if PB&J's can do it, so can summer sausage.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548