Good luck charms come in all shapes and sizes, from bugs to birds to ... underwear
Heading into the All-Star break, the Phillies got on a hot streak thanks in part to a most unusual helper: A potted plant. The lucky bamboo -- actual name dracaena -- played an important role in helping the Phillies stay afloat in a suddenly competitive NL East race.
Was it the #Bamboo? The #Phillies seem to think so. And so...Brad Miller went to Chinatown and bought the largest one he could find. It needs a name though....#TrustThePlant@6abc pic.twitter.com/RTSoT5Q1qf— Jamie Apody (@JamieApody) June 25, 2019
But this is nothing new: Baseball is a superstitious game. When wins and losses can swing because of a few bounces of a ball, it’s not unusual for players to embrace some magical thinking and look to animals, inanimate objects and bizarre rituals in hopes that the fates will smile kindly upon them.
So, while we wait to see if the bamboo can lead the Phillies to the promised land of a World Series title, here are some of the most bizarre things teams have rallied behind.
What you choose to wear under your clothing is a question of personal preference and is something that is rarely revealed. That wasn’t the case for the 2010 Giants.
In late August, the team needed to win 20 of its final 30 games to reach the postseason. So, first baseman Aubrey Huff did what anyone would do: He started wearing his wife’s red thong underwear.
The team got hot, rallying around the magical piece of underwear, and it led them all the way to the first of three World Series titles in five years. It's something the team didn't run from either, with the thong even making an appearance during the World Series parade.
After winning the 2015 World Series, the Royals were scuffling in 2016, hanging under .500. Then, this weird green stick-like bug, the praying mantis, arrived. He showed up in the Royals dugout and hung out on backup outfielder Billy Burns’ cap. The Rally Mantis was born.
The team proceeded to win that night and rattle off five-of-six. It was working; the season was saved. But then, tragedy struck: the mantis died -- though Burns was quick to say that he was “dying when we found him."
The team lost that night, but were lucky when a second mantis found his way into the team’s dugout. Creatively dubbed Rally Mantis Jr., he was given a special home, complete with grass and bugs to eat. Burns, who spent one night researching how to care for him, was given responsibility for the little guy. “I think the only reason I’m taking care of him is I actually care about him not dying,” he said.
Unfortunately, the magic wasn't enough. The Royals finished 81-81 and in third place. As for Jr.8? He got to live out his days in a nature center.
The Dominican Republic won the 2013 World Baseball Classic. And sure, you might have thought it was because of their massively talented roster, featuring players like Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion. But no, that wasn’t it. It was the Rally Plantain.
Brought by the always entertaining Fernando Rodney, the plantain first made its appearance on the broadcast when Rodney surprised fans at home by waving it in the air. He would keep the fruit in his locker, in the bullpen or in his pocket. And it worked: The D.R. went 8-0 to take home the championship.
After it became a sensation, complete with plantain farmers in the DR sending photos of themselves doing Rodney's post-save celebration, the team brought it back for the 2017 WBC. Unfortunately, the magic didn’t last as the team finished fifth.
In 1976, an Orioles fan in Milwaukee handed pitcher Dyar Miller a small shoebox before a game against the Brewers. Inside, Miller found a baby turkey wearing an O’s helmet.
Unsure of what to do, Miller brought the bird with him on the airplane back to Baltimore (something you probably couldn’t get away with today). He decided to house the bird in clubhouse and, sure enough, Baltimore got hot.
“We started getting on a winning streak and [manager] Earl Weaver wouldn’t let the turkey out of the clubhouse,” Miller recounted in the book “Field of Screams” by Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon.
“The thing got big!” Miller added. “It was running loose in the clubhouse.”
While the creature was cared for by clubhouse manager Clay Reed, the magic didn’t last for long. When the season was over and everyone went home, the bird became Reed’s Thanksgiving dinner. The O's didn't do much better: They won 88 games, but finished in second place by 10 1/2 behind the Yankees.
After losing in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, the Pirates went two decades without a winning season. Things were bleak, and fans were desperate for the streak to end. Fortunately, the Pirates watched "Dude, Where's my Car?" on the clubhouse TV before a game in 2012. And, believe it or not, it nearly turned everything around.
Sure, it was one of the dumbest movies ever made, but that just made it the perfect thing to inspire the team. To celebrate big hits and big wins, players would create a ‘Z’ with their hands for the Zoltan -- a gesture characters in the film used to pay respect to their UFO cult leader.
"We just started doing it, we've been raking ever since," said starter A.J. Burnett, with the team eventually moving to 16 games over .500. "That was my favorite part of the night, seeing 20 guys behind home plate doing that. It shows you what a group we have."
The Zoltan gesture seemed unstoppable, and the team was surely destined to get past the 81-win mark. Unfortunately, they eventually cooled down and finished with 79 wins. Did that mean the 'Z' was a waste?
Nope. The Pirates brought it back the next year, knowing that the Zoltan would never let them down. This time, they finally snapped the streak -- winning 94 games before losing in Game 5 of the NLDS.
With his job done, the Pirates did adopt a new hand gesture in 2014. The Zoltan had worked its magic.
Michael Clair writes for MLB.com. He spends a lot of time thinking about walk-up music and believes stirrup socks are an integral part of every formal outfit.