5 Bizarre Baseball Curses and Superstitions From Around the World

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Spooky locations and mysterious cryptids are no strangers to urban legends — but did you know the sports world is also rife with strange curses and mythologies? Baseball players and fans in particular have been surrounded by bizarre beliefs for decades. For some players, it’s as simple as attributing their hitting streaks to wearing two different socks or naming their bats. For some diehard fans, it’s sitting in the same seats, getting a hot dog only during the seventh inning stretch or wearing their lucky underwear any time their team steps on the field.

But while players and fans alike engage in some pretty intense superstitions before games, it’s the bizarre curses that seem to really hit teams where it hurts. From smelly goats to Colonel Sanders, there are plenty of strange sources of bad luck when it comes to America’s favorite pastime. These five baseball curses from around the world may just be the weirdest.

The Curse of Rocky Colavito

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Fans of the Cleveland Indians saw the trade of Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers in 1960 as an act of betrayal by General Manager Frank Lane, as Colavito led the American League in home runs the previous year. But he wasn’t traded for just anybody. Cleveland received the American League batting champion from the same year, Harvey Kuenn, in return.

It was the start of a complete overhaul of the roster by the new general manager. But that single trade has lived on in infamy ever since — it was the start of a 35-year stretch during which Cleveland didn’t make a single postseason appearance.

Cleveland finally broke through the playoff drought by winning the American League Championship in 1995, 1997 and 2016. They lost each of the World Series appearances in those same years, but 2016 may have been the most devastating with the 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the 10th inning of game seven. The last time Cleveland won the World Series was in 1948. While this curse continues, each season brings a newfound or re-ignited hope it’ll be the year that the Curse of Rocky Colavito ends and Cleveland wins their first World Series title in over 70 years.

Mets Bobbleheads

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Some specific New York Mets players have been said to be cursed over the years. The reason? Bobbleheads — you know those dolls with the jiggling heads. Bobbleheads are often handed out as giveaways at Major League ballparks, commemorating past and current players and providing fans with unique keepsakes. However, nearly every Mets bobblehead that’s been sponsored by Gold’s Horseradish since 2002 has seen its corresponding player subsequently become injured or begin performing poorly. Mike Piazza received a bobblehead in 2002, a year that saw him hit 33 home runs with almost 100 RBIs. The following year, he only made 11 home runs.

Star pitcher Pedro Martinez received his bobblehead in 2005. Following that season, his performance declined steeply, and it ended up being his last all star-worthy season. The list goes on, with the curse impacting numerous skilled players like Kazuo Matsui, Paul Lo Duca, Fransisco Rodriguez and Jason Bay.

The Curse of the Colonel

A statue of Colonel Sanders is displayed by Osaka city officers after it was recovered from the sludge of the Dotonbori River nearly a quarter of a century after it went missing in Osaka. Photo Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images

The Hanshin Tigers, one of the most popular baseball teams in Japan, have endured one of the most bizarre curses in baseball since the mid 1980s. The League adopted a similar system to that of Major League Baseball’s American and National Leagues, implementing the Pacific and Central Leagues. The Tigers made a few league championship appearances after the new leagues became official in 1950 but didn’t actually win the championship until 1985. This is when the curse began.

After the championship win that year, Tigers fans congregated on a bridge to celebrate. The idea was that every time they chanted the name of a player from the team, a fan who looked the most like that player would jump off the bridge and into the Dotonbori River. Randy Bass was one of the best players on the Tigers and was an American citizen, and nobody in the crowd bore any close similarities to him. Instead, fans found a statue of Colonel Sanders at a nearby KFC restaurant, dressed it in Bass regalia and tossed it over the bridge into the water.  

The Hanshin Tigers haven’t won a league championship since, and a fan of the team even drowned in the river. Divers recovered the statue from the river in 2009 with the hope doing so would put an end to the team’s misfortune. But the curse remains, and some say it can’t fully be lifted until the Colonel’s glasses and hand, which are still missing in the river, are discovered and returned.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

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What does a smelly goat have to do with America’s favorite pastime? As it turns out, one specific reeking ruminant is responsible for perhaps the most famous curse in baseball history.

The Chicago Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908. Chicago bar owner William Sianis went to game four of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field with his pet goat, Murphy, following along. After fans complained to staff that the goat’s stench was too offensive, Sianis and Murphy were kicked out of the game. Sianis, unhappy with the decision, penned a letter to then Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, swearing that the Cubs would not win another game. The tavern owner’s invective was said to have put a curse on the team.

The Cubs indeed lost the Series in ’45. They came close to participating in World Series games a few times over the following 71 years, but to no avail. Strangely, on the 46th anniversary of Sianis’ death in 2016, the Cubs finally broke the curse by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 innings in one of the most thrilling National League Championship Series games in history.

Curse of the Bambino

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The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have one of the greatest rivalries — not just in baseball, but in the sports universe in general. The Red Sox had won five of the first 15 World Series ever played, and Babe Ruth played an integral role in two of those championships. During that same stretch, the Yankees hadn’t made a single appearance in the World Series. However, in 1920, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

What followed was a stretch of 84 seasons during which the Red Sox didn’t win a single World Series and the Yankees won 26. Fast-forward to 2004, and the curse appeared as if it would endure. The Yankees held a 3-0 series lead over the Red Sox in the American League Championship. They were up 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in game four, but the Red Sox tied the game and forced extra innings. Then, David Ortiz stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 12th, hitting a walk-off home run to win the game.

History was forever changed. The Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to come back and win a series after falling 0-3. They went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to win their first World Series since 1918 — finally ending the Curse of the Bambino.