Jinxes And What They Mean To A Ball-player
A Load of Empty Barrels, Hired by John McGraw, once Pulled the
Giants out of a Losing Streak--The Child of Superstition Appears to
the Ball-Player in Many Forms--Various Ways in which the Influence of
the Jinx can be Overcome--The True Story of "Charley" Faust--The
Necktie that Helped Win a Pennant.
A friend of mine, who took a different fork in the road when we left
college from the one that I have followed, was walking down Broadway in
New York with me one morning after I had joined the Giants, and we passed
a cross-eyed man. I grabbed off my hat and spat in it. It was a new hat,
too. "What's the matter with you, Matty?" he asked, surprised.
"Spit in your hat quick and kill that jinx," I answered, not thinking for
the minute, and he followed my example.
I forgot to mention, when I said he took another fork in the road, that he
had become a pitcher, too, but of a different kind. He had turned out to
be sort of a conversational pitcher, for he was a minister, and, as luck
would have it, on the morning we met that cross-eyed man he was wearing a
silk hat. I was shocked, pained, and mortified when I saw what I had made
him do. But he was the right sort, and wanted to go through with the thing
according to the standards of the professional man with whom he happened
to be at the time.
"What's the idea?" he asked as he replaced his hat.
"Worst jinx in the world to see a cross-eyed man," I replied. "But I hope
I didn't hurt your silk hat," I quickly apologized.
"Not at all. But how about these ball-players who masticate the weed? Do
they kill jinxes, too?" he wanted to know. And I had to admit that they
were the main exterminators of the jinx.
"Then," he went on, "I'm glad that the percentage of wearers of cross eyes
I have just looked into one of my favorite works for that word "jinx," and
found it not. My search was in Webster's dictionary. But any ball-player
can give a definition of it with his hands tied behind him--that is, any
one except "Arlie" Latham, and, with his hands bound, he is deaf and dumb.
A jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ball-player, and the
members of the profession have built up a series of lucky and unlucky
omens that should be catalogued. And besides the common or garden variety
of jinxes, many stars have a series of private or pet and trained ones
that are more malignant in their forms than those which come out in the
A jinx is the child of superstition, and ball-players are among the most
superstitious persons in the world, notwithstanding all this conversation
lately about educated men breaking into the game and paying no attention
whatever to the good and bad omens. College men are coming into both the
leagues, more of them each year, and they are doing their share to make
the game better and the class of men higher, but they fall the hardest for
the jinxes. And I don't know as it is anything to be ashamed of at that.
A really true, on-the-level, honest-to-jiminy jinx can do all sorts of
mean things to a professional ball-player. I have seen it make a bad
pitcher out of a good one, and a blind batter out of a three-hundred
hitter, and I have seen it make a ball club, composed of educated men,
carry a Kansas farmer, with two or three screws rattling loose in his
dome, around the circuit because he came as a prophet and said that he was
accompanied by Miss Fickle Fortune. And that is almost a jinx record.
Jinx and Miss Fickle Fortune never go around together. And ball-players
are always trying to kill this jinx, for, once he joins the club, all hope
is gone. He dies hard, and many a good hat has been ruined in an effort to
destroy him, as I have said before, because the wearer happened to be
chewing tobacco when the jinx dropped around. But what's a new hat against
a losing streak or a batting slump?
Luck is a combination of confidence and getting the breaks. Ball-players
get no breaks without confidence in themselves, and lucky omens inspire
this confidence. On the other hand, unlucky signs take it away. The lucky
man is the one who hits the nail on the head and not his fingers, and the
ability to swat the nail on its receptive end is a combination of
self-confidence and an aptitude for hammering. Good ball-playing is the
combination of self-confidence and the ability to play.
The next is "Red" Ames, although designated as "Leon" by his family when a
very small boy before he began to play ball. (He is still called "Leon" in
the winter.) Ames is of Warren, Ohio, and the Giants, and he is said to
hold the Marathon record for being the most unlucky pitcher that ever
lived, and I agree with the sayers. For several seasons, Ames couldn't
seem to win a ball game, no matter how well he pitched. In 1909, "Red"
twirled a game on the opening day of the season against Brooklyn that was
the work of a master. For nine innings he held his opponents hitless, only
to have them win in the thirteenth. Time and again Ames has pitched
brilliantly, to be finally beaten by a small score, because one of the men
behind him made an error at a critical moment, or because the team could
not give him any runs by which to win. No wonder the newspapers began to
speak of Ames as the "hoodoo" pitcher and the man "who couldn't win."
There was a cross-eyed fellow who lived between Ames and the Polo Grounds,
and "Red" used to make a detour of several blocks en route to the park to
be sure to miss him in case he should be out walking. But one day in 1911,
when it was his turn to pitch, he bumped into that cross-eyed man and, in
spite of the fact that he did his duty by his hat and got three or four
small boys to help him out, he failed to last two innings. When it came
time to go West on the final trip of the 1911 season, Ames was badly
"I don't see any use in taking me along, Mac," he said to McGraw a few
days before we left. "The club can't win with me pitching if the other
guys don't even get a foul."
The first stop was in Boston, and on the day we arrived it rained. In the
mail that day, addressed to Leon Ames, came a necktie and a four-leaf
clover from a prominent actress, wishing Ames good luck. The directions
were inside the envelope. The four-leaf clover, if the charm were to work,
must be worn on both the uniform and street clothes, and the necktie was
to be worn with the street clothes and concealed in the uniform, if that
necktie could be concealed anywhere. It would have done for a headlight
and made Joseph's coat of many colors look like a mourning garment.
"Might as well wish good luck to a guy on the way to the morgue," murmured
Ames as he surveyed the layout, but he manfully put on the necktie, taking
his first dose of the prescription, as directed, at once, and he tucked
the four-leaf clover away carefully in his wallet.
"You've got your work cut out for you, old boy," he remarked to the charm
as he put it away, "but I'd wear you if you were a horseshoe."
The first day that Ames pitched in Boston he won, and won in a stroll.
"The necktie," he explained that night at dinner, and pointed to the
three-sheet, colored-supplement affair he was wearing around his collar,
"I don't change her until I lose."
And he didn't lose a game on that trip. Once he almost did, when he was
taken out in the sixth inning, and a batter put in for him, but the Giants
finally pulled out the victory and he got the credit for it. He swept
through the West unbeatable, letting down Pittsburg with two or three
hits, cleaning up in St. Louis, and finally breaking our losing streak in
Chicago after two games had gone against us. And all the time he wore that
spectrum around his collar for a necktie. As it frayed with the wear and
tear, more colors began to show, although I didn't think it possible. If
he had had occasion to put on his evening clothes, I believe that tie
would have gone with it.
For my part, I would almost rather have lost a game and changed the
necktie, since it gave one the feeling all the time that he was carrying
it around with him because he had had the wrong end of an election bet, or
something of the sort. But not Ames! He was a game guy. He stuck with the
necktie, and it stuck with him, and the combination kept right on winning
ball games. Maybe he didn't mind it because he could not see it himself,
unless he looked in a mirror, but it was rough on the rest of the team,
except that we needed the games the necktie won, to take the pennant.
Columns were printed in the newspapers about that necktie, and it became
the most famous scarf in the world. Ames used to sleep with it under his
pillow alongside of his bank roll, and he didn't lose another game until
the very end of the season, when he dropped one against Brooklyn.
"I don't hardly lay that up against the tie," he said afterwards. "You
see, Mac put all those youngsters into it, and I didn't get any support."
Analyzing is a distasteful pastime to me, but let's see what it was that
made Ames win. Was it the necktie? Perhaps not. But some sliver of
confidence, which resulted from that first game when he was dressed up in
the scarf and the four-leaf clover, got stuck in his mind. And after that
the rest was easy.
Frank Chance, the manager of the Cubs, has a funny superstition which is
of the personal sort. Most ball-players have a natural prejudice against
the number "13" in any form, but particularly when attached to a Pullman
berth. But Chance always insists, whenever possible, that he have "lower
13." He says that if he can just crawl in under that number he is sure of
a good night's rest, a safe journey, and a victory the next day. He has
been in two or three minor railroad accidents, and he declares that all
these occurred when he was sleeping on some other shelf besides "lower
13." He can usually satisfy his hobby, too, for most travellers steer
clear of the berth.
McGraw believes a stateroom brings him good luck, or at least he always
insists on having one when he can get it.
"Chance can have 'lower 13,'" says "Mac," "but give me a stateroom for
Most ball-players nowadays treat the superstitions of the game as jokes,
probably because they are a little ashamed to acknowledge their
weaknesses, but away down underneath they observe the proprieties of the
ritual. Why, even I won't warm up with the third baseman while I am
waiting for the catcher to get on his mask and the rest of his
paraphernalia. Once, when I first broke in with the Giants, I warmed up
with the third baseman between innings and in the next round they hit me
hard and knocked me out of the box. Since then I have had an uncommon
prejudice against the practice, and I hate to hear a man even mention it.
Devlin knows of my weakness and never suggests it when he is playing the
bag, but occasionally a new performer will drill into the box score at
third base and yell:
"Come on, Matty! Warm up here while you're waiting."
It gets me. I'll pitch to the first baseman or a substitute catcher to
keep warm, but I would rather freeze to death than heat up with the third
baseman. That is one of my pet jinxes.
And speaking of Arthur Devlin, he has a few hand-raised jinxes of his own,
too. For instance, he never likes to hear a player hum a tune on the
bench, because he thinks it will keep him from getting a base hit. He
nearly beat a youngster to death one day when he kept on humming after
Devlin had told him to stop.
"Cut that out, Caruso," yelled Arthur, as the recruit started his melody.
"You are killing base hits."
The busher continued with his air until Devlin tried another form of
Arthur also has a favorite seat on the bench which he believes is luckier
than the rest, and he insists on sitting in just that one place.
But the worst blow Devlin ever had was when some young lady admirer of his
in his palmy days, who unfortunately wore her eyes crossed, insisted on
sitting behind third base for each game, so as to be near him. Arthur
noticed her one day and, after that, it was all off. He hit the worst
slump of his career. For a while no one could understand it, but at last
he confessed to McGraw.
"Mac," he said one night in the club-house, "it's that jinx. Have you
noticed her? She sits behind the bag every day, and she has got me going.
She has sure slid the casters under me. I wish we could bar her out, or
poison her, or shoot her, or chloroform her, or kill her in some nice,
mild way because, if it isn't done, this League is going to lose a
ball-player. How can you expect a guy to play with that overlooking him
McGraw took Devlin out of the game for a time after that, and the
newspapers printed several yards about the cross-eyed jinx who had ruined
the Giants' third baseman.
With the infield weakened by the loss of Devlin, the club began to lose
with great regularity. But one day the jinxess was missing and she never
came back. She must have read in the newspapers what she was doing to
Devlin, her hero, and quit the national pastime or moved to another part
of the stand. With this weight off his shoulders, Arthur went back into
the game and played like mad.
"If she'd stuck much longer," declared McGraw, joyous in his rejuvenated
third baseman, "I would have had her eyes operated on and straightened.
This club couldn't afford to keep on losing ball games because you are
such a Romeo, Arthur, that even the cross-eyed ones fall for you."
Ball-players are very superstitious about the bats. Did you ever notice
how the clubs are all laid out in a neat, even row before the bench and
are scrupulously kept that way by the bat boy? If one of the sticks by any
chance gets crossed, all the players will shout:
"Uncross the bats! Uncross the bats!"
It's as bad as discovering a three-alarm fire in an excelsior factory.
Don't believe it? Then listen to what happened to the Giants once because
a careless bat boy neglected his duty. The team was playing in Cincinnati
in the season of 1906 when one of the bats got crossed through the
carelessness of the boy. What was the result? "Mike" Donlin, the star
slugger of the team, slid into third base and came up with a broken
Ever since that time we have carried our own boy with us, because a club
with championship aspirations cannot afford to take a chance with those
foreign artists handling the bats. They are likely to throw you down at
The Athletics have a funny superstition which is private or confined to
their team as far as I know. When luck seems to be breaking against them
in a game, they will take the bats and throw them wildly into the air and
let them lie around in front of their bench, topsy-turvy. They call this
changing the luck, but any other club would consider that it was the worst
kind of a jinx. It is the same theory that card-players have about
shuffling the deck vigorously to bring a different run of fortune. Then,
if the luck changes, the Athletics throw the bats around some more to keep
it. This act nearly cost them one of their best ball-players in the third
game of the 1911 world's series.
The Philadelphia players had tossed their bats to break their run of luck,
for the score was 1 to 0 against them, when Baker came up in the ninth
inning. He cracked his now famous home run into the right-field bleachers,
and the men on the bench hurled the bats wildly into the air. In jumping
up and reaching for a bat to throw, Jack Barry, the shortstop, hit his
head on the concrete roof of the structure and was stunned for a minute.
He said that little black specks were floating in front of his eyes, but
he gamely insisted on playing the contest out. "Connie" Mack was so
worried over his condition that he sent Ira Thomas out on the field to
inquire if he were all right, and this interrupted the game in the ninth
inning. A lot of the spectators thought that Thomas was out there, bearing
some secret message from "Connie" Mack. None knew that he was ascertaining
the health of a player who had almost killed himself while killing a jinx.
The Athletics, for two seasons, have carried with them on all their trips
a combination bat boy and mascot who is a hunchback, and he outjinxed our
champion jinx killer, Charley Faust, in the 1911 world's series. A
hunchback is regarded by ball-players as the best luck in the world. If a
man can just touch that hump on the way to the plate, he is sure to get a
hit, and any observant spectator will notice the Athletics' hitters
rubbing the hunchback boy before leaving the bench. So attached to this
boy have the players become that they voted him half a share of the prize
money last year after the world's series. Lots of ball-players would tell
you that he deserved it because he has won two world's pennants for them.
Another great piece of luck is for a ball-player to rub a colored kid's
head. I've walked along the street with ball-players and seen them stop a
young negro and take off his hat and run their hands through his kinky
hair. Then I've seen the same ball-player go out and get two or three hits
that afternoon and play the game of his life. Again, it is the confidence
inspired, coupled with the ability.
Another old superstition among ball-players is that a load of empty
barrels means base hits. If an athlete can just pass a flock of them on
the way to the park, he is sure to step right along stride for stride with
the three-hundred hitters that afternoon.
McGraw once broke up a batting slump of the Giants with a load of empty
barrels. That is why I maintain he is the greatest manager of them all. He
takes advantage of the little things, even the superstitions of his men,
and turns them to his account. He played this trick in one of the first
years that he managed the New York club. The batting of all the players
had slumped at the same time. None could hit, and the club was losing game
after game as a result, because the easiest pitchers were making the best
batters look foolish. One day Bowerman came into the clubhouse with a
smile on his face for the first time in a week.
"Saw a big load of empty barrels this afternoon, boys," he announced, "and
just watch me pickle the pill out there to-day."
Right at that point McGraw got an idea, as he frequently does. Bowerman
went out that afternoon and made four hits out of a possible five. The
next day three or four more of the players came into the park, carrying
smiles and the announcement that fortunately they, too, had met a load of
empty barrels. They, then, all went out and regained their old batting
strides, and we won that afternoon for the first time in a week. More saw
a load of barrels the next day and started to bat. At last all the members
of the team had met the barrels, and men with averages of .119 were
threatening to chisel into the three-hundred set. With remarkable
regularity the players were meeting loads of empty barrels on their way to
the park, and, with remarkable regularity and a great deal of expedition,
the pitchers of opposing clubs were being driven to the shower bath.
"Say," asked "Billy" Gilbert, the old second baseman, of "Bill" Lauder,
formerly the protector of the third corner, one day, "is one of that team
of horses sorrel and the other white?"
"Sure," answered "Bill."
"Sure," echoed McGraw. "I hired that load of empty barrels by the week to
drive around and meet you fellows on the way to the park, and you don't
think I can afford to have them change horses every day, do you?"
Everybody had a good laugh and kept on swatting. McGraw asked for waivers
on the load of empty barrels soon afterwards, but his scheme had stopped a
batting slump and put the club's hitters on their feet again. He plays to
the little personal qualities and superstitions in the men to get the most
out of them. And just seeing those barrels gave them the idea that they
were bound to get the base hits, and they got them. Once more, the old
confidence, hitched up with ability.
What manager would have carried a Kansas farmer around the circuit with
him besides McGraw? I refer to Charles Victor Faust of Marion, Kansas, the
most famous jinx killer of them all. Faust first met the Giants in St.
Louis on the next to the last trip the club made West in the season of
1911, when he wandered into the Planter's Hotel one day, asked for McGraw
and announced that a fortune teller of Marion had informed him he would be
a great pitcher and that for $5 he could have a full reading. This
pitching announcement piqued Charles, and he reached down into his jeans,
dug out his last five, and passed it over. The fortune teller informed
Faust that all he had to do to get into the headlines of the newspapers
and to be a great pitcher was to join the New York Giants. He joined, and,
after he once joined, it would have taken the McNamaras in their best form
to separate him from the said Giants.
"Charley" came out to the ball park and amused himself warming up.
Incidentally, the Giants did not lose a game while he was in the
neighborhood. The night the club left for Chicago on that trip, he was
down at the Union Station ready to go along.
"Did you get your contract and transportation?" asked McGraw, as the lanky
"No," answered "Charley."
"Pshaw," replied McGraw. "I left it for you with the clerk at the hotel.
The train leaves in two minutes," he continued, glancing at his watch. "If
you can run the way you say you can, you can make it and be back in time
to catch it."
It was the last we saw of "Charley" Faust for a time--galloping up the
platform in his angular way with that contract and transportation in
"I'm almost sorry we left him," remarked McGraw as "Charley" disappeared
in the crowd. We played on around the circuit with indifferent luck and
got back to New York with the pennant no more than a possibility, and
rather a remote one at that. The first day we were in New York "Charley"
Faust entered the clubhouse with several inches of dust and mud caked on
him, for he had come all the way either by side-door special or blind
"I'm here, all right," he announced quietly, and started to climb into a
"I see you are," answered McGraw.
"Charley" stuck around for two or three days, and we won. Then McGraw
decided he would have to be dropped and ordered the man on the door of the
clubhouse to bar this Kansas kid out. Faust broke down and cried that day,
and we lost. After that he became a member of the club, and we won game
after game until some busy newspaper man obtained a vaudeville engagement
for him at a salary of $100 a week. We lost three games the week he was
absent from the grounds, and Faust saw at once he was not doing the right
thing by the club, so, with a wave of his hand that would have gone with
J. P. Morgan's income, he passed up some lucrative vaudeville contracts,
much to the disgust of the newspaper man, who was cutting the remuneration
with him, and settled down to business. The club did not lose a game after
that, and it was decided to take Faust West with us on the last and famous
trip in 1911. Daily he had been bothering McGraw and Mr. Brush for his
contract, for he wanted to pitch. The club paid him some money from time
to time to meet his personal expenses.
The Sunday night the club left for Boston, a vaudeville agent was at the
Grand Central Station with a contract offering Faust $100 a week for five
weeks, which "Charley" refused in order to stick with the club. It was the
greatest trip away from home in the history of baseball. Starting with the
pennant almost out of reach, the Giants won eighteen and lost four games.
One contest that we dropped in St. Louis was when some of the newspaper
correspondents on the trip kidnapped Faust and sat him on the St. Louis
Another day in St. Louis the game had gone eleven innings, and the
Cardinals needed one run to win. They had several incipient scores on the
bases and "Rube" Marquard, in the box, was apparently going up in the air.
Only one was out. Faust was warming up far in the suburbs when, under
orders from McGraw, I ran out and sent him to the bench, for that was the
place from which his charm seemed to be the most potent. "Charley" came
loping to the bench as fast as his long legs would transport him and St.
Louis didn't score and we won the game. It was as nice a piece of pinch
mascoting as I ever saw.
The first two games that "Charley" really lost were in Chicago. And all
through the trip, he reiterated his weird prophecies that "the Giants
with Manager McGraw were goin' ta win." The players believed in him, and
none would have let him go if it had been necessary to support him out of
their own pockets. And we did win.
"Charley," with his monologue and great good humor, kept the players in
high spirits throughout the journey, and the feeling prevailed that we
couldn't lose with him along. He was advertised all over the circuit, and
spectators were going to the ball park to see Faust and Wagner. "Charley"
admitted that he could fan out Hans because he had learned how to pitch
out there in Kansas by correspondence school and had read of "Hans's"
weakness in a book. His one "groove" was massages and manicures. He would
go into the barber shop with any member of the team who happened to be
getting shaved and take a massage and manicure for the purposes of
sociability, as a man takes a drink. He easily was the record holder for
the manicure Marathon, hanging up the figures of five in one day in St.
Louis. He also liked pie for breakfast, dinner and supper, and a small
half before retiring.
But, alas! "Charley" lost in the world's series. He couldn't make good.
And a jinx killer never comes back. He is gone. And his expansive smile
and bump-the-bumps slide are gone with him. That is, McGraw hopes he is
gone. But he was a wonder while he had it. And he did a great deal toward
giving the players confidence. With him on the bench, they thought they
couldn't lose, and they couldn't. It has long been a superstition among
ball-players that when a "bug" joins a club, it will win a championship,
and the Giants believed it when "Charley" Faust arrived. Did "Charley"
Faust win the championship for the Giants?
* * * * *
Another time-honored superstition among ball-players is that no one must
say to a pitcher as he goes to the box for the eighth inning:
"Come on, now. Only six more men."
Or for the ninth:
"Pitch hard, now. Only three left."
Ames says that he lost a game in St. Louis once because McGraw forgot
himself and urged him to pitch hard because only three remained to be put
out. Those three batters raised the mischief with Ames's prospects; he was
knocked out of the box in that last inning, and we lost the game. That
was before the days of the wonder necktie.
Ames won the third game played in Chicago on the last trip West. Coming
into the ninth inning, he had the Cubs beaten, when McGraw began:
"Come on, 'Red,' only----"
"Nix, Mac," cut in Ames, "for the love of Mike, be reasonable."
And then he won the game. But the chances are that if McGraw had got that
"only three more" out, he would have lost, because it would have been
working on his strained nerves.
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