Boston Beaneaters Manager John Morrill told The Washington Star in 1886:
“Yes, sir, it’s a fact, that professional ball-tossers are as a rule very superstitious. It is nothing more than natural though, and is not as much due to the ignorance of the men as is sometimes supposed. You see, so much chance enters into every game of ball that the boys who play game after game gradually become impressed with the belief that they can read in advance certain signs or omens which will have more or less effect upon their individual play, if not upon the result of the game.”
Morrill said that “on the whole” he thought his player’s superstitions were “a very good thing,” as long as “bad signs do not outnumber the good one.” Morrill felt players were more inclined to look for good signs, which would encourage them to play “with more confidence.”
Morrill was also a supporter of mascots:
“Mascots are good things to encourage the boys.”
Morrill even attributed his greatest success as a manager to the power of superstition. He took over the reins of the fourth place Beaneaters in July of 1883, and the team won 33 of their last 44 games and won the National league pennant.
“When we were way behind in the race for the championship, one of the members of our nine saw a horseshoe in front of the hotel in Detroit. He stepped into the street and picked it up. On it was the mark ‘O Winn.’ It was only the name of the Detroit blacksmith who had made the shoe, but as we won the game that day, the members of the nine began to regard the shoe as a good-luck sign, and the first thing we knew we were winning games right and left, and ended the season in the lead. Our players attributed out success to the horseshoe, and so did Mr. O. Winn, who never fails to call upon us when we are in Detroit.”
More than 40 years later, William Braucher, columnist for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, resurrected the story of the horseshoe—although he embellished some of the details of Boston’s winning season.
He said the player who had found the horseshoe was outfielder Paul Radford. According to Braucher, “Radford’s father had it gilded and framed and it was presented to the Boston National League club.”
The horseshoe hung at the South End Grounds until the ballpark was destroyed by fire on May 15, 1894
Baucher said Red Sox owner James Aloysius Robert “Bob” Quinn, whose club had been a perennial doormat since he took ownership in 1923, was so desperate for a winner that he was trying to locate the missing horseshoe.
“Bob Quinn would like to know what happened to that horseshoe. The president of the Red Sox even went so far as to put an ad in the Boston papers the other day offering a reward for the shoe stamped with the name of ‘O. Winn.’ Bob is trying every possible means to give Boston a winning ballclub. And if a horseshoe will help he wants it.”
Quinn never found the horseshoe, and never had a winning Red Sox team.