Tag Archives: Patrick Gillespie

“Every one of Them has Some Eccentric Method”

10 Feb

“The players of the New York league club are the most superstitious set of men in the country.”

That was the opinion of a “well-known and veratious [sic] sporting man,” quoted by The New York Sun in 1887:

“Every one of them has some eccentric method of insuring good luck in a game.”

The “Sporting man” said he was in Philadelphia with the Giants and “happened to walk across the field,” and saw on the ground where Patrick Gillespie played:

“Signs traced on the earth apparently with a small stick. The first was a simple angle with a dot in the middle, followed by a long straight line, at the other end of which was another dot and a straight line running in a direction at right angles to the long one. I studied these hieroglyphics for some time and concluded that the perpendicular line and the one beside it meant the bat and ball and the straight line meant the course of the ball after it was hit. The angle represented Gillespie and hands in the act of gobbling up the ball. It was drawn with the view of illustrating just what the left fielder hoped would happen. I am told Gillespie never plays a game without this little symbol marked at his feet.”

The area around where Buck Ewing played was “covered with fragments of toothpicks” because Ewing thought “runners’ trip over these in coming to his base.” With a left-handed hitter at the plate, John Montgomery Ward “put his left foot forward” at short.

Ward

Pitcher Tim Keefe, when taking “possession of his box he carefully expectorates at all four corners and makes with the toe of his right boot first a dot then a long wavy line and then a final dot.” The dots and line “approximated” his curve ball.

Danny Richardson would make a mark “straight across” the infield “as if to bar the progress of runners. Every time a run gets in Richardson rubs out his mark and makes a fresh one longer and thicker.”

Roger Connor would “never stand perfectly still for fear his luck would go to sleep” while playing first base. Connor was also said to “stealthily apply this mark with chalk on the back of the first man that reaches his base: Z X 0-0. By some occult reasoning holds that the Z being the final letter in the alphabet that the player has reached the end of run-getting” and that the zeros somehow represented the number of runs the opponents would score:

“Nobody ever understood this but Connor, whose faith in the device is so great that he actually turns pale if the first runner goes by his base on a two-base hit, thus preventing him from writing his inscription.”

Connor

Center fielder Mike Tiernan would stand on his left foot and say “’I will never tell a lie,’ and then change to the right foot and add ‘if I catch the next fly.’” While right fielder Mike Dorgan, when he came to the plate, “pulls his hat over his eyes, rubs his hands together, and strikes the ground three times with the stick.”

After dropping his mask once and later in the game tearing a finger and spraining an ankle, Jim O’Rourke, if he “were to drop his mask before putting it on he would not play the game.”

The superstitions and hoodoos did not appear to work, the Giants finished fourth, 10 ½ games back in 1887.