In sports and baseball, in particular, rituals and traditions play a role of paramount importance. Many prominent players observe their actions prior to favorable game outcomes and prefer to maintain a similar routine as long as good luck persists. In fact, luck is a major part of athletes’ beliefs, which is why they perform various rituals to attract and retain it. Gmelch compares such routines to the traditions of Trobriand Islanders (1). They performed certain magic-related rituals when fishing in the open sea and not the internal lagoon. The reasons for these beliefs lay in the fact that open sea fishing was dangerous, and the islanders could not rely on their skills and knowledge alone to expect good results. Similar to them, baseball players deal with an increased role of luck, especially in key games. Thus, they pursue magical, superstitious rituals to engage in any means of success.
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Furthermore, while such rituals are common in sports, baseball sees an increased prevalence of them. Among the three essential elements of the game, pitching and hitting are subject to an increased role of chance. Evidently, skills and experience are of paramount importance, but it is often luck that determines the outcome, especially in even match-ups. Pitchers and hitters feel this tendency, which is why they seek to supplement their personal athletics skills with the benevolence of luck through magical rituals.
As a result, charms and other magical objects have become an integral part of training and game routines for many players. In spite of the fact that these procedures contradict scientific knowledge, baseball players continue to rely on them. This tendency is caused by an abundant experience of the athletes who encounter both sides of the story. Some of them demonstrate terrible performance and lose upon forgetting to wear their lucky shoes. Others continue to win against all odds when their good fortune rituals are maintained intact. In a way, this might be a purely psychological effect of the survivorship bias. Such players subconsciously concentrate on the instances where an incidental correlation between rituals and outcomes is observed, whereas their minds ignore the rest. However, at this point, magic becomes an integral part of baseball and a tradition that is too important to be questioned.
Gmelch, George. “Baseball Magic.” Elysian Fields Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 3, 1992, pp. 25-36.