Why is it good luck to spit on a new baseball bat?

By: Debra Ronca

Spitting on a baseball bat upon first use is probably nothing more than a confidence booster.
Spitting on a baseball bat upon first use is probably nothing more than a confidence booster.

If you ever played sports, or if you're a sports fan, you likely know that players can be a superstitious lot. Especially in professional sports, where so much rides on a win, players employ all sorts of rituals to ensure a successful game. These rituals and superstitions can range from the simple to the absolutely wacky. Some are universal, and some are unique to individual players.

Sports psychologists say that superstitions are a coping mechanism for players. Even though a player's performance depends on skill and practice, a ritual may help boost self-confidence in a stressful situation [source: Caine]. Many athletes -- and it seems baseball players especially -- believe if they don't perform these rituals, they'll bring bad luck upon themselves and the game. And the thing about rituals and superstitions is that they don't hurt anyone. A superstition like wearing the same socks throughout the playoffs doesn't cause harm (except maybe to the people who have to smell them).


One very common baseball superstition is spitting on a new baseball bat. Meant to bring good luck to the owner, it's unclear where this good luck ritual came from. A related superstition is that spitting into your hand before picking up the bat also brings good fortune. We're not sure where these and other classic baseball superstitions originated, but a guess is that way back when, one person did it with successful results and the ritual slowly spread, enduring through time.

Spitting is a common theme in superstitions worldwide. Thought to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, saliva is a charm against witchcraft in many cultures. This superstition dates back centuries [source: Brewer]. You see a lot of spitting in baseball as it is -- tobacco juice, sunflower seeds, spitting saliva in the dirt. In fact, a lot of baseball superstitions and rituals aren't exactly hygienic. Here are just a few examples.

A wad of gum stuck to your hat is supposedly good luck. Not washing any of your gear or apparel (even your underwear) will keep a winning streak going. This one might only be unhygienic if nature calls, but it's also bad luck if a dog walks across the baseball diamond before the first pitch. Then there are superstitions maintained by specific players. Ball player Moises Alou used to urinate on his hands in the belief that it prevented him from getting blisters. Mark McGwire wore the same protective cup he used from high school throughout his professional career. Turk Wendell would chew four pieces of black licorice every inning he went to the mound, but in his defense, he also brushed his teeth between every inning [source: Pepper Baseball]. College ball player Alex Sawelson bites his bat before every pitch. Finally, one of our favorites: supposedly Jason Giambi wore a gold thong to break out of a slump. We're unsure as to whether or not he washed it in between games, but maybe that's one superstition where we're better off not knowing the details.


EntertainmentThe BasicsHow Baseball WorksEntertainmentThe BasicsHow a Baseball Scorecard WorksEntertainmentThe BasicsHow Baseball Bats WorkEntertainmentThe BasicsWhat's an error in baseball?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow the Physics of Baseball WorksEntertainmentThe Basics5 Unforgettable Baseball ScandalsEntertainmentThe BasicsWhat are the 9 baseball positions?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow Baseball's American League WorksEntertainmentThe BasicsIs baseball really an American invention?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow Baseball's National League WorksEntertainmentThe BasicsHow Baseball Drug Testing WorksEntertainment1990s1994 Baseball SeasonEntertainmentEarly 1900s1901 Baseball Season RecapEntertainment1950s1959 Baseball SeasonEntertainment2000s2002 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1980s1985 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1980s1980 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1960s1961 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1970s1974 Baseball SeasonEntertainmentEarly 1900s1908 Baseball Season RecapEntertainmentEarly 1900s1903 Baseball Season RecapEntertainmentEarly 1900s1905 Baseball Season RecapEntertainment1980s1981 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1920s1924 Baseball Season RecapEntertainment1960s1960 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1920s1920 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1920s1923 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1920s1926 Baseball Season RecapEntertainment1920s1921 Baseball SeasonEntertainment1920s1922 Baseball SeasonEntertainmentThe Basics5 Common Baseball InjuriesEntertainmentThe Basics10 Legendary Baseball CursesEntertainmentThe BasicsWhat's a double play in baseball?EntertainmentThe BasicsWhat's the obstruction rule in baseball?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow the Baseball Hall of Fame WorksEntertainmentYouth CoachingUltimate Guide to Coaching Little League BaseballEntertainmentThe BasicsHow Minor League Baseball Teams WorkEntertainmentThe BasicsHow to Break In a Baseball GloveEntertainmentThe Basics5 Fantasy Baseball Draft TipsEntertainmentThe Basics5 of Baseball's Most Dramatic UpsetsEntertainmentThe BasicsWhat's the difference between the American and National Baseball Leagues?EntertainmentThe BasicsQuick Reference: Baseball Positions and Their EquipmentEntertainmentThe Basics5 Most Expensive Baseball Cards in the WorldEntertainmentThe BasicsBaseball Hits: Fair or Foul?EntertainmentThe BasicsWhy does the strike zone change in baseball?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow can I meet my favorite baseball team?EntertainmentBackyard Fun & Games5 Safety Tips for Backyard BaseballEntertainmentThe Basics10 Worst Trades in Baseball HistoryEntertainmentThe Basics5 Strategies for a Better Baseball GameEntertainmentThe Basics5 Baseball Leagues from Around the WorldEntertainmentThe Basics5 Ways to Cheat in Baseball (that Aren't Steroids)EntertainmentSecond BaseDid Jackie Robinson Really Break Baseball's Color Barrier?EntertainmentThe Basics5 Worst Cases of the Yips in BaseballEntertainmentThe Basics5 Biggest Winning Streaks in Baseball HistoryEntertainmentThe Basics5 Baseball Players Sent Back to the MinorsEntertainmentThe Basics5 Biggest Losing Streaks in Baseball HistoryEntertainmentClub & Intramural SportsHow to Start Your Own Baseball LeagueEntertainmentThe Basics5 Major Rule Changes in the History of BaseballEntertainmentThe Basics5 Bat-and-ball Games That Predate BaseballEntertainmentThe BasicsIn baseball, how does a pitcher throw a curveball?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow does a 'perfect game' in baseball work?EntertainmentThe BasicsHow Do Groundskeepers Make Patterns in Baseball Fields?EntertainmentThe BasicsWhen a baseball player hits a home run, how do they know how far the ball traveled?EntertainmentTV ShowsHow Baseball Great Willie Mays Became the Catalyst for 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'EntertainmentThe BasicsBaseball Diamond

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. "The Reader's Handbook of Allusions, References, Plots, and Stories." Chatto & Windus. 1896. (Dec. 17, 2014) https://books.google.com/books?id=qeBOAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA959&lpg=PA959&dq=spitting+common+in+superstition&source=bl&ots=d4WOO5okHR&sig=01hyuHIqCkDUYkwod7XoUzFk30M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Hq-RVPqSO8basASX4oLICA&ved=0CCMQ6AEwATgU#v=onepage&q=spitting%20common%20in%20superstition&f=false
  • Caine, Jordan. "Superstitions Help Athletes Cope in Stressful Situations." Psychology of Sports. Feb. 10, 2009. (Dec. 17, 2014) http://psychologyofsports.com/2009/02/10/superstitions-help-athletes-cope-in-stressful-situations/
  • Finkelberg, Kevin. "Superstitious rituals abound within baseball team." The Bull Magazine. May 1, 2014. (Dec. 17, 2014) http://thebullmag.com/superstitious-rituals-abound/
  • Pepper Baseball. "Baseball Superstitions, The Weird, The Odd, & Turk Wendell." Aug. 8, 2013. (Dec. 17, 2014) http://www.pepperbaseball.com/2013/08/baseball-superstitions-weird-odd-turk.html
  • Superstitions Online. "Sports: Baseball." Oct. 5, 2011. (Dec. 17, 2014) http://superstitionsonline.com/sports-baseball/