Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time For "Extra" Help?

Baseball has forever been full of superstitions. Some players will refuse to turn anyway but left when getting off of the team bus, plane, etc., despite the fact that everyone else may be going to the right. Players have lucky or streak producing socks, underwear, beards, etc. Some players believe that their luck will go bad if someone touches them and they don't touch them back. Other players must high five or knuckle-punch anyone who gets a hit or drives in a run in fear that failure to complete this action may cause a slump.
The Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles had a shortstop that was so terrified of ghosts that it hampered his ability to succeed in the major leagues. Chico Salmon became the butt of jokes from team mates and those pranks drove his fears out of control.
The movies bring many superstitions and religious beliefs front and center, many time over embellishing the quirky behavior. In the movie "Major League," Cleveland Indians center fielder Pedro Serrano utilizes Voodoo and a little idol named "Jobu" to make his bats hit curve balls.
Every game, many players can be seen making gestures skywards after an on-field accomplishment.
Years ago, the Boston Red Sox were in a slump during a stretch run for the pennant. They had a 3-game series to play in Cleveland. Someone associated with their organization hired and brought with them a certified witch from the New England area to put a curse on the Indians. Apparently it worked as the Red Sox won all 3 games and got back on track in the pennant race.

Steven King at game 1 of the ALCS...perhaps looking for eerie movie material?

Outfielder David Dellucci needed some help to get out of a slump early on in this season with the Cleveland Indians. As the story is told, he called a nun, Sister Dulce, that he had helped out in his home town. She told him, "Relax and take God to the plate with you." David hit a triple and a home run that night.

Sister Assumpta from Cleveland is kind of a self appointed spiritual backer of the Indians. She even played herself in the movie, "Major League."

So, the Cleveland Indians find themselves one game down to Boston going into tonight's game 2 of the ALCS. Do they need some help from above...below...sideways...anywhere?

Some people in Cleveland believe that the Indians are already receiving some help from beyond.
This help is based on a tragedy that helped change the game of baseball.

Raymond Johnson Chapman

On August 16th, 1920, the Cleveland Naps (as they were known then) were playing the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman came to the plate against pitcher Carl Mays. Back then, pitchers would "dirty-up" a new ball so that it was not as easy to see and hit. Sometimes they would rub dirt on them, tobacco juice, or licorice juice. Also, baseballs were not replaced nearly as often as they are today so a ball could get pretty discolored during the course of a game. Pitcher Mays threw the ball and it struck Chapman in the head. The sound of the ball hitting Chapman's head was so loud that Mays thought it hit Chapman's bat and he fielded the ball and threw it to first base. Chapman was taken off the field and he died the next day in a New York hospital. As a result, doctoring the ball, including with spit, was outlawed at the start of the next season. It took some 30+ years before batting helmets became mandatory. The Cleveland Naps dedicated the season to their fallen hero. They wore black arm bands in his honor and, led by their manager Tris Speaker, they won the Pennant and the World Series that year.

Ray Chapman was buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. A plaque was erected in his honor at the field that Cleveland played at, League Park.

When Cleveland moved into Municipal Stadium in the mid 30's, the plaque was taken with them and displayed at the new stadium. It is not clear why, but the plaque was removed, possibly for renovations and then it was misplaced. In February of this season, the plaque was discovered packed away in a box from the old stadium and moved to Jacobs Field when it opened in 1994. The team was in the process of building Heritage Park at Jacobs Field this year, a hall of fame for the team. Ray Chapman's plaque was refurbished and placed prominently in Heritage Park.

Since then, the Cleveland Indians have experienced many fortunes this season, tying Boston for the best record in baseball. On this year's anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, August 17th, the Cleveland Indians took over sole possession of first place in the American League Central Division for good.

People visiting Lakeview Cemetery inquire about the old fashioned baseball memorabilia that adorns Chapman's grave. Caretakers hesitate to comment because they do not know how it gets there. One caretaker willing to comment said, "We see no one bring the stuff in or place it there, but there it is!"

Is Ray Chapman aiding his old team?

No one can say for sure but, Jobu, Sister Dulce, Ray Chapman, Sister Assumpta, etc., we'll take all the help we can get!

Go Tribe!

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