CINCINNATI — Baseball players are a superstitious bunch and it doesn’t matter if things are going swimmingly or things are in an oversized dumpster.
For example, fans never will see a player, coach or manager step on a foul line running off and on the field. They’ll even alter their stride to miss the lines or jump over them. Bad luck to step on it, you know, just like a kid won’t step on a crack in a sidewalk.
And fans never will see bats crossed if they are side-by-side. Crossed bats bring misfortunes.
In 1985, the Reds had a rookie left handed relief pitcher named Rob Murphy. Early in the season, as a gag, Murphy wore a pair of his girlfriend’s black bikini underwear under his uniform. On that day he pitched three scoreless innings and the panties were worn the rest of the year. He was 6-0 with a 0.72 earned run average in 34 games and he wore the panties until they shredded from wear.
So what do the Cincinnati Reds need to do break their eight-game losing streak, a streak strewn with bad play and bad luck?
Maybe they need to work a deal with a fried chicken franchise and do what Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs did. He ate chicken every day.
Maybe they need to do what shortstop Dave Concepcion did one day during a personal slump with The Big Red Machine.
The Reds were in Chicago to play the Cubs. On the way to the ball park the team bus passed a statue of Civil War general Philip Sheridan, his horse, Winchester, rearing up on its hind legs. And the horse was anatomically correct. It was tradition for the team in town to play the Cubs would send its rookies on a Midnight Run to the statue to paint Winchester’s testicles the team colors.
On this day, Concepcion had the bus driver stop at the statue so Concepcion could run to the statue and plant a kiss on the horse’s sensitive area. When he got to the park he climbed into a large industrial dryer. Rookie pitcher Pat Zachry walked by and flipped on the switch and there was Concepcion’s face going around and around inside the glass door.
Then he climbed out of the dryer, put on his uniform and wore it into the shower room, drenching himself, "To wash the slump out of my uniform."
Well, maybe that won’t work for the Reds, either. Concepcion went 0-for-5 that day.
Managers have been known to put curfews on their players when things are ugly. Reds manager Sparky Anderson, during a losing streak, put on a midnight curfew in St. Louis. He handed a baseball to the hotel doorman and told him, "I want you to have every one of my players who come in after midnight to sign this ball and give it to me in the morning." So all the offenders signed their own ‘fine warrants.’ But Anderson never did find out who signed the ball, "Abraham Lincoln."
Some managers, like Billy Martin when he was managed the Yankees, A’s, Tigers and Rangers, sometimes got so frustrated with losing streaks that he would tell his team, "Go out and party all night and maybe that will snap you people out of this."
During bad spells, some players will take different routes from home to the ball park, but the Reds are running out of routes.
Reds manager Bryan Price tried everything but sorcery during the losing streak — a different lineup every day, a different batting order every day. Nothing has worked.
"There are a lot of things going through everybody’s minds when you struggle," he said. "It is the nature of the beast. This is an environment where the strong survive. If you are not in the fight and willing to battle through it, it is real easy to cave in when you struggle.
"This will pass and we’ll get better," he added. "When you are in it, it’s tough. You look at us statistically and we just haven’t hit our stride. We have to pick that up in a hurry. We’ve scored seven runs in five games. Why? I wish I could put my finger on it. I can’t. I just don’t get it."