Sunday, January 25, 2015

Superstitions come into play, but not like the old days

From page B1 | October 31, 2012 |

During Halloween week, one might figure that athletes at a school that has Diablo the Devil for a mascot would be bubbling over with superstitions and curious rituals.

After all, the sports world has been a magnet for strange routines, odd behavior and downright smelly traditions.

So, before this full moon fades from memory, let’s take a look at some goofy traditions from Davis High, professional sports and the silver screen …

Picasso on the radar gun? Former DHS pitcher Ben Eckels, now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, likes to “draw a little picture on the back of the mound” before each start. Seems innocent enough, unless the fire-balling Eckels draws a picture of you. His heater is now in the mid-90s.

Ugly becomes fashion. The incomparable Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina game shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform every game. So distracting (and uncomfortable) became the flashes of blue from under those NBA short-shorts, that Jordan had his uniform bottoms specially made, almost four inches longer and baggy. Accidentally, the new look took off and lasts league-wide to this day.

“Phew. Please, can I wash these?” Several Blue Devil players said their superstitions include wearing the same socks until a win streak ends or the same underwear as long as the team is doing well. Clothing seems to have a lot to do with perceived athletic success.

“Jobu, you no damn good.”  The 1989 movie “Major League” was filled with baseball peccadillos. For example, until the juice wore off his voodoo statue, Pedro Serrano worshiped his Caribbean talisman … but once the slump hit, the big first baseman jettisoned the little tiki toy and found he could hit a baseball without  hocus-pocus or black magic. The film remains a sports classic, but Serrano (Dennis Haysbert) found he’s a better insurance salesman than cleanup hitter.

Bob was Old School. Longtime DHS coach and teacher Bob Johnson was surrounded by colleagues who had superstitions (Dave Whitmire never passes a penny on the ground without putting it in his shoe). But Johnson’s list of curiosities would have filled a roster.

“I wore the same gray slacks and two shirts for 20 years: one navy blue for home games and one white for away games,” Johnson says. “I wore them until they were threadbare, and then wore them some more.”

Johnson’s wife Karen (who was washing those decomposing duds) saw the antiquity taking over and bought Bob new shirts, laying them out for her husband.

No dice …

“(I) couldn’t wear them,” Johnson said with a laugh. “(I) stuck to my tried-and-true (shirts) and we were winners.”

Johnson would always grab a hot dog before his JV games — “Even if I couldn’t eat it” — and kept defensive calls written on a manila folder that he tucked into his pants in the front: “Handy, but not cool.”

Wow. Touchy. Kevin Rhomberg. Anybody? Kevin Rhomberg? It’s OK, nobody remembers Kevin Rhomberg.

He played 41 games for the Cleveland Indians in 1982. His quirk? If somebody touched Rhomberg — a hand shake, pat on the back, an accidental brush — he had to touch that person back, immediately.

Once teammates discovered his phobia, they drove the poor guy crazy. Players would come up to him, touch him, then run away. When games were uneventful, even umpires got in on the act.

Rhomberg didn’t last long. How could he? All that running around …

“OK. You can start now.” Blue Devil Athletic Director Dennis Foster, who coached eight seasons of basketball at Natomas before coming to DHS, had to be the last person into the gym: “I always wanted the spotlight to be on the players, not on the coach.” He also stood far away from his players during the national anthem.

As a player, Foster would touch the half-court stripe with his hand after every shot, lay-up or drill.

Every shot? Talk about getting back on defense.

These coaches know. Current Blue Devil coaches like boys water polo’s Tracy Stapleton and football mentor Steve Smyte don’t buy the hooey. “I have no superstitions,” Stapleton declares. Smyte says: “The older I’ve become, the more I realize hard work beats superstition every time.

“In my younger football- and hockey-playing days, I had more routines than superstitions. I believe in routine because it reduces stress and creates patterns for success.”

Bet there’s no candy at his house, either.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at or 530-747-8047.



Bruce Gallaudet

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Share your love (story) with us

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Winter produce available at Sutter market

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Donations to be distributed during homeless count

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Speaker will share computer security tips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

    Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Davis, Woodland are saving water

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

    Words and Music Festival events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12



    Family isn’t keen on relationship

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

    Caring for the aging mouth

    By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

    Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

    By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

    We have the right to choose

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    We don’t have to suffer

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    City helped immensely

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Rick McKee cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

    From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11



    Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD men take two tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

    Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8







    Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

    By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

    Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9





    Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8