Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lucky 13

In honor of my thirteenth post, allow me to relay an interesting little fact about the number thirteen as it relates to baseball.

The number thirteen has long been associated with sinister omens and bad luck. This belief has its origins in the story of the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus, was the thirteenth disciple to take a seat at the table before that fateful meal. A vaguely similar parable existed in Norse Mythology. Twelve deities sat down to eat one day and were joined by an uninvited guest--Loki, the god of mischief and disorder, who attacked the group, killing the benevolent god Balder. Taking this into account, Norsemen avoided dining together in groups of thirteen. Superstition associated with the number was also common in ancient Rome, where a witch’s coven was composed of twelve enchantresses with the thirteenth member being the devil.

To this day, some commercial airlines have no seat number thirteen, many high rise buildings are without a thirteenth floor and motel chains are hesitant to pass out room keys with the dreaded number on it. Even U.S. President FDR carefully planned his meetings to avoid the presence of thirteen participants.

None of this bothered pitcher Claude Passeau in the least. “That’s my lucky number” he once told a writer. “My auto tag is thirteen. The serial number on my rifle is thirteen. The last two digits on my life insurance are thirteen and my address is 113 London Street.” In keeping with this theme, the right-handed fast-baller played thirteen seasons in the majors and his name was thirteen letters long. He also won 13 games for the Cubs in 1939 and completed 13 of his 27 starts that year. He retired in 1947 (having worn the number thirteen on his jersey through most of his career) and lived to be ninety four-years old. Carrying the numerical phenomenon to extremes, the digits of Passeau’s age at the time of his passing add up to thirteen.

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