21a Does Superstition
If Roger Clemens kisses Babe Ruth's monument before a game, does that help him pitch better at Yankee Stadium? Or if John Franco wears his father's firefighter's t-shirt for good luck, does that improve his on-field performance? Some may dismiss these rituals as ridiculous superstitions, but in baseball the subtle effect of superstitious belief has a positive and measurable effect on performance. The difficulty is in proving this positive influence. Many of us are convinced only by concrete, black and white visible results, measurable in quantifiable numbers and statistics.1
Of course it's very difficult to measure the subtle energy created by superstition because this energy is invisible to the human eye. But science has been able to measure invisible energy fields such as the efficacy of prayer, the reality of the dreamworld, and even subatomic particles. These invisible forces are measured by sophisticated instruments and through inference, noting their influence on surrounding entities that can be quantified. For example, no one has ever seen a black hole, but we know they exist because we can measure the effect of their gravitational force on surrounding celestial bodies.
Thus it is with superstition. We measure its effectiveness in baseball by its effect on the performances of players and on the
1 See Chapter 15 in this volume.