Originally created 10/18/97

Indians fans use superstitions



CLEVELAND -- The real reason the Cleveland Indians are in Game 1 of the World Series Saturday night against the Florida Marlins has nothing to do with clutch hitting, defense or solid relief pitching.

Cleveland's superstitious fans know the truth: The Indians' postseason run is all about hiked-up red socks, Jim Thome batting helmets and bobble head dolls.

Each time their heroes take the field, Cleveland fans go through their own little rituals to "help" the Indians win.

Skeptics may scoff, but believers ask how else underdog Cleveland could have knocked out the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles to face the Marlins.

"Since we started in the playoffs, I wear the same outfit for every game," said Janine Petersen, who collapsed on the floor weeping when the Indians beat the Orioles for the AL pennant.

"I wear my high-top sneakers, white socks, jean shorts and an embroidered Indians shirt. I never add anything -- no hat, no bandana, no earrings."

Unlike some Indians fans, Petersen risks washing her outfit (and the luck it supposedly carries) between games.

"Getting it washed is OK," she said. "Just so long as I put it back on for the next game."

Jason Howe, a 20-year-old fan of Thome, wouldn't be caught dead watching a Cleveland game unless he was Thomed out.

"I've got all Jim Thome stuff. The Jim Thome red socks, the Jim Thome batting helmet and my Jim Thome "Thominator" T-shirt," he said. "Every time I wear it, they win. You've got to stick with what works."

Thome's socks are Cleveland's most visible talisman this year.

On Aug. 27 -- Thome's 27th birthday -- the rest of the Indians paid tribute to the first baseman by wearing their socks pulled up as Thome does. Cleveland scored 10 runs in an inning, beating the Anaheim Angels 10-4.

The Indians have been wearing their socks pulled up ever since, and the trend has spread to fans.

Denise Allen was in a mall last weekend during Game 3 of the AL championship series when she started to believe in the power of the socks.

On the spur of the moment, she bought a pair at the Indians team store. Marquis Grissom stole home to give Cleveland a 2-1 win in 12 innings soon after.

"Now I've got them on every time we play," she said.

There's just one problem with such superstitions, said Cornell University psychology professor Thomas Gilovich: They don't work.

People draw false correlations between real events and their own actions.

"We can think we exercise more control over a situation than we actually do," he said.

But that probably won't stop Erik Ramhoeller of Huron from lining up his three Indians bobble head dolls in front of the TV set for every World Series game, or David Mina from holding to his own tradition during Tribe games.

"My superstition is I don't break the TV," said Mina, a 20-year-old from Warren. "Sometimes I almost feel like I have to -- but that would be bad luck."