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Jack McCallum
February 08, 1988
There's no end to the crazy things athletes will—or won't—do to charm Dame Fortune
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February 08, 1988

Green Cars, Black Cats And Lady Luck

There's no end to the crazy things athletes will—or won't—do to charm Dame Fortune

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•4:35 or 4:40: End grounder drill by stepping on third, second and first (in that order). Take two steps in first base coaching box and lope to dugout in four steps, preferably hitting the same four spots every evening. Get drink of water. Jog to centerfield for meditation.

•Just before infield practice: Stand or sit in runway between clubhouse and dugout and toss ball against wall.

•7:17: Do wind sprints.

•While in on-deck circle: Arrange pine tar, weighted doughnut and resin in a precise way and apply them in that order.

•Upon stepping into batter's box: Draw a chat, the Hebrew symbol for life.

•After that: Hit the ball where it's Pitched—and where they ain't—whenever possible.

"Everybody has a routine," says Boggs. "Mine just takes five hours."

The best ongoing major league superstition story involves Frank Viola, the Twins' lefthanded pitcher. During Banner Day at the Metrodome back in 1984, a fan named Mark Dornfeld displayed a six-by nine-foot sign that read: FRANKIE SWEET MUSIC VIOLA. Viola noticed it and tipped his hat to Dornfeld, not realizing that Dornfeld's banner would become an almost magical good-luck charm. Viola didn't pitch that night, but often during his starts over the next two seasons he noticed the banner hanging from the second deck in right. Dornfeld and his banner didn't make it to every game Viola pitched, but they came often, and Viola began to notice that he never lost when the sign was on display.

In 1987, Dornfeld introduced himself to Viola. "I'm the man with the banner," he said. They talked for two hours.

During that season Viola continued to be remarkably successful whenever Dornfeld was at the Metrodome with his banner. At the end of the regular season Viola was 15-0, with four no-decisions (all Minnesota victories, according to Dornfeld) in banner games. By then, the secret was out. The banner story elicited banner headlines. Before Game 1 of the World Series it was reported that the Banner Man didn't have a ticket. Kathy Viola, Frank's wife, promptly called Dornfeld to offer him tickets to Games 1 and 7. With the banner proudly unfurled, Viola won both games and was named Series MVP.

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