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Happy Halloween, baseball fans10/31/2007 11:44 AM ET
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
When the clock struck midnight on Nov. 1, 2001, and Derek Jeter ended one of the most epic World Series games in recent memory with a home run that barely cleared the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, a lot of fans attributed it to the talent of the shortstop, the steely resolve of the team, and the magic that October in the Bronx can often bring about.
Old college buddies, baseball fans and writers Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon knew better, of course.
In their new book, Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Eerie Events (The Lyons Press, $14.95), the two authors prove, with the help of over 800 ballplayers, that the paranormal is not out of place in America's Pastime.
In fact, Jeter himself admitted as much when it comes to the "ghosts" of Yankee greats that help the hometown team win.
"[The spirits] helped out," Jeter said in the book. "Maybe they helped push some of our balls over the fence and got us some of the right hops and the right bounces."
"Haunted Baseball" has many stories worth checking out, especially on Halloween and right after the World Series. There are tales of haunted team hotels -- particularly the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Fla., where teams stay when they play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- and spooky occurrences on the field.
For example, the slightly-off-kilter-to-begin-with pitcher Jose Lima said in the book that he was convinced his 7-16 campaign in 2000 was the result of a curse brought upon him by a jilted girlfriend.
Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, they report, claims to have been tackled and held down for almost a half-hour on his sofa by a ghost while at home in Florida.
Then there are the well-known anecdotes of the late, great "Curse of the Bambino" that supposedly prevented the Boston Red Sox from winning the World Series from 1919 until 2004, and the "Curse of the Billy Goat" that most recently put a baseball into the harmful reach of Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman in the 2003 National League Championship Series.
And the book isn't all about ghouls, goblins and hardball horror shows.
Over the course of their two years of research in Major and Minor League stadiums all over the map, Bradley and Gordon unearthed quite a few examples of heartwarming, poignantly emotional baseball mysticism.
They tell the story of when Ken Griffey Jr. homered at the request of a hero of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and detail the nights when the spirit of legendary Cleveland Indians trainer Jimmy Warfield was said to have revisited Jacobs Field and watched over his beloved team in the form of a Lake Erie seagull.
"A lot of these are stories that let you feel like you're in the locker room listening to guys tell you stories," said Bradley, a Yankee fan who conjured the idea for the book with Gordon, a Red Sox fan, as something they could do together and experience "common ground" instead of arguing with each other all the time.
"In the course of all those interviews, we heard just about any kind of response to our questions," Bradley said. "It's a pretty bizarre topic, so it was always the oddest question they'd heard all day, if not all season.
"Some guys took a macho stance and were dismissive, but some guys were such strong believers that they would get goose bumps while just considering the questions."
Bradley said he found out just how superstitious some of the players were when they'd lose a game, then blame it on the fact that Bradley had interviewed them before the game and "jinxed" them with his supernatural vibe.
"All in all, though, it was surprising to me how open many guys were," Bradley said. "They had nothing to gain from sharing these stories except possibly a kooky reputation or getting flak from their teammates."
So what did Bradley have to gain? Is he a true believer now?
"Having taken pains in writing to not impose any particular point of view, I usually dodge that question," he said with a laugh. "I think it's important for readers to make up their own minds.
"But I will say that I think everyone we talked to believed what happened to them."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.