While driving home this weekend, I heard an announcer talk about how the Mets had been one hit in a game pitched by AJ Burnett. The announcer mentioned that the hit came in the sixth inning and was not a "cheap hit." It made me think back to a story which ran earlier this month about Cliff Lee, a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. On June 14, 2009, Lee was pitching a no-hitter in the eighth inning when the Cleveland scoreboard operator put up the trivia question - who pitched the last no-hitter for the Indians? [For those of you not from Cleveland it was Len Barker in 1981]. Well, the next batter that Lee faced hit a double and Lee finished with a three hit shutout. After the game, Cleveland manager said that the Indians' scoreboard operator "had no feel for the game." Meanwhile, the pitching coach was more direct as he said, "There are some things that are taboo and you don't do."
For baseball players there is a certain feeling of "jinxing" a no-hitter by even talking about the fact that it is on going. As a pitcher gets deeper into a no-hitter or perfect game, the players on the team will not sit near him for fear of "jinxing" him. The team's announcers who are calling the game for radio/TV will also not mention the no-hitter (until its broken) also for fear of "jinxing" the player. While a certain friend of mine will call this a "kin'ahara" (his version of an ayin hara) I wonder whether this is truly applicable.
The general concept of ayin hara is that bad things can befall a person or their possessions if they are ostentatious. The reason for the bad thing is that others who see the person or their possessions will be jealous and their negative thoughts or even prayers could be the cause of the injury. The gemara in Pesachim 50(b) is replete with examples of ayin hara which can result when one flaunts his good fortune.
But is this applicable to the baseball taboos about no hitters? To the extent that the announcers don't mention it on the air, maybe a case could be made that mentioning it while jealous fans of the opposing team are listening, could be a cause of ayin hara. However, players who avoid talking to the pitcher or sitting near him, to avoid "a jinx" would not implicate ayin hara. To my mind, the avoidance of the pitcher may be recommended for other reasons, since mentioning the no-no to him would undoubtedly add to the stress level of the pitcher (this is my own personal feeling about what happened to Cliff Lee).
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