Legend of the Lucky Hat

During the 1999 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks attempted to reach out to the community and let them get to know some of the players. They did this through promotions with several local businesses. There was ice cream with Mat Williams at Ben and Jerrys. There were auto parts with Tony Womack at Checker Auto. And there were several players at various Nissan dealerships around the valley. For each one of these I would take the kids so they had an opportunity to meet the players and realize that they were the same as any other father when they are off the diamond. It was my hope that they would come to understand that you can appreciate players but you don’t need to idolize them. What I had not anticipated was how this series of appearances would impact our lives and the fortunes of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Todd Stottlemyre was an important piece of the Diamondbacks pitching staff in 1999 but during the season he suffered an injury to his shoulder. Since I had a similar problem with my throwing shoulder two years earlier I completely understood where he was at and how frustrating it was. While he was on the disabled list he was scheduled to appear at Tempe Nissan near our house. We decided to take the kids to the dealership to see what activities they had planned. There were inflatable toys, pitching machines, and various carnival type games for the kids to enjoy. Todd Stottlemyre would also appear and sign autographs. Tiffany decided that she really wanted an autograph so we brought a ball to see if she could get him to sign it. She and I stood in line while Trina took the rest of the kids around to play games. As we waited a Diamondbacks employee came around and gave some of the people promotional Diamondbacks merchandise. There were T-shirts, stickers, posters, and a few hats. These were not ordinary hats though; they were neon orange hats with the purple Diamondbacks A logo. It was one of the ugliest hats I had ever seen. Tiffany on the other hand thought that it was awesome. Her favorite color is orange so this was pretty much the perfect thing. When the guy approached her she asked if she could please have a hat. I think both he and I were in shock since no one wanted the hats. He gladly agreed and she placed the orange hat on her head. Her smile went from ear to ear and at that point her day would have been complete. But that’s not how the story ends but rather how it begins.

As Tiffany got to the front of the line, there were people assisting Mr. Stottlemyre collecting the items to be signed and getting them back to their rightful owner after having been autographed. When it was Tiffany’s turn, she just held the ball and looked at him. It caused Todd to stop for a second and look up to see what had stopped the flow. There was Tiffany with a very solemn look on her face and she handed him her baseball. He signed the ball and handed it back. She thanked him but instead of just leaving, she looked him in the eye and earnestly asked, “How is your shoulder? My dad had to have an operation when his shoulder was hurt like yours. He was really in a lot of pain. I am going to pray that you don’t have to have that done to yours.” This obviously touched Todd as he smiled and thanked Tiffany for the thoughts and prayers. He then reached over and took the orange hat off her head and put his autograph across the bill of it and placed it back on her head. She was in heaven at the thoughts of having an autographed Diamondbacks hat in her favorite color. It was all she talked about for the rest of the day.

That evening was a Diamondbacks game and it just so happened that it was Tiffany’s turn to attend the game. She of course had to wear her new hat to the game. As the game unfolded, the Diamondbacks struggled but in the final inning they came from behind to win the game. As we were walking back to our car we talked about what a great game it was. Tiffany in her most serious tone stated that she thought the hat had something to do with it she just knew it was lucky. I told her she may be right, it may very well be lucky.

The next night was another home game and Tiffany again wanted to attend. Now that she had a lucky hat she felt it her duty to go to the game. For the second night in a row the Diamondbacks won a game where they were outplayed but came out victorious. Tiffany was now convinced that her hat was responsible for part of the success the team was having. I just chuckled and said perhaps she had something there. For the next game Tiffany again wanted to go but it was Trina’s turn to attend. Tiffany explained to her mother that Trina had to wear the lucky hat or the team would not win. Trina took one look at the bright orange hat and absolutely refused. Tiffany pleaded with her mother to take the hat as it really was lucky. Trina tried to explain to this nine year old girl that there wasn’t such a thing as a lucky hat and that it was the players who won the game. In the end Trina left the hat home with Tiffany who was very disappointed. That night the Diamondbacks played the St. Louis Cardinals who had a rookie pitcher by the name of Jose Jimenez pitching against Randy Johnson. Trina was sure this would prove that there was no such thing as luck since Randy should overpower the rookie. Randy Johnson pitched an awesome game allowing only 5 hits and 1 run striking out 14. That night though something extremely bizarre occurred; the Diamondbacks were no-hit for the first time in the history of the franchise. Jimenez walked 2 batters and struck out eight. At the end of the game I turned to Trina and said, “You realize you are going to be blamed for this loss because you wouldn’t bring the hat.” She assured me that I was mistaken but when we got home Tiffany was up waiting for us. We had barely walked in the door when Tiffany began to tell Trina how it was her fault that this happened. The following night Trina again was to attend a game. Tiffany again stressed how important it was to take the hat. Trina again tried to explain that the hat had nothing to do with it. This time though I had to side with Tiffany and insist that Trina take the hat. Beyond her better judgment Trina took the hat and sat it on her lap during the game. The Diamondbacks were behind for most of the game. Trina turned to me and said, “See I told you it wasn’t the hat.” I in turn explained that she was not using the hat properly. For the luck to work she had to wear the hat on her head. There was no way she was going to wear that bright orange hat. I told her that this was important to Tiffany and that unless she wore the hat Tiffany would never believe that it wasn’t lucky. Trina relented and put the hat on. At that moment the Diamondbacks suddenly caught a break and put together a rally. When the game ended we looked at the scorebook and realized that the Diamondbacks had won. Maybe there is something to this lucky hat thing after all. From that point forward we began to bring the lucky hat whenever we could. The Diamondbacks in turn got on a hot streak and by the time the 1999 season ended, the Diamondbacks had won the National League Western Division and were in the play-offs quicker than any expansion team in the history of Major League Baseball. I don’t want to take all the credit for that occurring but I like to think that the lucky hat played a small part in the outcome.



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