The record for most consecutive wins in city championships in tennis, squash and racquetball, respectively, are as follows: Ethel Marshall, tennis, from 1948-60; Rev. Bob Hetherington, squash, from 1970-82; and this writer, racquetball, from 1967-1979.
Do you notice a similarity in the number of years that each player won their titles? Each racket star won their respective championships 13 years in a row until they relinquished their title. Was it a coincidence? Or, is it because of superstition -- 13 is associated with bad luck, and that is why each player didn't win the title in their 14th year?
It really doesn't matter whether the win skeins were ended because of coincidences or superstitions. However, there are quite a few racket sport players who really feel that superstitions greatly affect their play. Some of these players and their superstitions follow:
Mary Ann Kulp is a 4.0 USTA player. She said, "I wear the same red skirt for every match and I'm convinced that it helps me play better. I'm even more confident when I wash my skirt before I play."
Joe Schafer is the 10-Under Boys singles champion of the South Towns Inter Club League. He said, "I have to clean my eyeglasses every time that I play, even if they are not dirty. It makes me feel as if I'll play better and I know that it helps me to keep my eye on the ball."
Barbara Johnson is a former 35-over city singles champion and doubles champ with Karen Peterson. She plays strictly by the rules. If a player says to her before the match that she can serve first, she won't hear of it. She said, "I have to win or lose the decision to serve or receive fair and square, otherwise I can't play well. I especially like it when my opponent has a Wilson racket and says, "M or W." I always say W in honor of George Bush and rarely lose with that call."
Freddy Duncan is the area's No. 1 ranked 14-under boys tennis player. He said, "I won't clear a ball on my side of the court as I feel that it is unlucky. Also, I never sit down when I change courts and get a drink. I never play well if I do that. When I stand up to drink, I notice that when I start playing again I hit a stream of winners after switching sides."
Mary Ann Balling won the women's 35-over singles and the mixed doubles with Nick Cerabona last year in the Muny Championships. She played in five different events. She said, "After each day's play, I would kick pine cones from the courts to my car. This made me feel that I would win the next day."
Dave Kocak is a tennis professional at South Towns Tennis Center and an outstanding player. He said, "I never get a haircut on the day that I have to play an important match because I am afraid that my opponent would trim me."
Marc Reinhardt has won six city doubles squash championships and has been nationally ranked. He makes a fashion statement as a result of an important collegiate match between his Williams team and Navy, which Williams hadn't defeated in almost 30 years. Reinhardt, not known for his stylish squash clothes, was outfitted from head to toe by a local sporting goods store. When he arrived for the match in his street clothes, he was wearing his new headband. He won a grueling match. He said, "Ever since I won that match, I always show up before a match with my headband on, even if I am wearing a suit. When I change into my squash clothes, I'm sure that I am going to win because the headband is my good luck charm."
Joe Thompson is an up-and-coming junior in racquetball in Western New York. He said, "Racquetball gloves have a tendency to get dried out. I always splash a little water on my gloves before I play. I'm convinced that I'll play better because the water is like holy water in my mind."
Brett Cromwell is one of the stars of the Eagle Ridge junior tennis team. He said, "For some reason, I can never play well when I play tennis with long sleeves." When asked why, he replied, "I have short arms."
Stan Morgante is one of the area's top B racquetball players. He said, "I don't have any superstitions. That's probably why I don't win many matches."
Todd Miller, former city singles and doubles tennis champion, recently became the first tennis player inducted into Sweet Home High School's Hall of Fame.