There have been many players in baseball history who have been hounded by superstitious fears. Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell would run across the diamond to pick up any scraps of paper pushed by the wind, believing that any paper on the field was bad luck. Hall of Fame Tiger manager Sparky Anderson was one of many managers who stepped gingerly over the foul lines, lest he bring bad luck.
But the most superstitious player to ever wear a Tiger uniform was also one of the best clutch pitchers in franchise history. Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe was a superstar at the age of 24 in 1934 when he won 16 straight decisions for the Tigers, helping the team to the American League pennant. But as the young right-hander with the Texas drawl won over fans with his homespun ways (he famously asked “How’m I doin’, Edna?” to his high school sweetheart Edna Skinner on a national radio broadcast), his superstitions made his teammates scratch their heads.
Rowe believed in just about every lucky charm ever conjred up: rabbit’s feet, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, and wishbones. He carried around talismans, charms, lucky coins and dollars, and wore a lucky tie on every road trip.
Long before Mark Fidrych gained fame for his conversations with the baseball, Rowe was talking to the sphere while on the mound for the Tigers. In 1934, during his 16-game winning streak (an American League record), Rowe was spotted chatting to the ball (or himself) while pitching a game against the St. Louis Browns. Later, after Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig was sent back to the bench after a strikeout against Rowe, the “Iron Horse” muttered, “That’s the strangest fella I’ve ever faced.”
Asked by a reporter what the secret to his success was, Rowe replied, “Just eat a lot of vittles, climb on that mound, wrap my fingers around the ball and say to it, ‘Edna, honey, let’s go.'”
Rowe won 24 games in 1934, and won one more in Game Two of the World Series when he pitched 12 innings and retired 22 straight batters at one point. He followed up with 19 more wins in 1935 and a win in relief in that Series, which was the first World Championship for Detroit. In 1936 he won 19 more games, giving Schoolboy 62 wins in three seasons.
Like Fidrych, Rowe suffered a sore arm after his initial success, even spending most of an entire year in the minors. In 1940, now 31 years old, Rowe returned to his brilliant form, going 16-3 to help the Tigers win their third pennant in seven years. he later spun his way to 52 wins for the Philadelphia Phillies in five seasons, by now married to his sweetheart Edna.
Schoolboy missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons to wartime service in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station where his former manager, Mickey Cochrane, put together an All-Star baseball team that included Schoolboy, Bob Feller, Johnny Mize and Billy Herman. The 1944 Great Lakes team compiled a 48-2 record, including an 11-1 record against major league teams. Schoolboy played as an outfielder as well as a pitcher and led the Great Lakes team with a .446 batting average. He was one of the better hitting pitchers of his era, clubbing 18 homers in his career.
In his ten seasons as a Tiger he was 105-62. For a three year stretch, Rowe was one of the most successful and superstitious players to ever don the Olde English D.