By Cassidy Dover: "Black Cat - When There Is More To Baseball Than Just Superstitions"
There was a season when Ray was playing in Nashville. I know, in general, I am very vague about where we played and what we did. It’s my attempt to keep up an air of intrigue (and let’s be honest, a way to keep you guessing as to who we really are). Truth of the matter is, though, this story is one that the character in it is recognizable and should be recognized. I am fortunate to have the blessings of other wives who will allow me to tell their stories as my own. This way you may think you know who Ray and I are, but chances are, if you think you do, that story isn’t about Ray or about me but rather another friend from our times in the minor leagues.
Yet I move from the story at hand.
Early on I learned that many ballplayers have "concerns". We can call them superstitions if you’d like. I’m not sure they would all agree with that classification, however, we all know better. You know those people I’m talking about. They always have the same routine before each at bat, or before each inning. Nothing can change about how they dress in the morning before the game, or what food they eat, or how many times they stand and sit down prior to moving from the bench to the field. I remember one player who used to leap over the first base line prior to entering the playing field. Not sure why, just know he always did that.
Years ago, we were playing in Nashville, TN. A fantastic city. One I love. One that I could see raising a family in and settling down. Great people, great weather, terrific downtown and great shopping. Early in the season I noticed an older man who was at all the games. I asked Ray about him.
"Oh, Black Cat" he laughed. "He’s a legend around here. He puts hexes on players and teams. If he’s not on your side, you have problems."
Every night, after I’d wait on Ray to come out from the locker room, making himself ‘pretty,’ I’d see Black Cat standing there. "Night Mr. Cat," I’d say (really, how does one address this man politely when we don’t know his real name).
"Night Pretty Lady" he’d say.
I’d guess Black Cat was in his eighties at the time. I learned that he walked, both directions, to the games every night. He had been a baseball legend in Nashville. He was a huge supporter of the high school teams and the college teams and now the Sounds. He wouldn’t miss a game. I have always been close to my Grand Dad. He’s older and someone I love to pieces. All I kept thinking was how dangerous it was for Mr. Cat to walk to and from the field every day. If he were my Grand Dad I would hope someone would offer him a ride.
One night, on the way home, I mentioned it to Ray. "Cassidy, we don’t know where he lives," he told me.
"Does it matter?" I asked Ray more than a bit annoyed.
"Cassidy, what if he finds pride in the fact that he walks every day? What if we are just taking that away from him and offending him by offering the ride?"
"Then he’ll say no" I told Ray.
"And what if by offending him he jinxes me and I have the worst season of my career?" Ray asked me. I’m not sure this wasn’t a very real concern of his.
"Then he jinxes you. G-d knows your heart is in the right place. What’s the worst that can happen, a bad game or two? Come on!" I teased.
Then Ray went on about how Black Cat had jinxed a manager one year and the team was just plain awful! Story after story about this man’s powers were told to me that night.
As any woman knows, I wasn’t going to let Ray win this one. The next night, while waiting for Ray, I walked over to Black Cat. "Hello, Sir," I said. "I’m Ray Dover’s wife, Cassidy."
"Yes, pretty lady. I know that" he responded.
"Well Ray and I see you here every night and didn’t know if you’d like a ride back to your house every now and then?"
"I’d sure appreciate that," He told me.
So when Ray came out, I told him we’d be driving Black Cat home. Ray just rolled his eyes. "Black Cat, let’s go!" Ray said. We walked to the car. We had a small, sporty car back then. I sat in the back so that Mr. Joe (he shared his given name with us that night on the way home) could sit in the front seat.
That night began a season of us driving Mr. Joe home at night. We were fortunate enough to hear stories of years gone by. The statistics that Joe knew, the games he remembered. The baseball talk was something that Ray couldn’t have gotten from anyone else. Ray and I had nights we didn’t want to take Joe home. However, doing the right thing had become part of our routine.
Ray had a great season that year. I’m not sure if it was because Mr. Joe blessed him and put a hex on those against him or not. I don’t know if it’s because Ray did the right thing by putting Mr. Joe first every night of the homestand. Ray was becoming more kind hearted. He was looking at those around him rather than just his baseball situation. He was growing up and that could be why he had a great season. He was becoming more comfortable in who he, Ray Dover, was both on and off the field that year.
All I know is that we learned that Black Cats aren’t always unlucky. Sometimes, if you move beyond your fear of the superstition, you can find blessings in seemingly dark places. That’s become a big part of Ray’s and my life.
Black Cat died a few years later. We’re not sure if any other players ever took on our role as his driver after we left or not. I hope someone else did. Not just for Black Cat, but for himself. I know that Ray and I feel our life was enriched because Mr. Joe was a part of it that year. That relationship put a footprint on our hearts and our lives.
Thanks for Reading.
Cassidy Dover has been a baseball wife for more than 10 years. Her husband Ray, currently in the minor leagues, has spent part of 7 seaons in The Show. Cassidy lives somewhere in America with her daughter Sheridan. Right now, they're probably waiting for Ray to come home.