Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the exploits of flash-in-the-pan, Kevin Rhomberg.
Of any player on our countdown, Kevin Rhomberg has the least amount of at bats. He only played in 41 games during his major league career and only compiled 52 plate appearances, yet he may have the most unique story on the countdown.
He is regarded as one of the most superstitious players in baseball history.
Rhomberg’s superstition, or compulsion, was to touch any player who touched him while on the baseball field. If he slid into a player on the bases, he would run by the player the next half inning and touch him back. Former teammate, Mike Hargrove, referred to him as, “Touch Me, Touch Me.”
His compulsion was so extreme that once, teammate Rick Sutcliffe snuck in the bathroom and touched his foot from the next stall. Rhomberg did not know who had touched him, so he touched every player on the team to constitute a, “touch back.”
Once while in the minor leagues, Brook Jacoby touched Rhomberg with a baseball and threw it out of the stadium, so he could not touch it back. Once the game was complete, Rhomberg spent two hours in the parking lot looking for the baseball to, “touch it back.”
On the most extreme occasions, when players were able to elude Rhomberg’s touch back, he has been known to mail players a letter stating, “this constitutes a touch back.”
Rhomberg appeared in games with the Indians in 1982-84, wearing #54 when he made his major league debut. He lacked defense to keep in the regular lineup, but in his 52 career plate appearances, he hit .383. After his career ended, he coached the Cleveland State University and Lakeland Community College baseball programs and has scouted for the Indians.