Scroll To Top

The Sports Illustrated Jinx


The Sports Illustrated Jinx

Players, teams, streaks have all been jinxed after an SI cover.

“Best. Team. Ever?”

That was the cover of Sports Illustrated (SI) in August of 2017, on top of a photo of Justin Turner of the Dodgers getting a Gatorade shower following a walk-off win.

The Dodgers had been one of the hottest teams in MLB history.

After that, the Dodgers went on a 5-17 skid. The cover came after the Dodgers had completed a 50-game stretch with an astounding win-loss record of 43-7: the best in baseball since 1912.

So, did SI jinx them?

There are countless stories relating to the “Sports Illustrated jinx.” A player or team graces the cover of the famed magazine, and then they are negatively affected afterward. Here are some notable jinx incidents in the sport of baseball:

2016 — Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia of the New York Mets all appeared on the cover. Harvey and deGrom would go on to need season-ending surgeries.

2015 — Second baseman Daniel Murphy of the Mets appeared on the cover ahead of the 2015 World Series. In the first two rounds of the playoffs he was outstanding, slugging seven home runs, some off Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta. Jinx! Murphy would struggle in the World Series, going 3-20 and committing two fielding errors. The Mets lost in five games to the Kansas City Royals.

2013 — Jason Grilli, closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time, was placed on the disabled list with a forearm strain. Earlier that same day, SI had put him on the cover.

2010 — Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg made his debut with the Washington Nationals on June 8th. SI placed him on the cover after two dominant starts. Strasburg was placed on the DL shortly after and dealt with injuries until it was announced that he needed Tommy John surgery in August.

2010 — At the start of the 2010 season, the April 27th SI cover showcased the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada. Just a week later, Rivera, Pettite and Posada came down with injuries. Jeter was fine, but he had one of his weakest years, hitting just .270 with 10 home runs.

2011 — The Texas Rangers’ Nelson Cruz appeared on the SI cover on October 24, 2011, just as the World Series was about to start. The Rangers lost the Series, although in Game 6 they were literally just one strike away from winning the Series…two different times!

It’s easy to say simply that one team had to win, right?

But then there’s this fact about that fateful Game 6, one of the best games in World Series history:
In that game, just four days after appearing on the SI cover, Cruz let a ball get over his head in the ninth inning…with two outs. If he had positioned himself right and gotten a good jump, then maybe…who knows. But then you have to wonder about the jinx. Why did it have to feature Cruz?

Little Leaguers can feel the effect of the jinx too.
2014 — Mo'ne Davis achieved fame as a girl pitcher on a boys’ team in the 2014 Little League World Series after she was the first girl in Series history to earn a win and pitch a shutout. The August 2014 SI issue featured her on the cover after her strong performance as part of the Philadelphia Taney Dragons team. She was the first Little League player ever to appear on its cover! In her next game (Aug. 20), she was pulled after giving up six hits and three runs in the first two innings. Her team went on to lose 8-1 and they were eliminated from the Series.

The jinx doesn’t hurt just baseball.

There are dozens of instances that writers and fans can point out to show the SI jinx’s impact.

2017 — Before the start of the NFL season, Sports Illustrated released special regional covers featuring four star players: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson and J.J. Watt. After only a handful of games, three of the stars were down for the count, and Brady was the only one standing.

- Johnson suffered a broken wrist in his season opener
- Watt fractured a leg bone
- Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone

Two of those injuries were season ending.

1957 — You can rewind the clock SIXTY years to 1957 for another example of the SI jinx doing its football funny stuff.

Or not so funny to Oklahoma fans.
The University of Oklahoma was riding a 47-game unbeaten streak midway through the season. Ranked second in the nation, they were getting ready to host unranked Notre Dame in mid-November.

So, of course, Sports Illustrated chose to feature the undefeated Sooners on the cover before the game, with the headline, “Why Oklahoma Is Unbeatable.” The cover was designed a few days before the Sooners/Fighting Irish game.

So too, of course, unranked Notre Dame upset #2 Oklahoma that day 7-0, ending the 47-game streak. Interestingly, Notre Dame had been the last team to beat the Sooners before the streak began.

That’s certainly one of the earliest examples of the so-called Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

SI covers: jinxed from the start?
1954 — August 16th: Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews became the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (It’s actually an action picture from a Braves game, with Mathews taking a cut at the plate.)

In any case, the Braves would have a nine-game winning streak snapped, and a broken hand not long afterward caused Mathews to miss seven games. The Braves finished third in the NL that year.

The jinx was just getting started…