The Margin: The Phillies made the World Series — is a stock-market crash next? Why some see this baseball team’s success as a bad omen.
Some people are likening the Philadelphia Phillies to the horsemen of the economic apocalypse.
That’s because there’s been a curious — if rather weak — relationship over the past century between World Series titles for Philadelphia baseball teams and financial-market meltdowns. And the Phillies just made it to the 2022 World Series.
In terms of historical precedence, we have at the top of the order:
The Philadelphia A’s won the 1929 World Series, which ended on Oct. 14, 1929 — just a couple of weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929 on Black Monday, Oct. 28, 1929.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the 1980 Series, corresponding with the early 1980s recession — although it should be noted that the U.S. economy had entered recession in January 1980, several months before the baseball season, let alone the World Series, got underway.
And the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, which also correlated with what’s come to be known as the Great Recession — although, again, this particular economic downtown began earlier. Indeed, the Great Recession spanned 2007 to 2009.
So the Phillies’ win against the San Diego Padres on Sunday night, punching the Philadelphia team’s ticket to the Series beginning this Friday, had some folks pondering the prospect of a historical repeat. After all, tongues have been wagging about whether the U.S. is in a recession or not for months now. And, certainly, plenty of economic and stock-market strategists have been warning of a coming recession.
So are Philadelphia ball clubs really cursing the market?
Of course not — just chalk these few examples up to coincidence and bad timing. After all, there have been 12 recessions since 1948 — and the Phillies failed to make the World Series during 10 of them.
“Oh mercy sakes alive, the World Series phenomenon and markets has been around as long as I have, which is probably too long,” laughed Art Hogan, the chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth Management, in a chat with MarketWatch. “It’s fun to contemplate, but, very fortunately, its predictive power has diminished over time.”
Hogan noted that there are so many different players impacting stock-market performance — including economic data, politics and impacts from the lingering COVID pandemic, to name just a few — that a single baseball team’s performance is never going to be a game changer. “The market has many more participants, and it’s impossible to erase all of that just because of a best-out-of-seven-game series coming up this week,” he said.
Hogan noted that some other amusing, unscientific barometers for stock-market performance that he’s heard over the years include the “Super Bowl Indicator,” which suggests a correlation between a Super Bowl win from either an American Football Conference team or a National Football Conference team with whether there’s a bear or a bull market the following year. In short, an AFC team winning the Super Bowl supposedly foretells a market downturn, while an NFC team taking the title predicts a stock-market climb. That theory is full of bull, period.
“There’s things as absurd as [correlating] the popular length of women’s skirts” and stock-market performance, said Hogan — which is, no joke, also known as the “Hemline Index.” Apparently, ladies flash more leg when economic times are good, but start dressing more conservatively heading into downturns.
“It certainly makes for fun and interesting cocktail conversations,” Hogan added. “But I can tell you that no one on the trading desk is taking it more seriously than that.”