Lucky 13

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's probably wise not to get too fixated with numbers, but it's easy to get drawn in by the number 13.

As in, hello 2013.

It is the first time in a century that “13” has come up and thirteen watchers have been waiting a long time wondering if the change in calendar will be lucky or unlucky. We'll just have to wait and see, of course, but the logical part of my brain reminds me that there's an air of uncertainty at the start of every year no matter the year.

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Plus, 13 has made centennial appearances over the centuries without any monstrous ripple in time.

Then, too, if we look about the landscape, 13s are all around us. Thirteen steps. Bakers dozens. And wherever things are counted beyond 12, there's always a 13 (unless it's a high rise, of course, where the 13th floor is often simply not recognized as reality). Most of the time, we just count the number and move on.

It's even a little known fact that Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States.

Millard Fillmore?

Yep. Fillmore.

While it would make for a great headline today (Fillmore Debt, Fillmore Crisis, Election Goes To Fillmore, just to think of a few) and all presidents leave some form of legacy whether they wish to have it saddled about them or not, in the annals of presidential history and a pantheon of greats, he is probably one of the least-remembered.

He fits rather nicely alongside the likes of presidents Pierce and Buchanan.

President number 12, Zachary Taylor, was the more unlucky one. Fillmore became a three-year president upon the untimely death of Taylor, some 16 months into his presidency.

In sports, the most famous or successful pro football players to wear the number 13 include Miami Dolphins quarterback great Dan Marino (who, interestingly enough, only played in one Super Bowl, which his team lost). The league MVP winner left his mark upon the record books. Then, too, there's future hall-of-famer Kurt Warner, who has a compelling personal story from grocery clerk to Super Bowl champion and game and league MVP awards.

In the Major Leagues, there are few number 13s to speak of, the most notable of which is Yankees Shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Given his track record, it's difficult to consider him in the same breath as either Marino or Warner. (Baseball numbers are a relatively new development first ascribed to players by their place in a batting order. And, while there are more pitchers than lineup positions on the field to merit numbers higher than eight, 13 was at least initially skipped over. We suspect it must involve the bad luck thing.)

If you're looking for numbers to support the theory of unlucky 13, look to NASCAR. Seventy-one drivers buckled up to drive the #13 since late 1949 (according to Most participated in a few races, with Casey Mears recording the highest number of starts (83). Since 1949, a number 13 car has competed in 339 races and only once, in 1963 (50 years ago), did that car win. Johnny Rutherford only had two starts that year, but he won one of them and finished in the top ten in the other.

Unlucky for others, perhaps, not so much for Rutherford.

Not a bad average, Johnny.

Then there's professional basketball, where Wilt Chamberlain wore the number for the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he only won two championships, he is considered among the best players of all time. He once scored 100 points in a single game.


Right-for the defenders who had to play against him that night.

I suppose if we looked close enough we could find why some people feel 13 to be unlucky but the real question-other than pure fascination-is why look for the bad at all?

Let's embrace the prime number, give it a chance and hope for the best. Let's just take the year that comes as it comes and enjoy it as much as we can for what it is: another year, another opportunity, another blessing.

And always remember, too, that should the question ever arise we will be among the select few that know Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States.