Baseball

Struck down, but not out

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caldwell-newspaperRemember the one about Cleveland Indians pitcher Ray Caldwell getting struck by lightning?

He was standing on the mound, needing one more out to finish the game when…

BOOM!

Caldwell and the Indians were leading the visiting Philadelphia Athletics 2-1 on a warm August day when a storm rolled off Lake Erie and approached League Park. As rain fell, Caldwell quickly recorded two outs on the A’s and was facing Joe Dugan when lightning flashed down on the ballpark.

It sent spectators scurrying for safety. It put Caldwell on his keister.

“It felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on the head and knocked me down,” Caldwell told the Cleveland Press after the game.

Some accounts say the lightning bolt knocked Caldwell out for five minutes. Other reports say the pitcher got up, brushed himself off and recorded the last out. It seems the latter is the more prevalent story.

Players rushed to Caldwell’s aid. Some, such as teammate Ray Chapman, said they felt the “juice” run through their bodies.

When I first began delving into the details of this game back in the spring – I’m writing a story about the contest for the SABR Games Project – I emailed lightning researcher Joseph Dwyer, asking for his thoughts about the players’ claim of felling lightning in their bodies and the subsequent numbness.

“When lightning strikes the ground, the current flows across the surface creating a step voltage. Someone standing with their feet apart can have current go up one leg and down the other,” wrote Dwyer, a professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire. “I would think such a large current through the legs could explain the numbness afterwards.”

One of the players who complained of numbness was Chapman, who nearly a year later was killed after being hit by a pitch thrown from Yankees hurler Carl Mays.

Newspaper reports say lighting danced along the rails of the ballpark.

“Lightning certainly can travel along metal railing,” Dwyer said, a phenomenon he called side flashes.

“When lightning strikes, there is often tens of thousands of amps of current and very large voltages,” the professor said. “If some of this current goes into a metal conductor such as fences or railings, the current can travel long distances, causing sparks to other objects along the way.”

One interesting side note from newspaper accounts says that Indians’ catcher Steve O’Neill tossed his metal mask as far away as possible to avoid being struck by subsequent bolts.

I asked Dwyer if O’Neill’s mask toss was a necessary move.

“It is a very good idea to take lightning seriously, but the approach was wrong,” Dwyer wrote. “The only way to be relatively safe from lightening is to go inside an enclosed structure like a house or a building.”

But “not a dugout,” Dwyer stressed.

***

Speaking of the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Games Project, I recently had story published there about Joe DiMaggio tying the Yankees’ consecutive game hitting streak at 29. It happened on June 16, 1941 when DiMaggio lined a double to left field shortly after rain had delayed the contest for more than an hour at Yankee Stadium. (Of course rain was involved, right?)

You can read my story here. Plus, there are tons of other extensively researched, well-written essays by numerous SABR members posted on the Games Project website.

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Rangers storm from behind, soak Sox

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Heaving rain, strong winds and fierce lightning stormed through Arlington, Texas, Tuesday night, delaying the game between the Rangers and Chicago White Sox for an hour and 18 minutes.

The Rangers led the first-place White Sox 2-1 when the storm interrupted the game as the third inning was set to begin. In the below video from the Dallas Morning News, you can the grounds crew scurrying to stretch the tarp over the field as rain and wind blew throughout Globe Life Park and fans sought shelter.


As for the game, the White Sox put nine runs on the board over the third and fourth innings to take a 10-5 lead. With that score, you couldn’t blame the Rangers if they did a little rain dance in hopes of nixing the game altogether.

But the home team rallied with seven runs in the eighth inning, winning 13-11.

With the rain delay and tons of scoring, the game ended four hours and 40 minutes after the first pitch was tossed.

The two teams play a 1:05 p.m. local time matinee Wednesday with only a 15 percent chance of rain and game-time temperatures hovering around 84 degrees. Nice!

Elsewhere… heavy rain got the best of the Reds and Pirates Tuesday night. A make-up game has not been announced, and the Reds said there will not be a doubleheader on Wednesday or Thursday.

Buck wouldn’t do that, would he?

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Associated Press

Buck Showalter insists he has more important things to do than dream up nefarious field tarp schemes to one-up his competition.

Hours ahead of Tuesday’s game with the Yankees at Camden Yards, Showalter’s Orioles took their cuts in batting practice and promptly left the field. Before the Yankees could get in their much-need pre-game swings, the Orioles grounds crew stretched the tarp over the infield dirt.

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi cried foul. “They hit and they’re covering the field,’’ Girardi said, according the New York Post.

In an interview with the Michael Kay Show the following day, Showalter laughed off the gamesmanship accusation and explained the reasons the field was covered.

“Basically, we got a weather report that it was going to start raining at 5 o’clock, so we started our BP, actually, early and got off the field early so they would have an opportunity,” the Orioles manager said. “And they [the Baltimore grounds crew] came up and said it was going to start raining in five minutes and they had to cover the field in order to keep the field from getting, you know, too wet to play.”

Rainy, yucky weather has plagued the Orioles the first this season, but on this Tuesday, not one noticeable drop fell from the sky. However, the tarp remained and the Yankees, who can’t seem to hit anything these and were swept in three games in Boston, were robbed of their opportunity to hit on the field.

In the seemingly lighthearted interview, Kay asked Showalter, “You didn’t dream this up to affect the Yankees?”

Still chuckling a bit, Showalter said, “Mike, come on,” and went on to say he didn’t think Girardi “insinuated anything” with is comments.

Showalter, however, seemed unhappy that the accusations had upset the Orioles’ head groundskeeper. “I know one thing. Somebody complained, because they called and our groundskeeper, who I think is the best in the business and one of the fairest going – she is really good – probably as good as I’ve ever seen… and she was upset today that someone had insinuated that,” Showalter said. “And she said, ‘why would anybody insinuate that?’ I said, ‘well, that’s the world we live in.’”

Bad weather hit the Orioles again Friday. Rain postponed the team’s series opener that night with the Oakland Athletics. The postponement was announced 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, and the two teams made up the game Saturday with the A’s taking an 8-4 victory. Baltimore claimed a 5-2 win in the regularly scheduled night game.

The postponement was the Orioles’ second at Camden Yards this season and third overall. A road game with the Texas Rangers in Arlington was postponed on April 17.

The Orioles have also endured 3 hours and 35 minutes worth of weather delays this season in games that have been played. On Opening Day, rain pushed back the first pitch of the season by 110 minutes. More inclement weather delayed the contest an additional 70 minutes after the completion of the second inning.

In the radio interview, Kay asked Showalter if the rain, snow and cold most affected the pitchers or the hitters.

“You know, I think you got to split it down the middle,” the manger said. “We’ve had games were the guys had no feel for the breaking ball because they couldn’t feel the ball.”

Showalter showed sympathy for the Baltimore fans as well, noting the weather’s effect on filling seats in the ballpark.

“I feel bad about the fans. You know, it’s really hurt our attendance because the weather has been so bad,” Showalter said. “We’re playing the Yankees, which are usually a good draw. Nobody will come out in it, yet we’re playing in it.”

….

Fans wanting to see the Reds and Brewers play at Great American Ball Park Sunday had to wait nearly two hours for the rain to move out and the field to be prepped before the game could begin Sunday. After the 1 hour and 55 minute delay, Milwaukee beat the home town Reds 5-4.

The Brewers have sat through a little more than four hours of weather delays in the season’s first month.

No brooms, just squeegees

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Chicago Tribune

That was close.

After jumping out to quasi-comfortable 4-0 lead on the Chicago Cubs Wednesday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals endured a 3:21-minute rain delay and an eighth-inning rally from their division rivals before moving on to a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals improved to 8-7 on the young season and avoided an embarrassing sweep by the Cubbies, who are determined to wrangle away St. Louis’ perennial division dominance.

The Redbirds scored two runs in each of the first two innings and allowed the Cubs to tally one in the fourth before rain began falling in the top of the seventh with the Cards leading 4-1. Precipitation increased throughout the half inning and after the Cubs’ Matt Szczur popped out in foul territory, umpires called for the tarp.

The rain stuck around for a while, but that gave us a chance to listen Cardinals radio broadcasters Mike Shannon and John Rooney spin a few tales about Bruce Hornsby and a range of other musicians. I particularly liked Shannon’s story about guarding Hornsby’s piano.

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the Rain Delay Theater gab session.

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The announced Busch Stadium crowd was 43,093, and I’m sure many of the Cardinal faithful stuck around through the storm. Many of us though, stayed dry, cozy and connected through Twitter and MLB TV, including this guy supporting the Cubs.

The rain and delay dragged on and on and on…

And then, about 20 minutes before 6 p.m. St. Louis time…

The game resumed and the Cubs roared back and cut the Cardinals’ advantage to a run, 4-3, in the top of the eighth. The Cards got one back in the bottom half on a Jadier Molina RBI single. Closer Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side in the top of the ninth, emphatically slamming the door on the Cubs’ comeback as a light rain continued to trickle.

CardsRainMolinaRosenthal
Chicago Tribune

It took 2 hours and 40 minutes of actual game time for the Cardinals to earn the win; that’s 41 minutes less than the rain delay.

Bottom of the sixth (Not the Rockwell painting)

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Moments after the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia struck out swinging in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night, umpires motioned for the tarp as a hard rain peppered Minnesota’s Target Field.

As it turned out, that was the last baseball act of the night between the Twins and the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. After a lengthy 2:06-minute rain delay – the game lasted just 2:21 – umpires consulted with managers of both squads and called the contest, giving the Twins a 7-4 victory, their fourth in a row.

Rain had poured well before the tarp was placed on the field, and had it stopped, more time would have been needed to allow the field to dry. That’s time neither team had, particularly with game two of the series scheduled for 12:10 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

“The umpires were in a tough spot tonight,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “It wasn’t going to stop raining, the severity of it. They did a good job and they held off as long as they could. It just gets to a point where it’s not going to stop and you’ve got to decide where you’re going to put the players out there, and they just decided not to do it.”
The forecast for Monday night’s game predicted a good chance of rain, and a pre-game tweet from the Brewers showed menacing clouds hanging over the teams’ batting practice.

What was left of the announced crowd of 21,078 weren’t left to sit bored and soaked in their seats. The Target Field staff put on the scoreboard the Stanley Cup playoff game between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. The Wild won 5-3 to take a 2-1 series lead.

The forecast for Tuesday’s game calls for a 46 percent chance of rain at first pitch and through 2 p.m. The rain chance dips to about 37 percent at 2 p.m.

Elsewhere… Looking at the forecast for the Cubs and Cardinals tonight in St. Louis shows a 54 percent chance of rain at the time Jaime Garcia is scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the home team. I’m not into making weather predictions on games… ah, what the heck? Who’s going to call me on it if I’m wrong? I’m saying the start of the game will be delayed by at least 25 minutes.

Opening Day is here! (with exceptions)

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The New York Yankees have waited since October to get another crack at Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel.

The rematch of last year’s American League Wild Card game, in which Kuechel dominated Yankees hitters and won 3-0, was scheduled to happen today in the Bronx, Opening Day for the two clubs and most of Major League Baseball.

However, a slight rain was falling in New York this morning and there is about 75 percent chance it would continue at 1 p.m. when Masahiro Tanaka was scheduled to toss the first pitch for the Yankees. Weather projections have the chance of rain up to 100 percent at 3 p.m.

The game has been postponed until 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, giving the Yankees one more day to figure out that baffling Kuechel fella. The New York batters failed to score a run off the lefty in the 22 innings they faced him in 2015.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland…

Snow could be flying around Progressive Field today when the Cleveland Indians host the Boston Red Sox at 4:10 p.m. Temperatures will be around 33 but feel like 23 at game time.

It could be worse. The game could be in Boston…

Orioles fans may want to pack ponchos for today’s opener against the Twins at Camden Yards. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. That’s also about the time rain could hit the area, about an 80 percent chance. That goes up to near 100 percent at 4 p.m.

Everything else, weather wise, looks nice around the league. Sunday marked the official start of the 2016 MLB season with three games. No weather problems, but Pirates fans at PNC Park welcomed the new season with 39 degree temperatures at the ballpark.

UPDATE: As snow blows around the ballpark and temperatures feel like December at a Browns game, the game between the Indians and Red Sox today in Cleveland has been postponed. The game is scheduled to be made up Tuesday at 1:10 p.m.

Gotta get your work in

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Minnesota Twins pitcher Tommy Milone talks in this MLB.com video about throwing a simulated game after his scheduled start against the Pirates was rained out last Saturday. Twins manager Paul Molitor and bench coach Joe Vavra stood in as batters as Milone tossed 75 pitches.

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The Twins were hoping to use Saturday’s game to get a look at lefty options for the bullpen, but rain soaked that idea, too, as LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune explains:

The travel roster for Saturday’s game included four lefthanded relievers: Buddy Boshers, Logan Darnell, Dan Runzler and Taylor Rogers. The chance each pitcher has of making the team varies.

Indications remain that the Twins will have at least one lefthanded set-up man to help bridge the late innings to closer Glen Perkins. Fernando Abadentered camp as the frontrunner, and he has given up only one earned run over 5⅓ innings to justify that position.

Twins pitching coach Neil Allen said he is still open to anything — one lefthander to set up, two or none. He would like to settle on his bullpen with four or five games left in spring training, so this is another area to watch over the next week.

“We’re just looking to see who can prove to be consistent day in and day out,” Allen said.

Saturday could have been a day to look at a few lefthanded candidates, but the rain spoiled it.

“We’ve talked about [looking at] some of the guys in the mix pitching on the same day,” Molitor said, “but it doesn’t always work out that way.”