Cleveland Indians

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…


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.


Chicago rain… and more reign

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Wrigley-Game-ppd-06-15-2015I love baseball.

However, if tornado warnings (See video) are being blasted in the area of the ballpark, that’s a good sign to call it a night and try again tomorrow.

That’s the decision the Cubs and Indians were forced into Monday night at Chicago’s Wrigley Field About an hour and a half before the two teams were to play the first of a four-game series, heavy rain and threats of severe weather forced a postponement.

Monday night’s scheduled game will be made up Aug. 24 in Chicago. However, the two teams will play tonight in Wrigley before trekking to Cleveland for two games at Progressive Field.

Tornado warnings continued through Monday evening, but those warnings didn’t deter fans of the newly minted Stanley Cup champions from celebrating their team’s win in the city over the aptly-named-for-the-moment Tampa Bay Lightning.

For the Blackhawks, it’s their third cup in six years. (Can we call that a dynasty?)

As for fans of the Lightning — the hockey team – many were forced indoors Monday to eyeball game six after a watch party was cancelled because of heavy rain and, you know, real lightning.

Back to the Cubbies for a moment, the team has been plagued by rain since the weekend. On Saturday, Chicago was leading Cincinnati 3-1 in the top of the sixth when rain delayed the game for two hours and 48-minutes.

Cue the tarp crew…

Immediately following the long delay, the Reds tied the game at 3-3 on a Eugenio Suarez two-run homer in the top of the sixth, but the Cubbies – my son’s favorite team, by the way – won it 4-3 when Starlin Castro’s walk-off single scored Kris Bryant in the bottom of the ninth.

Let’s watch:

Stuff that probably interest only me…

I’ve always been a fan of game notes produced by teams’ media relations offices, and I occasionally like to sort through daily notes from MLB clubs. Buried at the bottom of the Cubs’ notes – I assume it’s there for every game – is the team’s record at Wrigley when the wind is blowing out, blowing in and when there is a cross wind. As of today, June 16, the Cubbies are 11-7 with the wind blowing in and 4-5 when it’s blowing out of the park. They’re 3-1 with a cross wind.