Baseball

This Week in Baseball Weather – Nationals Edition

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There he was, foot skating across the base, knee grossly folding in the wrong direction, body somersaulting through the misty late night air – hair still looking glorious – and then crashing in pain onto the infield dirt.

Man, it looked awful. It looked like the end.

Just like Adam Eaton months earlier, Bryce Harper’s mishap at first base would, it seemed in the moment, put the Washington Nationals’ star slugger out for the season, further depleting a team that has so many weapons already on the shelf.

“Nationals Park is in a total hush,” Nats radio guy Dave Jageler said as trainers rushed out to Harper.

But the sun did rise the morning after that wet night in the District. An MRI revealed no structural damage, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo assured us it was only a deep bone bruise on Harp’s left knee.

Nats fans exhaled.

“Thank you, Lord, that Bryce Harper did not shred any ligaments,” Grant Paulsen said on his D.C. sports radio show Monday morning.

The news that Harper was being placed on the 10-day disabled list, with a return projected sometime before the playoffs, was like a total solar eclipse happening on your birthday, which also happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day.

This near tragedy, however, was yet another soggy side note to what otherwise has been a season as bright as the rainbow emblazoned on the team’s new Skittles-themed tarp that had covered the field for three hours before the Harper’s calamity.

As I write, the Nationals stand 14 games ahead of the Miami Marlins in the National League East. Harper is having another MVP season. Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are fueling a high-powered offense.

They’ve had their fair share of injuries (see: Eaton, Turner, Werth, Strasburg, Glover, Taylor, Drew, Ross and so on) but guys named Difo, Sanchez and Goodwin have surprisingly kept the team moving forward. Not treading water, but building upon the division lead.

And Rizzo’s annual trade deadline wizardry has made the bullpen great (maybe) again.
But when it comes to dealing with rainy days, the Nats play the game like the 1886 version of the Washington ball club.

When it rains, and even when it only threatens to rain but doesn’t, the Nats have issues. Criticism has been plentiful, from fans, media, old clown play-by-play announcers of a division rival… and even from Washington players. Gio Gonzalez let his frustration show when the team delayed a game start for hours even though it barely sprinkled.

And Harper, the day after his slip and spill, took a slight shot at the decision to play Saturday night following a 3-hour delay and rain still drumming the field.

“I don’t like wet bases,” he said between games of a day-night doubleheader Sunday with the San Francisco Giants.

Harper thought about Eaton, he said, while he was rolling on the ground, clutching his knee, giving us all heart attacks.

“Then I thought to myself, it’s 10 o’clock at night and we’re playing the game in the rain,” he recalled. “So, I was really upset about that as well. But you know, it’s just a freak accident, a freak situation.”

True, but was it avoidable?

Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, is asking Major League Baseball what it can do to ensure the safety of its players when rain, falling light enough to continue play, is turning the base bags into a slip and slide.

“In this instance with Bryce’s injury, you step on a base and you cannot have it be that slick and it obviously was caused by precipitation and inclement weather. The safeguards are so simple and immediate,” Boras said.

“You can certainly have people, the umpire checking the bag, even pitch-by-pitch. You can have the grounds crew, certainly, called in, or you can have it done between each field exchange by the teams. So, there’s a number of things that aren’t done that could be done rather simply.”

In another interview earlier in the week, Boras made comparisons to the NBA, where action is quickly stopped to wipe up sweat, or whatever, from the court.

Is that a practical solution? Should it be a job for the umpires to periodically wipe off the bases? Every few pitches? How often, I guess, depends on how steadily the rain is falling.
Since Harper’s injury, much discussion has been focused on improving base technology, giving the bag more traction as runners make contact.

“When you have an elite athlete touching in the very middle of the bag and just sliding across, it’s like ice on cement,” Boras said. “So, it’s really something we need more clarification and standards and study to ensure player safety.”

Maybe Boras is on to something. If there’s a base technology that can be used that would allow the bag remain relatively dry throughout a steady rain and not cause players to slip like they were in the shower, as Harper said he felt Saturday night, then the simple logistics of replacing bases is well worth it to save a player’s health, his season and potentially his career.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals

Are the Nationals the baseball weather story of the year?
Each year, I think about writing a post listing the top 10 baseball weather stories of the year. I haven’t done it yet, but maybe this is the year. Last year’s top story developed during the final game of the season, the World Series Game 7 rain delay that allowed the Cubs to regroup and capture the team’s first title in 108 years. Hands down, that was the baseball weather story of the year.

Not nearly as significant and captivating is this year’s top story… so far: the Nationals struggles with weather delays. Are the Nats really this bad at dealing with the weather, or have they simply had a run of bad luck this year?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. However, after tracking the events of Friday night, it’s difficult to not believe the team just can’t get its stuff together.

After a long rain delay of the series opener with the San Francisco Giants that night, the game was finally called and postponed more than two hours after the scheduled start. Players were seen leaving the ballpark. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy was called in to chat with media around 9:15 p.m., according to the Washington Post. There was only one problem: Someone forgot to tell the fans at the ballpark until about 30 minutes later.

Oops!

Rain Delay Theater… on Twitter
During Friday night’s lengthy rain delay, Nationals TV play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter answered questions on Twitter. Of course, I had to jump in with a weather-related question, but nothing hard-hitting about the Nats’ weather problems. On short notice, the best I question I could think of was: What’s your most memorable rain delay moment?
Yeah, I know. I could have done better. But to my surprise, Carpenter quickly answered with this witty gem:

Picturesque PNC Park

The week’s post can’t be all about the Nats, so to close, let’s go out the PNC Park where, rain or shine, it’s always postcard-perfect. The Pirates posted this photo on Twitter Thursday night to announce the team’s game with the Cardinals would be briefly delayed by rain.

And later, this:

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You need Suzyn Waldman’s weather app

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This Week (or two) in Baseball Weather

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Associated Press

The Yankees, Tigers and everyone hanging around Yankee Stadium Wednesday afternoon waited through a remarkable 4 hours and 37 minutes in rain weather delays.

To many, including the Yanks radio broadcast crew – I love those two – the first 90 minutes were a complete waste of time.

An “immediate threat of inclement weather,” according to the Yankees on Twitter, forced officials to delay the series finale. However, according to many folks on radio and social media, only a drizzle peppered the ballpark.


Michael Kay, the Yankees TV play-by-play guy on the YES Network said, “It rained a little bit, but [it was] certainly not a rain to where you could not play the game.”

Masahiro Tanaka tossed out the first pitch around 2:30 p.m., Bronx time.

While we waited, I tuned into the Yankees flagship station, WFAN, for Rain Delay Theater and got, mixed in with some Mets talk, a lively discussion about whether or not any rain fell at Yankee Stadium.

Going into the game broadcast, Yankees radio color commentator Suzyn Waldman said there were a few sprinkles and encouraged MLB officials to use the same weather app she uses. “My app told the right thing,” she said.

Moments later, play-by-play man John Sterling burst on the air saying, “We have just wasted an hour and a half doing nothing.”

You tell ‘em, John!

It didn’t end there. In the eighth inning, heavy rain began to pelt the ballpark.

“There is a thunderclap,” Waldman said. “NOW, it’s raining. They’re going to bring out the tarp.”

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Sterling jumped in with a little biting sarcasm aimed at Major League Baseball officials, who decided to delay the start of the game rather than play through the early afternoon drizzle.

“Well, it certainly worked out very well. We waited an hour and a half at the beginning of the game when it barely rained,” Sterling said. “Well, now it’s raining. So, there’re going to cover the field, and we will sit here and schmooze and say nothing and then we’ll throw it back to the station.”

Waldman quickly suggested she could tell listeners about games scheduled around the league. But first…

“Now, it is really raining,” she said, interrupting herself. “Wow! This is like the skies opened up. If they had listened to my app – Major League Baseball – we would be done and on our way to Cleveland.”

OK, back to those scores. While reporting details of the Blue Jays vs. White Sox matinee game, Waldman again stopped to comment on the rain pelting the park. “Boy, now this is rain. This is rain!”

Refocusing, she went to tell us about Kansas City playing at Baltimore later that night and then “Cleveland at Boston at 7 [o’clock],” she said. “By the way, Boston, this rain is coming to you. It should get there around 7 [o’clock].”

Man she’s good!

Boston later was hit with about three inches of rain and the Red Sox and Indians, after a lengthy delay, were postponed.

Back comes Sterling, and this, I think, was my favorite part of the conversation.

“You know what it looks like right now?” he asked. “It looks like ‘The Rains of Ranchipur.’” (I had to look that up) “I mean IT IS POURING. This is a monsoon. I wish we had that hour and half back.”

Meanwhile, in Boston

The aforementioned rained-out Red Sox vs. Indians game has been rescheduled for Aug. 14 at Fenway Park. The teams waited on the rain for about two hours before the postponement was announced. Here’s how some of the Red Sox players spent their idle time.

Catching heat
Clouds dropped rain and emptied Camden Yards for a brief moment Wednesday night, causing a 35-minute delay in the third.

Before the rain, the Orioles TV play-by-play announcer Jim Hunter talked about the high temperatures the O’s have played in recently, and specifically, how skipper Buck Showalter has managed his catchers through the summer heat.

“Caleb and [Welington] Castillo, there not exactly alternating, but because it’s been so hot, Buck Showalter is taking advantage of two catchers who right now are both red hot. So, neither of them wares down. They’re each getting quite a bit of playing time,” Hunter said as Joseph, at the plate, took ball two from Royals pitcher Jason Vargas.

“Caleb saw Castillo catch on Sunday in that oppressive heat in Texas,” Hunter continued, referring to the 99, 92 and 92-degree start-time temperatures the O’s played through in a three-game weekend series with the Rangers.

“Caleb caught Monday. Castillo caught last night. Caleb’s in there tonight. So, there’re both staying fresh and they’re both playing very well,” Hunter said.

Seconds later, the lefty Joseph showed his freshness as he slapped a Vargas fastball just over the left field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Baltimore went on to win 6-0.

The Orioles suffered through two rain delays the following night, Thursday, while hosting the Tigers in Camden Yards. Weather pushed back the start of the game by 43 minutes. Once the game began, Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton smacked homers in the top of the first. But then more rain, along with lightning, rolled in, stopping the contest, this time for 59 minutes.

Earlier in Chicago on Thursday, rain pressed pause on the Cubs and Diamondbacks three times. The first pitch was pushed back 90 minutes. Another storm passed over Wrigley Field in the top of the second, causing a 35-minute play stoppage.

Once players were back on the field, a Cubs radio broadcaster – I’m not sure who, but it was not Pat Hughes – described the second storm. “It just really got dark. Fog rolled in and it just cut lose raining… And the skies opened up and it poured in buckets here at Wrigley.”

And during that second delay, there was a bullpen dance off.

More weather drama ensued in the top of the ninth inning with the score tied 8-8.

After the skies cleared Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run, his third homer of the game, to give the Diamondbacks the lead for good and a 10-8 victory. The three rain delays totaled 2 hours and 35 minutes.

We’re not done with Hump Day
Before the Rangers thumped Seattle 5-1 Wednesday night, the two squads sat through a 40-minute rain delay at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The halt in action came in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs.

“Caleb caught Monday. Castillo caught last night. Caleb’s in there tonight. So, there’re both staying fresh and they’re both playing very well,” Hunter said.

Seconds later, the lefty Joseph showed his freshness as he slapped a Vargas fastball just over the left field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Baltimore went on to win 6-0.

On Tuesday in Miami
There was no delay under the retractable roof at Marlins Park Tuesday – Oh, wait. That’s not always a given – but heavy rains flooded the Miami area that day. Opening the Washington Nationals MASN TV broadcast that night was Dave Jageler, who alluded to the weather issues as he talked over video of fans walking to the ballpark.

“For Marlins Park in Miami, it’s better served to arrive here by boat or by ark. I don’t know how these fans got here; the streets of Miami are flooded today thanks to a tropical depression,” said Jagelar, filling in for Bob Carpenter on TV play-by-play duties.

Heavy afternoon thunderstorms dropped about six inches of rain on Miami Tuesday, according to news reports.

About last week…

Lightning, thunder halts Phillies, Brewers

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Before the Brewers and Phillies could get going on July 22, a strong thunderstorm rolled into Philadelphia and over Citizens Bank Bark. Thunder, lightning and heavy rain delayed the start of the contest for 26 minutes.

Milwaukee edged the Phillies 9-8.

More inclement weather followed Monday night at the Philadelphia ballpark. Rain paused the game – and Phillies fans’ misery – for an hour and 52 minutes beginning in the top of the fourth inning. Those among the reported 17,567 in attendance who hung around witnessed the Astros spank the Phillies 13-4.

What’s up, Buck?
Judging from Buck Showalter’s post-game comments following the Orioles’ 9-7 win over Houston on July 23, the Baltimore skipper was pressured to move the game along quickly in the late innings before rain was scheduled to arrive. (Seriously, who pressures Buck Showalter?)

Turns out, there was no delay, and I’m not sure rain ever fell on Camden Yards while the game was being played or soon thereafter, as Showalter alludes to, I think, in the press conference.

Reporters asked Showalter if he felt pressed to finish the game before the impending rain.

Pressure “is when they come in and say it’s going to storm like heck, forever, at 5 o’clock,” he said.

So, yes, I guess so.

Showalter then asked someone in the room what time the game ended. There was an inaudible response. According to the box score, the contest ended a few minutes past 5 p.m.

Showalter then asked “is it raining now?” like he knew the answer was no.

He then looked around, shook his head and pierced his lips together like he was back dealing with Mike Rizzo in Washington.

Buck just can’t catch a break when rain is threatening.

Speaking of which…

This time, Nats make quick call on weather postponement
With a little help from Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals made a speedy decision to postpone their series opener with the Colorado Rockies on Friday, July 22, reported The Washington Post.

If you’ve been following along, you know the Nats’ decisions on weather delays have been about as accurate as their bullpen this year.

The Post’s Chelsea Janes explains:

“The timing of Friday’s decision could not have been more different from the timing of the Nationals’ last rain delay decision — a much-criticized move earlier this month when a game was called three hours after the scheduled first pitch following only a passing drizzle. Because of schedule concerns, the Commissioner’s office made the decision with the help of Nationals staff. Ultimately, the decision fell to the league, which made it in accordance with a bleak forecast that called for five inches of rain in some places. Flash flood warnings blared over Dusty Baker’s pregame media session.”

Friday’s postponed game was rescheduled for 7:05 p.m. the following Sunday, creating a day-night doubleheader for the clubs. The Rockies were off Monday, but the Nats had to fly overnight to Miami following the second game for a Monday night date with the Marlins.

Perhaps exhausted from the quick turnaround, the Nationals’ offense managed only three hits. That also was the night Gio Gonzalez pitched a gem, taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning before allowing a lead-off single to Dee Gordon.

Washington’s bullpen held strong, and the Nats won, 1-0.

Further delays

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St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong graciously signed autographs for a few soggy fans on Thursday night, July 27, as they waited out a rain shower that delayed the start of the game by 62 minutes. The visiting Arizona Diamondbacks won 4-0 behind a grand slam from J.D. Martinez.

Lee May’s cold blast in Detroit
1975-TRADED-LEE-MAY.jpgFormer major leaguer Lee May died of heart disease on Saturday, July 30, and the next day, a Baltimore Sun article relayed a story from Lee’s former teammate, Jim Palmer, about Opening Day in 1975 when the slugger hit a three-run home run on a near freezing evening at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Lee’s blast gave Palmer a comfortable lead and Baltimore went on to win 10-0.

“It got a lot warmer when ‘Mo’ hit that ball into the upper deck. I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if we hadn’t had players like that,” Palmer said, subtly reminding us that he is enshrined in Cooperstown.

The game’s box score does not show the game-time temperature, but does indicate the game was played at night. A look at Detroit weather history shows that temperatures dipped to 33 degrees that night with a high of only 46 during the day.

And now, the history portion of This Week in Baseball Weather
Louis-K-Lou-Finney_artLou Finney had a rough go of things to begin the 1937 baseball campaign. While with his team for spring training in Mexico, the Philadelphia Athletics’ outfielder – sometimes first baseman – became sick. Lingering effects from the illness, along with a chronic sinus infection and handful of other ailments, forced Finney in and out of the A’s lineup throughout the season.

However, it was a wet July day in Detroit, playing in the mud and rain, that forced Finney off the field for much of the remainder of the season.

The Sporting News reported details in its July 29, 1937 issue:

“AT DETROIT – The Tigers defeated the Athletics, 12-9, in the first game of a scheduled twin bill, which was played through intermittent rain and finally called with one out in the last half of the sixth inning, because of the muddy condition at Navin Field. A heavy downpour held up the contest for 52 minutes after one and two-thirds innings had been played, then activity was resumed between the showers, only to be stopped when the players where no longer able to keep their footing on the slippery field. After Second Baseman Russell Peters of the A’s had poled a four bagger with a mate on base to make the score nine-all in the sixth, Gerald Walker singled Charley Gehringer home with the winning run in the Detroit half of the inning. Then both Hank Greenberg and Walker counted when George Turbeville, the third Mack hurler, twice pitched the slippery ball past catcher Earle Brucker. Walker, Peter Fox, Clif Bolton and Greenberg also connected for the circuit, Hank’s drive being his twenty-third of the season. George Gill, who relieved Boots Poffenberger in the fourth, received credit for his fourth win. The second game was postponed. Attendance totaled 23,000 spectators.”

Two weeks later, James C. Isaminger of The Sporting News reported that Finney had “suffered a relapse” during the contest and Philadelphia manager “Connie Mack, fearing about his [Finney’s] health, has decided not to use him any more this season, except in emergencies and double-headers.”

Isaminger wrote that Finney “caught a cold in Mexico and never fully recovered.”

In his SABR Bio Project story on Finney (recommended reading), Doug Skipper writes that Mack gave Finney permission to leave the team with 10 games to go in the season and return to Alabama for surgery on his sinuses. Skipper conveys that Finney “had a hernia repaired, had the inflamed appendix that had bothered him for months extracted, and had his tonsils removed.”

There you have it, two weeks’ worth of baseball weather stories, plus a trip back to 1937. I can guarantee posts in subsequent weeks will not be as lengthy… probably.

O-no! Nats and Orioles rained out

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MASN

 

“Ah, come on,” was the exact quote from me as I stepped into The Rainout Blog official viewing room – my wife calls it the den –and saw the image above on my TV screen.

You may think a guy who occasionally writes about baseball rainouts gets his kicks every time as baseball games is called or delay by inclement weather.

Well OK, I do usually, but last night I was really looking forward to hanging out and watching the Nationals pull even in their series with the Orioles.

Bryce Harper was ready, too, as the MASN cameras caught him peering out at the rain pelting the Nationals Park field.

“It’s raining. It’s miserable and Bryce is hoping mom doesn’t call him home for dinner because he still wants to play ball,” Nationals TV play-by-play man Bob Carpenter said.

 

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Photo from my crappy phone

 

I’m not sure if Bryce got a call from his mom, but he didn’t get to play ball.
The game has been rescheduled for 7:05 p.m., Thursday, June 8 at Nationals Park.

The Nationals are scheduled to host Philadelphia – the Phillies again? – tonight. However, the weather forecast is not promising, calling for a 70 percent chance of rain when Tanner Roark is scheduled to deliver the first pitch.

Rain chances increase to about 85 percent around the 9 o’clock hour… about the time Jayson Werth would be clubbing another home run against his former team.

The Nationals-Orioles rainout was the fourth MLB rainout this week. The White Sox and Twins were postponed Wednesday night.

Hail halted the Monday night contest between the Cubs and Rockies at Coors Field.

On Sunday, the Dodgers and Padres were postponed because of rain, breaking a streak of 134 games at Petco Park without a weather-related postponement. The last came on July 19 1995.

That’s impressive, but not nearly as much as the Padres’ previous mark of 820 consecutive games that began April 4, 2006 and ended with the 1995 postponement.

No speech, no win

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

As a baseball weather blogger, it’s tempting, and somewhat predictable, to lead off with this and that about the White Sox-Tigers Opening Day game and festivities getting rained out and rescheduled.

However, the indelible images of rain dousing Cubs and Cardinals players – and fans at the ballpark – the night before are hard to ignore.

Just before Cardinals’ closer Seung Hwan Oh let a 3-0 advantage slip away in the top of the ninth, the clouds above unleashed a steady rain down on Busch Stadium. The game played on, however, and the home team grabbed the victory, 4-3, when Randall Grichuk singled to left in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Jose Martinez.

Cards fans went home – or someplace – wet and happy.

“Speechless,” Grichuk, not being speechless at all, said after the game. “Obviously, doing it against our Central rival, the Cubs, who won it last year, that adds to it. It’s just a night I won’t forget.”

Before opening night, the last game the Cubs had played was Game 7 of the World Series, which featured a rain delay, a speech and a memorable comeback that gave the Chicago side its first World Series title since – ah, you know all that 108 years stuff.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked if he considered prompting Jayson Heyward, or anyone wearing Cubbie blue, to rouse the team with another speech, even if it was just game one of 162.

“Believe me, I thought about it,” Maddon said. “That’s our method, is to have a little bit of rain. We just didn’t have a team meeting.”

As for Chicago’s American League team – you know, the one whose Opening Day was spoiled by rain – they made up the game Tuesday, an originally scheduled off day, against Detroit. The Tigers bested the Wet White Sox, 6-3.

Monday’s game was called after an hour and 41-minutes after the 3:10 p.m. first pitch time.

And… this just in: Today’s games between the Cubs and Cardinals in St. Louis and Tigers and White Sox in Chicago have been called because of rain.The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been re-scheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been rescheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

The two teams are scheduled to play Game 2 of the series in Chicago Thursday, but at this rate, it’s not guaranteed. (I’m resisting the urge to point out the play on words in that last sentence. You’re smart; you’ll get it.)

Ray Caldwell sparks Indians to win over Philly

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caldwell-ray-locDark, ominous storm clouds rolled off Lake Erie and barreled toward League Park. Black sky

loomed over the ballyard, and rain, which had been falling lightly since the fourth inning,

threatened to become heavier.

The baseball game stirring underneath the clouds on this Sunday afternoon in downtown

Cleveland was nearly complete. The Indians led the visiting Philadelphia Athletics 2-1 in the top

of the ninth inning.

Ray Caldwell stood on the mound on this warm August day, pitching in his first game with the

Indians. The right hander retired the first two A’s batters as the storm above intensified.

Caldwell readied to pitch to the next to Athletics’ shortstop Joe Dugan when…

Boom!

A fearsome lightning bolt zipped from the overhanging clouds. Frightened spectators scurried for

cover.

“The bolts flashed here and there, causing much excitement,” Harry P. Edwards wrote in the

Sporting News days later. “There was a blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond on fire and

Caldwell was knocked flat from the shock of it.”

His teammates rushed in to check on the hurler, who, “lay stretched out in the pitcher’s box.”

Caldwell was down but not out. He did a quick inventory of his arms and legs. What a relief.

Everything was still attached.

The pitcher dusted off his pinstriped uniform, and readied to finish off Dugan and the A’s.

After the game, Caldwell told the Cleveland Press that the lightning strike “felt just like

somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.”

***

Trailing the Chicago White Sox by eight games, Indians’ player-manager Tris Speaker refused

“to admit they were out of the pennant race.” The day before this matinee with last-place

Philadelphia, the Tribe had rolled off five wins in their last six games.

“They are fighting hard for every game and have been fairly successful despite the decidedly

erratic pitching the team has had,” The Sporting News claimed.

To boost the rotation, Cleveland picked up Caldwell, a fun-loving spitballer, whom the Red Sox

had released in early July.

Now weeks after the signing, Caldwell, on a day in which the Cleveland Plain Dealer had

forecasted “showers and cooler” temperatures, was pitching a masterful game in the debut for his

new team.

The Indians picked up their only two runs in the bottom of the fourth on a walk, a sacrifice, a

couple of ground outs and a throwing error by Dugan – but no hits.

The A’s scored a run in the fifth when George Burns crossed the plate on a Cy Perkins grounder.

Burns had reached base after being hit by a pitch.

Caldwell cruised through eight innings against the A’s, who had lost 13 of 14 games.

Into the ninth they went. The Athletics’ first two batters failed to reach base safely.

Then came the ruckus.

***

As Dugan stood at the plate, “Thousands of spectators were thrown into a momentary panic by

the bolt which came without warning and made as much noise as the back firing of a thousand

autos or the explosion of a dozen shells from a battery of big berthas,” the Cleveland Plain

Dealer reported the following day.

Caldwell’s teammates feared “he may have been killed,” Edwards wrote in the Sporting News,

“but he struggled to his feet, and after frisking himself to see if he was all there, pitched what

was left of the game, which was finished before the rain became a downpour.”

The lightning, the Cleveland Press reported, had knocked off Indians’ catcher Steve O’Neill’s

mask and hat, as well as Harry Davis’ navy blue A’s cap. Davis was coaching third base for

Philadelphia.

“We all could feel the tingle of the electric shock running through our systems, particularly in

our legs,” umpire Billy Evans said after the game.

Davis, the Press reported, “got a second shock, for Cy Perkins came up to feel Harry’s head and

see if he was hurt. The lightning had charged Davis’ hair with electricity and his whole frame

tingled when Cy touched him.”

Teammates also claimed to have felt an “electrical current” from lightning hitting the metal

spikes on their shoes.

“One of the players touched Caldwell on the head and leaped into the air. He said the pitcher

seemed to be crackling with electricity,” a reporter wrote in a wire story.

Is this possible?

“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,” said

Joseph Dwyer, a lightning researcher and 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 Cleveland player who complained of numbness was Ray Chapman, who nearly a year later

was killed after being hit by a pitch thrown from Yankees’ hurler Carl Mays. Running to

Caldwell, Chapman nearly fell from the numb feeling in his leg.

The lightning event was quiet frightful for the spectators.

Newspaper reports say lighting danced along the ballpark rails near where some fans were sitting

and jumped toward the pitcher’s mound.

“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.”

Even pitchers.

***

There still was one more out to go.

Still shocked, figuratively and possibly literally, from the turn of events, players took their

positions. Caldwell pitched to Dugan and “forced him to hit a grounder to Gardner just as the

clouds broke and the rain came down heavily,” wrote the Plain Dealer.

Game over. Indians 2, Athletics 1.

Caldwell pitched a complete game and allowed Philadelphia only one run and four hits. He

struck out three and walked two.

Afterward, Caldwell assessed the damage and found he had slight burns on his chest. Speculation

at the time concluded lightning had hit the metal button on his cap, “surged through his body,

and exited through his metal spikes.”

This, like a direct strike on a person, is unlikely, said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, founding director of

the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics and professor emerita at the University

of Illinois at Chicago.

“Lightning only goes through the body for perhaps three-to- four microseconds before it flashes

over the outside, and that’s not long enough to cause internal burns,” Dr. Cooper said. “It would

be nice to know what the chest burns looked like. Was there a linear burn down the middle or

sides of the chest where there would be sweat lines that lightning turned into steam causing

burns? Was it where metal was? Did he have a necklace with a cross on it, so that there was a

cross shape burned in?”

Dr. Cooper also wondered if the burns could have been fern-like, or Lichtenberg figures.

***

Caldwell recovered and Cleveland’s win meant the Indians kept pace and remained eight games

behind the American League-leading Chicago White Sox, who had also won that day, 4-1, over

the New York Yankees.

The Indians put together a run through the season’s remaining weeks, including a mid-September

streak of 12 wins in 13 games that began with Caldwell pitching a 3-0 no-hitter against the

Yankees, one of his former teams. However, Cleveland finished three and a half games behind

the White Sox, who went on to infamously represent the American League in the 1919 World

Series.

Caldwell’s electrifying performance helped spark the Indians’ late-season run. In six games with

his new club, the big righty pitched to a 5-1 record with a 1.71 ERA, proving the Indians had

made the right move in giving the pitcher, who was 31 years old at the time, another chance to

prove himself.

“When Speaker announced he was going to give Ray Caldwell a trial in the box, lots of persons

thought he was crazy,” wrote the Sporting News on Sept. 4, 1919. “But Speaker now has the last

laugh on the doubters, for Caldwell turned in and beat the Athletics easily and then all but beat

the White Sox, finally being trounced by them in the ninth inning, 3 to 2, not bad pitching for a

pitcher thought to be through as a big leaguer.”

Struck down, but not out

Posted on

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.

Fall Classic Savings Time

Posted on Updated on

progressivefield-rain

Good news for those of us who have become somewhat sleep deprived during the Major League Baseball playoffs: Tonight’s World Series Game Two start time has been moved up one hour to 7:08 p.m.

Now the bad news: The change was made because of a threat of rain tonight in Cleveland. According to forecasts, rain is expected in the city this afternoon before tapering off.

The chance of precipitation is around 35 percent at 8 p.m. and increases to 50-55 percent in the next couple of hours. At 11 p.m., the chance of precipitation jumps to about 80 percent and 90 at midnight.

Look out if the game goes into extra innings.

The last time a World Series game was suspended for weather was Game 5 in 2008 when rain drenched Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies and Rays were tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth when the Monday night game was called. It was resumed two days later.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was skipper of the Rays, who lost to the Phillies in five games.

Cold temperatures could also be a factor in tonight’s contest at Progressive Field. Game-time temps are expected to be in the high 40s with a wind chill of around 42 degrees. In the opener, in which Cleveland won 6-0, temperatures hung around 50 degrees.

Everyone has to deal with the cold, but a lot of eyes will be on Cubs’ starter Jake Arrieta. You may remember Arrieta’s velocity dipped a bit last October as he struggled in Game 2 of the 2015 NLCS on a 45-degree night in a 4-1 loss to the Mets. Many believe the cold played a role in right hander’s struggles.

The Indians last played in the World Series in 1997 against the Marlins. The games in Florida were nice weather-wise, but Game 4 in Cleveland had a game-time temperature of 41, which dropped to the mid-30s throughout the contest.

But tonight, our biggest concern is rain… and for me, getting to bed at a decent time. So, the hour-earlier start time is just dandy. Tribe manager Terry Francona does mind either.

“Shoot, it just means we start an hour earlier. We can handle that,” Francona said. “I don’t care what time they tell us to play. I’m sure they have good reason. If it’s supposed to rain late, I don’t really have a reaction. I’m going to be here anyway by 10 (a.m.) So it doesn’t really matter.”