Colorado Rockies

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

Cardinals-KoltenWong-2017

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.

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Playing it cool

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I’d love to see the route efficiency number on Stephen Drew’s circuitous pursuit of a Cesar Hernandez infield popup at Nationals Park on Thursday.

Drew, playing short for the Nats, positioned himself underneath the high flying ball, for a second, and then had to sprint to his right and in a bit to chase down the falling spheroid.

“There’s a lot of things going on right there, twilight, wind,” Nationals’ TV commentator F.P. Santangelo said.

From the looks of the play, it was mostly wind. You could see it rustling past Jonathan Papelbon’s sleeves as the cameras flashed back to the Nats’ closer. You could see it a few moments early when a strong breeze appeared to push a Cameron Rupp drive to right over the head of Bryce Harper.

(Can we also blame the wind for the Nationals scoring zero runs, getting only six base hits in two games and making the Phillies’ pitching staff look like the ’96 Atlanta Braves’ hurlers?)

It was a bit nasty in the district Thursday… both the baseball and the weather.

The temperature dipped to the low 50s, and the game’s first pitch was delayed 36 minutes by rain.

According to data from Weather Underground, wind speed was hitting around 15 mph at the time of Drew’s infield adventure. You can be a weather-no-nothing like me and still know that’s not a lot, but it was enough play havoc on balls hit toward the coulds in the top of the ninth inning.

Up the road a bit in Baltimore, where the hot-hitting Orioles cooled the first-place Chicago White Sox, temperatures fell to 48 degrees on an overcast night and Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic wondered if it would ever be warm again for baseball.

The game time temperature equaled April 6 for the Orioles’ “second coldest temperature at first pitch,” Dubroff wrote.

The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck wrote today that perhaps the cold weather in Baltimore is helping the AL East-leading O’s stay hot.

“I have an outlandish theory that the Orioles have shown more plate discipline at Camden Yards because it has been so cold most of the time they haven’t been in a hurry to swing the bat,” Schmuck wrote.

Of the six games played outdoors Thursday, five had temperatures of 55 or below. It was 45 in Detroit and at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, 55 at first pitch in Washington and 50 in Boston.

The Rockies and Pirates had the finale of their three-game series postponed by rain and snow and 38-degree temperatures at Coors Field Thursday. That seemed to be OK for Walt Weiss, skipper of the struggling Rockies.

“I’m not going to kick and scream if we don’t play,” he said before the game was called.

The cool trend continues Friday. It’ll be 47 for the Cubs’ game in Wrigley, 48 in Boston, 50 in Philadelphia, 53 at Citi Field in New York, 54 in Baltimore, 56 in Minneapolis, 58 in Pittsburgh and 68 with a chance of rain in St. Louis.

Icy Coors

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As the Colorado Rockies were preparing for their series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday, a light snow was falling on Coors Field.

It was 38 degrees with more precipitation in the forecast. That’s not baseball weather. That’s winter.

As a result, the get-away-day matinee has been postponed. No makeup date has been announced.

It’s raining. It’s pouring. But Rain Delay Theater is never boring

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“Cecil in Brookeville, you’re on Rain Delay Theater.”

No answer.

“Cecil, are you there?” repeats the radio host.

With countless people listening in on terrestrial and satellite radios and online, the dead air is only interrupted by intermittent heavy breathing.

Finally, after a few more heaves, a voice cracks through.

“I’m sorry, guys.”

“Why are you out of breath?” the host politely questions.

Cecil is a longtime Pirates fan. On this rainy night at the ballpark, he takes the opportunity to call the show from his farm about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to chat with “Rain Delay Theater” host Dan Zangrilli and his co-host Kevin Orie as they wait for the weather to clear.

The reason for Cecil’s belabored breathing and delayed response?

“While Cecil was waiting on hold to talk to us about whatever it is with the Pirates, he had a little calf get lose and crawl underneath the fence,” Zangrilli says, laughing as he tells the story. “He’s running through the fields of Brookeville, trying to flag down a calf. And meanwhile, to his credit, he’s been able to keep the phone to his ear.”

It all happened on live radio.

“That’s why we call it ‘Rain Delay Theater,’ because sometimes it’s kind of a sideshow,” Zangrilli says.

 

Weather, particularly in the spring and early summer, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the Major League Baseball schedule. A spate of rain here or a crash of thunder there can delay a game long enough for a 10-minute trip to the concession stand or to suspend the game altogether, depending on Mother Nature’s mood. That’s when broadcasters like Zangrilli spring to the mic, filling airtime with off-the-cuff banter while waiting out the clouds or the grounds crew’s efforts to clean up the mess on the field.

When Zangrilli and I spoke over the phone this past summer, he and his cohorts had endured a pair of rain delays the previous night, and thus were called upon to pull “Rain Delay Theater” double duty.

It was a long night. For everyone. A downpour stopped the game for 28 minutes in the bottom of the fourth and then again — this time for an hour and 45 minutes — as the eighth inning began. To make matters worse for Zangrilli, the Pirates, and their fans, the hometown team eventually lost 2–0 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

At that point in the season, the Pirates stood in second place in the National League Central with a 31–25 record, and had yet to look like the 98-win force they’d eventually become. As such, Bucs fans had plenty to talk about. In a sense, maybe they needed these long delays — two call-in shows worth — to get some still-lingering questions off their chests. You’ve heard sports-radio shows before. Every caller, it so often seems, is a general manager in waiting.

During the first delay, one caller naively asks, “What would it take for us to get Johnny Cueto?”

Classic.

“Everyone has a solution,” says a chuckling Zangrilli, who admits he genuinely enjoys interacting with callers. “There are varying levels of baseball acumen across the spectrum.”

PiratesTarp

Pete McCarthy echoes those thoughts. He anchors Mets pre-pregame and post-postgame shows on the team’s flagship station, WOR, hosting his own version of Rain Delay Theater when weather deigns to shuffle the players back into the clubhouse.

There are always four or five guys, McCarthy said back in June, that Mets fans always bring up.

“They’ll be callers who talk about a player and say, ‘We absolutely have to have this guy,’ and minutes later someone will call and say ‘no, he’s too expensive or he gets injured too often,” McCarthy quips. “There’s always something to be hashed out during a rain delay.”

In Pittsburgh, the show isn’t always about offering free advice to general manager Neal Huntington. Sometimes callers simply want to shoot the ish like they would with any other friend.

“We typically talk about the game or whatever news is going on that day,” Zangrilli says. “It’s more of a freestyle, free-standing type of format, because you have a lot of calls and you don’t know where the calls are going to go and what’s on the minds of the listeners. And you sort of let that dictate which direction the show is going to go.”

According to Jerry Schemmel, one half of the Colorado Rockies’ rain delay radio crew, the length of the hiatus will typically determine the show’s content. This season, the Rockies withstood more than 22 hours of weather delays at Coors Field.

“There was one weekend where we had four games, including a doubleheader on Saturday, and we had a rain delay in all four games,” Schemmel recalls. “The doubleheader had a total of four and half hours of rain delays. That was one very long weekend.”

That’s a lot of talking. So, what do Schemmel and broadcast partner Jack Corrigan talk about to make time fly by a bit faster?

“We seem to cover all kinds of different topics during rain delays,” Schemmel said. “It all depends on how the team is playing or what the situation weather-wise might be, as to what we talk about. Many times we will talk about the state of the team for a while and then go to pre-recorded shows. It all depends on the situation.”

RockiesUmbrellas.jpg
Photo: Denver Post

No matter the length of the stoppage, these hosts rarely worry about receiving enough calls to fill the air time. There are many, and they ring in from all over. In the case of Zangrilli, Pirates games are on 35 to 40 terrestrial radio stations through its flagship station, 93.7 The Fan.

“Once we’re on the Pirates network, we’re getting calls from West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Maryland and North Carolina,” he said.

And, with the advent of satellite radio and the popular MLB At Bat app, Bucs fans from all over the world can call to put their two cents in.

“When we talk into that microphone, people could be listening to us in outer space for all I know,” Zangrilli jokes. “We’ve gotten calls from a number of states and from people in other countries. It’s always fun to see where people are calling from, and the rain delay theater show is their opportunity.”

And a fading one at that. Indeed, radio baseball doesn’t curry near the cultural clout it once did, before the days when games became readily available in moving pictures and — later — on computers and phones. But for many, there remains a raw appeal to listening to the hometown announcers weave the play-by-play action, with colorful tales woven throughout the three-hour narrative as the crowd soothingly hums in the background.

Rain delay shows exist, primarily, to keep the audience tuned in. Still, show producers and broadcasters must provide their audiences a good reason to stick around when a storm rolls through. And for who knows how long. That can be quite the challenge — particularly in the summer, when there are so many entertainment options available.

In its own, off-the-wall ways, “Rain Delay Theater” answers the challenge by bridging the gap in the action and giving fans a chance, through simply listening or calling in, to feel more connected to the teams and players they love. While there’s never a shortage of callers or topics to keep the broadcast moving along, eventually — often hours later — everyone just wants to get on with the game already. The impatience becomes so palpable, in fact, that keeping on eye on the weather radar becomes part of the pastime.

“I like to play amateur meteorologist,” McCarthy says, just a few hours before a game in which there’s a 20 percent chance of rain. “I’m going to look at the Doppler, and I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to see which direction those things (storms) are moving, and I’m going to make my guess. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because … when I go on, I go on, and when I go off, I go off. It’s not my decision, but I do try to forecast it.”

Tracking radar normally gives the radio guys a good idea about when storms will move out, but there’s still work to be done — on the field and in the broadcast booth. It’s what Zangrilli calls the “second layer” of play stoppage: the field preparation.

“You don’t know how bad the field is and how much maintenance needs to be done to get the mound playable, to get the baselines and batter’s box in proper order,” he says. “After it rains, you could be looking at 15 to 45 minutes of prep to get the field ready again for guys to resume play, depending on how bad the storm was.”

With even more time to kill, thank goodness there are armchair GMs and dedicated fans willing to hold on through minor inconveniences, such as livestock barn breaks.

“Hello? Cecil? Are you with us?”

It’s raining. It’s pouring. But Rain Delay Theater is never boring

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pnc-park001

“Cecil in Brookeville, you’re on Rain Delay Theater.”

No answer.

“Cecil, are you there?” repeats the radio host.

With countless people listening in on terrestrial and satellite radios and online, the dead air is only interrupted by intermittent heavy breathing.

Finally, after a few more heaves, a voice cracks through.

“I’m sorry, guys.”

“Why are you out of breath?” the host politely questions.

Cecil is a longtime Pirates fan. On this rainy night at the ballpark, he takes the opportunity to call the show from his farm about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to chat with “Rain Delay Theater” host Dan Zangrilli and his co-host Kevin Orie as they wait for the weather to clear.

The reason for Cecil’s belabored breathing and delayed response?

“While Cecil was waiting on hold to talk to us about whatever it is with the Pirates, he had a little calf get lose and crawl underneath the fence,” Zangrilli says, laughing as he tells the story. “He’s running through the fields of Brookeville, trying to flag down a calf. And meanwhile, to his credit, he’s been able to keep the phone to his ear.”

It all happened on live radio.

“That’s why we call it ‘Rain Delay Theater,’ because sometimes it’s kind of a sideshow,” Zangrilli says.

 

Weather, particularly in the spring and early summer, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the Major League Baseball schedule. A spate of rain here or a crash of thunder there can delay a game long enough for a 10-minute trip to the concession stand or to suspend the game altogether, depending on Mother Nature’s mood. That’s when broadcasters like Zangrilli spring to the mic, filling airtime with off-the-cuff banter while waiting out the clouds or the grounds crew’s efforts to clean up the mess on the field.

When Zangrilli and I spoke over the phone this past summer, he and his cohorts had endured a pair of rain delays the previous night, and thus were called upon to pull “Rain Delay Theater” double duty.

It was a long night. For everyone. A downpour stopped the game for 28 minutes in the bottom of the fourth and then again — this time for an hour and 45 minutes — as the eighth inning began. To make matters worse for Zangrilli, the Pirates, and their fans, the hometown team eventually lost 2–0 to the Milwaukee Brewers.

At that point in the season, the Pirates stood in second place in the National League Central with a 31–25 record, and had yet to look like the 98-win force they’d eventually become. As such, Bucs fans had plenty to talk about. In a sense, maybe they needed these long delays — two call-in shows worth — to get some still-lingering questions off their chests. You’ve heard sports-radio shows before. Every caller, it so often seems, is a general manager in waiting.

During the first delay, one caller naively asks, “What would it take for us to get Johnny Cueto?”

Classic.

“Everyone has a solution,” says a chuckling Zangrilli, who admits he genuinely enjoys interacting with callers. “There are varying levels of baseball acumen across the spectrum.”

Pete McCarthy echoes those thoughts. He anchors Mets pre-pregame and post-postgame shows on the team’s flagship station, WOR, hosting his own version of Rain Delay Theater when weather deigns to shuffle the players back into the clubhouse.

There are always four or five guys, McCarthy said back in June, that Mets fans always bring up.

“They’ll be callers who talk about a player and say, ‘We absolutely have to have this guy,’ and minutes later someone will call and say ‘no, he’s too expensive or he gets injured too often,” McCarthy quips. “There’s always something to be hashed out during a rain delay.”

In Pittsburgh, the show isn’t always about offering free advice to general manager Neal Huntington. Sometimes callers simply want to shoot the ish like they would with any other friend.

“We typically talk about the game or whatever news is going on that day,” Zangrilli says. “It’s more of a freestyle, free-standing type of format, because you have a lot of calls and you don’t know where the calls are going to go and what’s on the minds of the listeners. And you sort of let that dictate which direction the show is going to go.”

According to Jerry Schemmel, one half of the Colorado Rockies’ rain delay radio crew, the length of the hiatus will typically determine the show’s content. This season, the Rockies withstood more than 22 hours of weather delays at Coors Field.

“There was one weekend where we had four games, including a doubleheader on Saturday, and we had a rain delay in all four games,” Schemmel recalls. “The doubleheader had a total of four and half hours of rain delays. That was one very long weekend.”

That’s a lot of talking. So, what do Schemmel and broadcast partner Jack Corrigan talk about to make time fly by a bit faster?

“We seem to cover all kinds of different topics during rain delays,” Schemmel said. “It all depends on how the team is playing or what the situation weather-wise might be, as to what we talk about. Many times we will talk about the state of the team for a while and then go to pre-recorded shows. It all depends on the situation.”

No matter the length of the stoppage, these hosts rarely worry about receiving enough calls to fill the air time. There are many, and they ring in from all over. In the case of Zangrilli, Pirates games are on 35 to 40 terrestrial radio stations through its flagship station, 93.7 The Fan.

“Once we’re on the Pirates network, we’re getting calls from West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Maryland and North Carolina,” he said.

And, with the advent of satellite radio and the popular MLB At Bat app, Bucs fans from all over the world can call to put their two cents in.

“When we talk into that microphone, people could be listening to us in outer space for all I know,” Zangrilli jokes. “We’ve gotten calls from a number of states and from people in other countries. It’s always fun to see where people are calling from, and the rain delay theater show is their opportunity.”

And a fading one at that. Indeed, radio baseball doesn’t curry near the cultural clout it once did, before the days when games became readily available in moving pictures and — later — on computers and phones. But for many, there remains a raw appeal to listening to the hometown announcers weave the play-by-play action, with colorful tales woven throughout the three-hour narrative as the crowd soothingly hums in the background.

Rain delay shows exist, primarily, to keep the audience tuned in. Still, show producers and broadcasters must provide their audiences a good reason to stick around when a storm rolls through. And for who knows how long. That can be quite the challenge — particularly in the summer, when there are so many entertainment options available.

In its own, off-the-wall ways, “Rain Delay Theater” answers the challenge by bridging the gap in the action and giving fans a chance, through simply listening or calling in, to feel more connected to the teams and players they love. While there’s never a shortage of callers or topics to keep the broadcast moving along, eventually — often hours later — everyone just wants to get on with the game already. The impatience becomes so palpable, in fact, that keeping on eye on the weather radar becomes part of the pastime.

“I like to play amateur meteorologist,” McCarthy says, just a few hours before a game in which there’s a 20 percent chance of rain. “I’m going to look at the Doppler, and I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to see which direction those things (storms) are moving, and I’m going to make my guess. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because … when I go on, I go on, and when I go off, I go off. It’s not my decision, but I do try to forecast it.”

Tracking radar normally gives the radio guys a good idea about when storms will move out, but there’s still work to be done — on the field and in the broadcast booth. It’s what Zangrilli calls the “second layer” of play stoppage: the field preparation.

“You don’t know how bad the field is and how much maintenance needs to be done to get the mound playable, to get the baselines and batter’s box in proper order,” he says. “After it rains, you could be looking at 15 to 45 minutes of prep to get the field ready again for guys to resume play, depending on how bad the storm was.”

With even more time to kill, thank goodness there are armchair GMs and dedicated fans willing to hold on through minor inconveniences, such as livestock barn breaks.

“Hello? Cecil? Are you with us?”