Marlins Park

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.

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Remember the rain delay at Marlins Park, you know, where there’s a retractable roof?

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I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book – wait, for now let’s instead say writing project – about weather events that have plagued baseball games throughout the game’s history. One recent event is the rain delay the Miami Marlins experienced on Opening Day in 2015 at Marlins Park, you know, the place with a retractable roof.

How did this happen?

Last May, I talked on the phone with Marlins President David Samson about what transpired that day. Samson took a lot of stick from the media for relying too heavily on weather apps to predict the severity and direction of approaching storms. In our brief conversation, Samson took full responsibility for the blunder – is that too harsh? – and talked about the “horrific” phone he had to make to Marlins’ owner Jeffery Loria when he realized there would be a weather delay.

Below is an excerpt of our chat from May 25, 2016. (My questions are in bold.) To start, I asked Samson what he remembered most about the rain delay. He paused for about two seconds, signed, and began talking.

“It was extremely surreal when I realized we were going to have a rain delay in a retractable roof facility, and I was the one responsible. And it was Opening Day.

How were you responsible?

At the end of the day, when bad things happen, it’s my fault and when good things happen it’s because of someone else. I knew that the roof was open and I didn’t think the rain was coming. I looked at my cell phone; I looked at three different weather apps, and I did not think we were going to be impacted and neither did the people around me.

And then all of the sudden, it started raining and then raining harder. And, I just remember thinking, it’s not going to rain harder, but then it rained even harder. And then I remember the umpires getting together and realizing that we were about to have a rain delay.

Are you the only person making the decision about closing the roof?

It’s not just me. Of course, there are other people involved, but it’s my responsibility to make sure that the roof is closed when it’s going to rain.

How much did it rain?

It wasn’t a lot of rain, but quick. It was a quick rain delay. I want to say it was about a 40-minute rain delay at most. It was quick. It could have been much worse, but the level of embarrassment was significant.

And then one of our players actually slipped running to first base, Dee Gordon. On what would have been an infield base hit, he slipped coming out of the box because it was wet. And, we lost the game. I don’t remember a lot of games because I’ve been in baseball 17 years, but I remember that game.

Just because of the rain delay?

Yes.

If I remember correctly, the rain delay was in the second inning, and Dee Gordon slipped in the eighth. So, was it that wet?

So, it’s a great question, right? Revisionist history would tell you that it’s because it rained, that he slipped because it rained. I would tell you that it’s possible he could have slipped on a sunny day. But, because it was a rain delay, it enabled people to draw that conclusion, including myself.

I read that when you realized it was going to rain, you had a conversation with Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria and told him you were going to have a rain delay. He said “I thought we had a roof.” Is that correct? Did that conversation happen?

That’s exactly what happened, but your timing is a little off. I called him as soon as the umpires were talking, and I said to him, “We’re about to have a rain delay.” And it was a horrific phone call to make. I used to have to make those phone calls when we were at Dolphins Stadium. And those were every day calls I used to make to him saying “Rain delay is coming” or “It’s going to rain, we’re starting again in an hour.” That was an everyday thing. But in the new ballpark it didn’t even occur to us, that was year four in the new ballpark, and it had just never, ever occurred to either me or him that I would ever be making those calls again.

But I did make the call and, he did say to me, “I thought we had a roof.”

Was there anything else he said that you can share with me?

No. I’d say that was pretty much the end of the conversation. I said “I’m sorry.” He hung up and I hung up, and that was it.

What was the aftermath like?

It got a lot of attention, obviously, and… No, I was very careful to avoid him for the next 24 to 48 hours. (He said this with a laugh.)

Was he at the ballpark?

Of course he was. I was up in a suite, and he was sitting next to the dugout. In the rain. (

Do you now consult with meteorologists or are you still using weather app?

We do consult with a meteorologist, but we still use weather apps. We’re just much more conservative now.

How so?

If there’s even the hint of a cloud, we’ll start closing the roof. (He laughed.)

Who are the meteorologists? Are they employed by the Marlins?

No. It’s individual ones (meteorologists) from around town. And the weather service.

Did you have a tarp?

We did have a tarp (at the time of the rain delay), but it was in a place that’s not readily accessible. It’s near the field, but it’s not on the field. So, it would have been a difficult process to get the tarp put up over the infield. And the reason I approved having the tarp in an out-of-the-way storage place is I said there’ll never be an issue with rain because we have a roof.

Is it more accessible now?

No. We still have it in the same place. The only thing that’s changed is me.

How so? What do you mean?

I’m just more conservative about the weather.

How did you deal with the negative media attention? It’s seems you had a pretty good sense of humor about it.

Yes, of course. I did a press conference that day. There was so much media wanting to know what was going on. Listen, no lives were lost. No one’s lives were in danger. No one got hurt. So, I don’t ever pretend that we’re doing something to human life or liberty. We’re an entertainment company. So I tried to make it entertaining in how I reacted to it, but obviously I take it very seriously, and I was very disappointed, but publicly my stance was to be more jocular.

What was the fan reaction?

Most of it was humorous.

In what forms? Mostly social media?

Some people brought umbrellas to the next game, or they would wear a hooded sweatshirt or raincoat. Whenever I was out in a restaurant or giving a speech somewhere, people would walk up to me or tell me about their rain shoes that they now wear to the ballpark, that sort of stuff.

People are still doing that a year later?

It’s cut down. People remember it. I was at a speech this week that I gave where it came up, but it does not come up nearly as much as it used to.

How long does it take to close the roof?

Between 11 and 15 minutes, depending on the wind.

What’s the process, mechanically? Do you just press a button?

It’s literally a button, yes.

Who presses the button?

We have special button pushers. (He joked.) They are part of the stadium operations group, and there job is to run the mechanical roof.

Did you hear much back from the field crew after this?

What are you going to do? They were as unhappy as I was.

What is the daily process of making the decision to close the roof for a game?

We look at temperature. We look at wind speed. We look at wind direction. We look at humidity, relative humidity and rain chance. And we make a decision based on all of those factors.

How soon ahead of game time do you make the decision?

I would say around four hours before game time, so 3 o’clock for 7 o’clock game.

How do you inform the public?

Just our social media.

How unpredictable are these South Florida rain storms?

That’s what squalls are. Squalls, meaning the weather is fine, and all of the sudden it’s a thunderstorm and then it’s fine again. These things just sort of pop up. That’s the dangerous part. It just happened to happen at a bad time.

Any other close calls since then?

No. (He laughed)

What did you learn most from this experience?

I should keep galoshes in my office.

You still don’t? (I was joking)

Yes, now I do because you never know.