It’s here! The day when thousands of people have crunched together within a 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina to view, in totality, a solar eclipse.
I’m assuming you all have your official eclipse glasses. Got your cameras ready? Have a Major League Baseball doubleheader to attend that may go into extra innings and spoil your eclipse-watching fun?
OK, there are no MLB double dips or even afternoon games scheduled for today, but 99 years ago, on June 8, 1918, fans at New York’s Polo Grounds watching their Giants play the St. Louis Cardinals nearly had their eclipse peeping plans darkened because the two teams were deadlocked at 2-2 after nine innings and into a couple of extra frames.
The Giants easily won the first game that afternoon. However, in the second contest, neither team could break a 2-2 tie within the regulation nine innings.
The New York Times reported the next day:
“The Giants separated the Cardinals from the first game of a bargain-day bill at the Polo Grounds yesterday by a count of 8-1, but in the other portion of soiree the St. Louis lads stuck like glue and almost kept a crowd of 25,000 from seeing the eclipse of the sun by prolonging the agony of beating the Giants for eleven long innings, when they administered the dose of defeat by a score of 4 to 2.”
New Yorkers saw “a little less than three-quarters of the sun’s surface being obscured,” the Times reported, but the paper also noted that conditions were perfect for viewing in the city where “smoked glasses and green eye-shades were at a premium.”
The eclipse, the last before today to travel a path across the United States, hit New York City at 6:23 p.m., the paper said, and reached “the maximum of obstruction” at 7:20. At that point, hundreds of people had gathered in Times Square, on rooftops and other premium vantage points to enjoy the spectacle.
Back at the Polo Grounds, fans were rooting for their Giants to sweep the doubleheader, but also for a quick exit from the ballpark to join those already in place for the dramatic solar event.
The Saturday afternoon at the Polo Grounds was a doozy. It featured a hidden-ball trick – however, the umpire ruled a dead ball and disallowed the play – Giants’ Manager John McGraw getting tossed out a game, a spectator throwing a glass bottle from the upper deck and toward the umpire – it didn’t come close, the Times reported – and a foul ball off the bat of New York center fielder Benny Kauff smashing a fan’s straw hat. (I bet that fan was seeing stars way before the eclipse.)
The Cardinals created scoring chances in the ninth and 10th innings of game two, but those opportunities quickly faded.
St. Louis threatened again in the 11th inning, leading off with a pair of singles from Red Smyth and Marty Kavanagh. Cardinals’ catcher Frank Snyder then swatted a high fly ball to right field, where, as the Times wrote, “Ross Young got the ball and the eclipse of the sun all mixed up. He got under the ball and grabbed it all right enough, but then stumbled and fell, spilling the ball so disastrously that Smyth and Kavanagh both romped home with the victory.”
McGraw argued with Umpire William “Lord” Byron that Young had held the ball long enough to record the out. In doing so, “the old McGraw-Byron feud was ripped wide open and Byron felt quite natural when he folded his arms, struck a Napoleonic attitude, and waved McGraw into the outer darkness.”
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.
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.
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:
Not for publication. What happens in the booth when we’re off air, stays in booth.
— Bob Carpenter (@scorebook_bob) August 12, 2017
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.
A little delay tonight due to the weather, but we anticipate a 7:25pm first pitch. pic.twitter.com/6WdExlmaTy
— Pirates (@Pirates) August 17, 2017
And later, this:
— Matthew Frey (@mfreyd) August 18, 2017
This Week (or two) in Baseball Weather
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.”
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
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 2, 2017
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.
Watching & waiting. pic.twitter.com/0cCG2mIVqx
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 2, 2017
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.
Battle of the bullpens. pic.twitter.com/HQurVopmUI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 3, 2017
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
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.
Update: It is still raining.
That is all we know. pic.twitter.com/6S219jQ8ks
— Phillies (@Phillies) July 25, 2017
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.
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
Former 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
Lou 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.
In a week of rain events and long delays in Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis, the most dramatic and spectacular developed in Cleveland Saturday night as thunder crashed the summer night and rain drops drummed steadily on Progressive Field.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning with his team tied 1-1 with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. As rain fell around him, Lindor sent a pitch soaring high and deep into the night, spinning through rain drops toward the Cleveland skyline. Four-hundred and thirty-eight feet later, the ball splashed into the right field bleachers where hundreds of Tribe fans, a few clad in rain gear, celebrated their team’s much-needed walk off win.
The scene was set in the top half of inning as thunder roared through downtown and around the ballpark, but the rain held off until two pitches into Lindor’s at bat.
“Believe it or not, my first reaction when it started raining was like ‘Oh, the ball is going to go nowhere now,’” Lindor said after the game. “Then I stepped out and thought if I hit it hard on the ground, it will go through. And it went up and it carried.'”
The game-winner was Lindor’s first-ever walk-off homer in the rain… OK, it was first ever walk-off home run, period.
The Reds and Marlins began their three-game series Friday night with an hour and 47-minute delayed start at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. After things got going, Christian Yelich drove in two runs to help the Marlins to 3-1 win. It was the Reds’ fourth rain delay of the season.
Rain struck hard and fast in Chicago Wednesday night, leading to the game between the White Sox and Dodgers to be called after seven innings. It was as good as over anyway as the Dodgers held an eight-run lead at the time of the delay.
Umpires sent the players off the field and called for the tarp at 10:09 p.m. Chicago time with the Dodgers batting in the top of the eighth. Thirty-seven minutes later, the game was called at 10:46 p.m. with the ballpark mostly empty of spectators.
Los Angeles won 9-1 and went on to sweep the brief two-game series.
[Photo of White Sox head groundskeepers Roger Bossard covering the field in the eighth inning as rain began to fall.]
If there was moaning coming from SunTrust Park early Monday evening, it wasn’t the usual incessant sound coming Braves fans performing that annoying Tomahawk Chop. The sound more likely was grumbling from Atlanta fans having to wait out an hour-long rain delay before watching their team lose to the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubbies, who are climbing back into the National League Central race, slapped the Braves 4-3.
Also on Monday, the Twins finished off the Yankees 4-2 just before a heavy rain zeroed in on Target Field. Twins’ closer Brandon Kintzler pitched a perfect ninth inning as rain began soaking the ballpark.
First-pitch temperature hit 88 degrees and may have caused some difficulty for Minnesota starter Aldaberto Mejia as he battled six innings effectively through the humid night.
“I was throwing hard overall,” the Dominican pitcher said. “I think the temperature got to me a little bit. Other than that, it was a good outing.”
— Mace Michaels (@macemichaels) July 18, 2017
Twins’ meteorologist Mace Michaels posted the above photo showing a soaked Target Field moments after the game. Michaels, by the way, is a great Twitter follow for all your Twins weather news and updates.
“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.
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.
Oh, hail no. 😬 pic.twitter.com/p8MA7MO8cs
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) May 8, 2017
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.
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?
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.
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.
Dark, 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…
A fearsome lightning bolt zipped from the overhanging clouds. Frightened spectators scurried for
“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
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
“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
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
“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.”
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
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
“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.”