New York Giants
If you scroll through enough baseball newspapers articles from the early 1900s, you’ll inevitably stumble upon an anecdote or two claiming a rogue infield pebble got in the way of a bouncing routine ground ball, causing the ball to take an unexpected hop past a fielder and cost the fielding team a run or two, or maybe even a game.
Heck, Game 7 of the 1924 World Series turned in favor of the Washington Senators when Bucky Harris hit a grounder toward third in the bottom of the eighth that ricocheted off a small rock and squirted past New York Giants’ third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, allowing two Senators to score and tie the game at 3-3. Washington eventually won the series in extra innings.
I’m not sure if Lindstrom took issue with the Griffith Stadium grounds crew, but in a series of profile stories about the profession, Pirates head groundskeeper Jack Fogarty told The Sporting News in 1938 that players, even Hall of Famers, would occasionally blame their miscues on infield pebbles left behind by him and other grounds crew members.
“…Once in a while a player tries to use me for an alibi,” Fogarty said.
“Old Honus Wagner did that once in his active playing days. He used to carry around a bunch of pebbles in his uniform pocket, and if he booted or fumbled, he’d come in and toss one of those pebbles at me, as if to let everybody know I left a stone out there big enough to deflect the course of a roller.
“Other players have tried that trick, too, but it doesn’t get them anywhere. If there’s ever been a pebble half as big as a marble on the skinned part of that infield, I’ve never found it.”
Fogarty became Pittsburgh’s head groundskeeper in 1919 and was known to sometimes douse the Forbes Field infield with gasoline and set it ablaze in an attempt to dry the playing surface after a lengthy rain. Days after his death in 1995, the Pittsburgh Press described Fogarty as a man “who devoted his lifetime to the tender care of the grass at Forbes Field and a man who took great pride in his work.”
If a player complained about the smoothness of the infield, “the next morning Fogarty went to work to smooth out the rough spot that caused the player to make his complaint and he wasn’t satisfied until the player approved,” the Press reported.
“Fogarty winced when he read that a ball took a bad hop over a player’s shoulder because he felt like this was a reflection on his ability, although it never was written with that in mind. But John Fogarty was a deeply sensitive and was highly regarded in his field.”
No, Tom Brady and the Patriots have not been deflating footballs, not that I’m generally aware of anyway. This time, the air we’re reference involves wind, specifically at Pats’ football games.
Casino.org has released its study of NFL weather since 1960 and through the 2013 season. The study finds the average wind speed for NFL games in that time period to be 10.27 mph. For the Patriots, wind has soared to an average of 13.05 for games, Casino.org says.
Other teams blowing past the league average are the Giants (12.93), Jets (12.9), Cowboys (11.79), Lions (11.58), Bills (11.57), Chiefs (11.48), Vikings (11.18), Browns (11.08) and Bears (11.06).
You may have noticed two of those teams – the Lions and Vikings – have played many of their home games in domes over the past several years. Interesting.
The study also ranks the top 10 windiest NFL stadiums since 1960. Shea Stadium, the former home of the New York Jets, took the top spot with an average in-game wind speed at 13.9 mph. The Jets moved out of Shea after the 1983 season.
Guess which stadium comes in at No. 2. Yankee Stadium, of course. It’s been a long time since the Giants played there –1973, to be exact – but that doesn’t stop the House that Ruth Built from ranking high on this list.
The windiest active stadiums according to the study’s findings are… well, there are only two: Soldier Field (No. 6) with 11.98 and Arrowhead Stadium (No. 10) with 11.54 mph.
The others include Giants Stadium – that makes sense – Milwaukee County Stadium – Hmmm – Texas Stadium, the Cotton Bowl and Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
Also worthy of note from the study, I guess, is a ranking of teams’ winning percentages when temperatures dip below freezing. The Packers ranked the highest with 20.29 percent, the Broncos came in a distant second with 15.8 percent and the Steelers rounded out the top three at 14.54. The Browns were ninth with 10.91 and the Patriots came in 10th with 10.56 percent, the study claims. Remember, the study goes back 55 years. The Browns, before my time and maybe yours, were once a pretty good football team.
An interesting number to come out of the study is the average temperature of NFL games since 1960: 56.8 degrees. Casino.org says the average game day temperature has increased by 6.99 degrees since 1960.
The Packers, the study says, have the second lowest home game average temperature since ’60. The Vikings rank first at 42.14 degrees despite playing home games indoors from 1982 to 2013. I’m guessing the study did not factor into its averages those indoor home games for the Vikes in which the thermostat was set at a comfy 70 degrees.
Oh, by the way, the Detroit Lions ranked third.
The study also gives rankings to those teams with the highest average temperatures per game. It’s no surprise to find Miami, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Jacksonville and San Diego making up the top five.
Going back out into the cold, the study also ranks the top 10 coldest games since 1960. The NFC title game between the Cowboys and Packers at Lambeau Field – the legendary Ice Bowl game of 1967 – tops the list at -13 degree Fahrenheit. The Packers have five games in the top 10.
Casino.org collected its data, it says, from numerous sources, including pro-football-reference.com. It’s fun to scroll through even though there are a few cringe-worthy references, such as the listing of the “San Francisco Raiders” in one category and mentions of the St. Louis Cardinals – no reference to the move to Arizona – and the “Green Bar Packers” in the Most Turnovers Below Freezing category. Some of the venues included in the windiest stadium rankings seem a little awkward, too.
Sunday’s NFL action kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern with the Buffalo Bills playing the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since the NFL first played a regular season game there. Remember that one? It was a mud bath between the Giants and Dolphins in which the G-Men won 13-10 and Eli Manning passed for only 59 yards. We had you covered over on the old Rainout Blog site.
Nothing of the like is forecasted for Sunday’s game. It’ll be most cloudy with a high of 57, but, as of now, no chance of rain.
The rest of the NFL schedule isn’t looking too shabby either:
Buccaneers at Redskins: High 64/Overcast
Falcons at Titans: 74/Light rain
Saints at Colts: Dome
Vikings at Lions: Dome
Steelers at Chiefs: 61/Clear
Browns at Rams: Dome
Texans at Dolphins: 84/Partly cloudy
Jets at Patriots: 61/Overcast
Raiders at Chargers: 83/Partly cloudy
Cowboys at Giants: 62/Overcast
Eagles at Panthers: 65/Overcast
Ravens at Cardinals: Dome
That’s how far back the NFL last week agreed to move extra-point kicks, resulting in what will be 33-yard point-after-touchdowns beginning with the 2015 season.
The league hopes this extra distance for extra points makes the ho-hum play a little more exciting, keeping your eyes glued to the TV and delaying your trip to the ‘fridge and/or the bathroom just a few more seconds.
NFL kickers are deadly accurate, and an extra 15 yards shouldn’t make a difference, right?
Unless until you consider games in November, December and January for cold weather teams like the Giants, Jets, Packers, Bills, Bears and Steelers. And don’t forget the Vikings, who have one more season of outdoor home games before moving into a new dome.
Giants’ kicker Josh Brown talked last week about the rule change and potential problems caused by bad weather, particularly wind.
Josh Brown on new XP Rule: Its not gonna be something you can take a mental break on anymore, especially in the outdoor, windy stadiums
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) May 20, 2015
I asked Brown through Twitter if wind, rain or snow provided the most challenge for NFL kickers. He replied:
@TheRainoutBlog wind by far. The other two don’t get me unless wind is involved. However rain can cause problems for the holder, then me
— Josh Brown (@Kickingitwith3) May 20, 2015
Brown responded quickly, which gave me the confidence to poll a few other NFL kickers through Twitter. This will be great, I thought, to get thought from the pros about kicking extra points from an increase distance in bad weather conditions.
As Phil Collins once sang, “No reply at all.”
But Alex Marvez at FOX Sports – he somehow is better connected than The Rainout Blog – spoke Brown and Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, getting their perspectives on kicking, in general and longer PATs, in adverse weather conditions. Below are quotes from the kickers about various conditions.
Brown on kicking in rain and wind:
“Rain makes the ball heavier. If you hit the ball well, it flies perfectly straight. Wind causes the biggest amount of changes.”
Walsh on kicking in frigid temperatures:
“If the ball is overly cold or overly inflated it does not go as far in cold weather. It’s sort of a running joke that once you hit below about 32 degrees as a kicker expect to hit it five or six yards less on anything whether it’s a kickoff or deep field goal.
“If you have two specialists who are used to kicking outside in those conditions, those late-game, 33-yard extra points to tie (the score) at 21 are going to be a positive for us and a disadvantage for a team like Atlanta or Indianapolis who play in a dome.”