Jim Cantore warned me – warned us all – Tuesday morning on The Weather Channel that the night’s baseball game at Fenway Park between the American League’s two Sox – Red and White – might face delays because of approaching rain slogging through Boston.
He was right. Rain delayed the game’s start by 24 minutes, and it continued to fall – heavy at times – through the first five innings. But, a little precipitation never hurt anyone, right?
It didn’t seem to bother Xander Bogaerts. The Boston shortstop smacked a sky-scraping, two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to give his Red Sox a 5-3 lead. On the NESN slow-motion replay, you can see the ball soaring through the dark sky among a gazillion raindrops just before it lands somewhere beyond the Green Monster. It ricochets and falls to the wet left field grass.
It was Bogaerts’ 15th home run of the year, and the Red Sox went on to win, 6-3.
The larger story today, however, is the condition of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who has been placed on the injured list with a high right ankle sprain. Shortly after Bogaerts’ go-ahead home run, Anderson fielded a ground ball to his right and threw across his body to his left, toward first, and landed on the wet infield. He was carried off the field by White Sox medical staff.
Anderson did not blame the wet field, saying he landed awkwardly and the injury could have happened on a dry field.
Teammate Jose Abreu isn’t so sure.
“We all are very frustrated and upset because of an injury to one of our best players,” Abreu said in a Chicago Tribune article. “People need to realize that sometimes the conditions we play in are not the best. We saw that (Tuesday) night. It was raining and it was a bad situation, and that’s the result.
Watching the game on TV, the ill effects from the soggy, slippery conditions were apparent.
For one, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez swung at a pitch in the second inning and his bat slipped from his hands. It went spinning into the seats, over the protective netting. A fan caught the bat a ways back from the White Sox dugout; no one was hurt.
There also were some tricky infield plays you might not otherwise see a dry field.
Playing conditions such as those Tuesday night at Fenway beg the question of why umpires let the game continue in wet, and somewhat dangerous conditions. We have seen plenty of games that have been played in similar conditions, and everything seemingly turned out fine. And, as you can see in the game highlights, most of the announced Fenway crowd of 37,740 donned red ponchos and raincoats and stuck it out through the soaker.
That’ll happen in a place like Boston. A win, coupled with miserable weather, can be a fun night at the ballpark for those die-hard fans willing to suck it up and take whatever Mother Nature throws their way. It can be a warrior-like mentality, I suppose, as long you’re able to journey back to a cozy home afterward.
The most the pressing factor, I’m sure, in the decision to continue play Tuesday was the fact the White Sox would make only one more appearance at Fenway this season – that was Wednesday for a 1:05 p.m. matinee. Normally, a decision could be made to play a doubleheader that next day, but this not a normal week for the Red Sox. They hopped on a flight to London to play the Yankees there this weekend.
But considering all the factors, we still have to ask if it is worth taking a chance on getting someone hurt – a young superstar like Anderson or a young fan in the stands who, next time, might not be so lucky when wet bat slips from a batter’s hands?
It was just two years ago when Washington Nationals fans watched Bryce Harper bolt out of the batter’s box, hustle down the line and slip awkwardly off a wet first base. Harper missed a month and a half after suffering a bone bruise. If you saw the play happen, saw the way Harper slipped, the way he soared through the air and crashed hard on his right hand and shoulder, and then grab his left knee in agony, you probably thought right then the injury was much worse.
It could have been.
I was sitting just down the right field line at Nationals Park a year ago when the Phillies’ Maikel Franco slid on a wet first base after a brief shower. Franco left the game, but played the next day. His incident looked much like Harper’s. He was lucky.
Looking in on Tim Anderson, a couple of days removed from his mishap, it seems he was fortunate, too, to escape a more serious injury and a long stint away from the field.
Major League Baseball needs to be more mindful about player and fan safety. When Harper was hurt, his agent Scott Boris said MLB should look into new technologies aimed at keeping the bases dry. A dry base, however, would not have prevented Anderson’s injury, or a slippery bat helicoptering into the stands.
Let the kids play? Yes! Going forward, however, perhaps Major League Baseball needs to develop stricter guidelines for umpires that will permit them to get players off the field sooner when the line between safety and danger becomes too slick to tread.
“Sometimes people in front offices and (MLB) have to understand we’re the ones on the field,” Abreu said. “We’re the ones who are at risk of something like that (Anderson’s injury) happening.”
Sitting in Section 136 at Nationals Park Sunday night, I felt a bit hypocritical.
As the skies darkened over the ballpark and my wife examined the approaching green blob on her weather radar phone app, I was quietly hoping for the rain to pass us by.
Yeah, the guy who has been writing The Rainout Blog for the past 13 years, was rooting for a dry evening at the ballpark.
Not for selfish reasons, though.
It was the very first major league game for my wife and two kids. We were in the fourth inning, and I didn’t want to risk the game being called because of rain and spoiling their first big league experience, especially as they were munching Curly W pretzles on Max Scherzer eye patch night.
The Nationals trailed 2-0, but were rallying as a steady drizzle began. Anthony Rendon led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run to left field, slicing the deficit to 2-1. Then, three consecutive Washington singles from Juan Soto, Daniel Murphy and my guy, Michael A. Taylor, tied the game at 2-2.
Rain continued, just enough to get the park wet. It seemed like no big deal to me, but several fans hustled toward the exits as if a tornado were about to barrel through.
We stuck it out there in Row T, seats 1,2,3 and 4.
As the rain intensity increased, I suddenly began rooting for it to continue. This could be fun, I thought. This could be a blog post. Perhaps, I simply knew my previous wishes were no match against those dark, ominous clouds hanging above our heads.
Then the drizzle turned into a downpour. I got out my phone to take photos and a few videos. I’m sure I was the only person trying to capture images of rain pelting the ballpark.
Umpires suddenly ushered the players off the field. Out came the grounds crew, stretching the Skittles tarp across the infield.
We, too, then headed for the concourse. I tried to get into a good position to photograph the tarp, but my angle was bad.
We didn’t need to wait long for the rain to move on. It stopped minutes later, the grounds crew dumped water from the tarp and prepped the field with what I’m told is glorified kitty litter.
In the meantime, my wife, armed with napkins she had stuffed in her pockets earlier at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop on 3rd Street SW – she’s always prepared – wiped dry our wet seats. I broke down and bought everyone $7 sodas.
The game resumed after a 38-minute weather delay. The Nats had runners on first and second with no outs. And just as I pessimistically suspected, the rain killed the rally. Phillies’ pitcher Nick Pivetta had something to do with it, too. He struck out the next three batters he faced. The bottom of the order, mind you.
Rain over. Rally over. Breathing a sigh of relief, the Phillies quickly moved to close out the hometown club in the fifth.
Nats’ starter Jefry Rodriguez began the inning walking Cesar Hernandez, and then he hit Rhys Hoskins to put runners at first and second with no one out. Hard-throwing Sammy Solis relieved Rodriguez and immediately gave up a bases-clearing triple to Odubel Herrera. It was 4-2 Phillies.
Two batters later Nick Williams slammed a Solis pitch 421 feet to center field. The ball just cleared the wall, but hearing the collision between the bat and ball you knew it was a goner. Williams’ ninth homer of the year gave the Phillies a 6-2 lead.
The four-run deficit was a bit deflating for the four of us and the few others who had stuck around after the rain. I’m sure a lot of folks had to work the next day. I’m sure I saw a lot of them bleary-eyed on the Metro the next morning.
But as the night cleared and the game wore on, the Nationals clawed their way back.
In the bottom of the sixth, Adam Eaton entered the game as a pinch hitter and spanked a two-out single to center. Trea Turner put some life into the ballpark when he smoked a liner to left that zipped by a diving Hoskins and rolled to the wall. Eaton easily scored, and Turner had a triple. The score was 6-3 Philadelphia.
I was sure Turner had an inside-the-park homer – I was waving him around – but he held up at third with Bryce Harper coming to bat.
Austin Davis came in to pitch. With the count 2-0, Harper drove the next pitch high and far. I stood up and shouted, “There it goes!” thinking it was as a good as gone.
It thumped off the top of the wall, just above the out-of-town scoreboard.
I’m an idiot.
Harper just missed his 20th home run of the season by inches, but he rolled into second with a double and Turner scored. Rendon next drove home Harper with a double, closing the Nats to within a run.
Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk, and Harper moved him to third with his third double of the contest.
The Phils next chose to walk Juan Soto, with Daniel Murphy on deck. You can understand the reasoning. Soto has been a hitting machine since arriving from the minors a few weeks ago, and Murphy has been slow to get his swing back since joining the lineup after surgery.
But, man, with Murphy’s penchant for slugging big hits in clutch situations, I thought it was gutsy move from Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler.
“Murph is going to make them pay,” I said to anyone who was listening… which was no one.
Anyway, unlike my Harper homer prediction earlier in the game, I was right this time. Murphy swung at a low pitch and clubbed it just over the second baseman’s head. Goodwin scored. Harper scored. And the Nats had a 7-6 lead.
If you were watching on ESPN, you can see in the background as Murphy stands on first, my wife and daughter clapping and my son giving me a double high five.
Michael A. gave the home team an insurance run with a single to center that scored Soto.
As the eighth inning ended, I ran over to the wall, which was near the Nationals bullpen, just in time to snap a couple of photos of closer Sean Doolittle running out on to the field. An ESPN cameraman tried to keep up behind him as the crowd droned “Doooooooooooo!”
Doolittle recorded the save. The Nats won 8-6.
As I’ve been telling everyone since, the game had just about everything you could ask for: A comeback win for the home team, home runs – although two of those were by the wrong team – doubles, a triple, stolen bases, diving catches – Difo!!! – and, or course, a rain delay.
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.
A few years back, a friend of mine had a terrific idea.
I was a several calendar flips into writing The Rainout Blog, which at the time involved all sports and struggling to find time to quickly write posts every time a rain drop splattered on a sporting event… including cricket. I was having fun with the blog, but this odd hobby (read: obsession) of mine was getting to be a bit too much.
I remember one early fall Thursday night someone texted me saying, “Dude, it’s raining hard at the South Florida football game. Why is this not on the blog?” I knew right then, even though this is no high-click blog, I was putting a bit too much pressure on myself to expedite content for my 17 somewhat loyal readers.
That’s when my pal presented the idea: “Why don’t you write a post once a week? You could recap the entire week in one story.”
Brilliant! Except, at the time, I thought it was a stupid idea.
Sorry, bro. You were right.
That was about seven or eight years ago. It has taken me that long to realize the once-a-week thing is a pretty cool, and manageable, concept. I can easily spend a few minutes online each day, researching and then writing what is now a baseball-only blog.
I started “This Week in Baseball Weather” three weeks ago, and took a bye last week. The next edition is set to be posted Friday. In it, you’ll learn why you should use the same weather app as Suzyn Waldman, how Buck Showalter is keeping his catchers fresh throughout the summer heat, and how catching a cold during spring training in Mexico brought Lou Finney’s 1937 season to an early end.
I’d like to say the content is ready to post, but as I write, rain is delaying the start of the Cubs-Diamondbacks game at Wrigley Field, and the forecast is a bit foreboding for a few other games scheduled for this Thursday night.
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.”
I made a silly prediction earlier today that Game 7 of the World Series would go 13 innings and have a brief rain delay in the 11th. I missed it by one inning. The delay came just as the 10th was about to begin.
Update: The tarp has been rolled off the field and we’re back to baseball.
What a game!!!