OMAHA, Neb. – Rain delays, disjointed schedules, impatient teams waiting for Mother Nature to loosen her chokehold. It’s happened before at the World Series.
On a rainy night in Nebraska, Game 1 of the College World Series finals was scratched Monday. That makes three postponements to go with nearly 11 hours of weather delays in this tournament. The tarp is on the field. The drenched crowd is leaving. Time for some World Series climactic horror stories.
How about the one where the centerfielder had to slip out of town to avoid angry fans, who were holding a vigil outside his hotel in the rain? Or when the manager had to walk into a gas station in his uniform and ask directions? Or the time they wanted two days to play three innings? Or the year the World Series came to Modesto?
And Arkansas and Oregon State think they’re having a hard time getting to play.
Take 2008. The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were trying to finish Game 5 through a rainy, windy, cold mess in Philadelphia. After the top of the sixth inning, the umpires had enough and the game was suspended with a 2-2 tie, and the Phillies ahead in games 3-1.
One problem. The Rays, due to fly home after the game, had already checked out and sent their luggage to the airport. So late that Monday night, their traveling secretary had to find a hotel with enough rooms – Wilmington, Delaware, it turned out, 30 miles away – and someone had to race to the airport to get all the bags. “It was really well organized, despite all the chaos in front of us,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the next day. “It’s magnificent hotel. I believe it was built one year prior to Fenway Park.”
He said he planned on seeing a little of Wilmington. “We’ll get out and walk around a bit if the wind dies down.” But the weather stayed lousy for two days. They finally resumed play Wednesday night. All it took was three innings for the Phillies to win 4-3, in something like a hockey shootout. The World Series was over.
More Philadelphia bad weather? In 1911, the New York Giants and Athletics had to wait six days for the rain to stop in Philadelphia so they could play Game 4. It didn’t help that back then, there were only tarps for the batter’s box and mound.
The postponement interlude was as lively as the baseball. The Giants’ Fred Snodgrass had spiked Philadelphia Frank Baker twice in early games. It might or might not have been a coincidence that Baker was doing so much damage against New York pitching, he was acquiring the nickname that would stay with him forever. Home Run Baker.
As the delay dragged on, anger at Snodgrass in notoriously cranky Philadelphia grew daily. Fans were waiting outside the Majestic Hotel, to assail Snodgrass should he ever try to slip outside for dinner. Snodgrass was as encircled as Custer’s cavalry. Finally, manager John McGraw had him hustled out of town on a train back to New York, until it ever stopped raining.
The Athletics eventually won in six games in a World Series that did not end until Oct. 26. That’d be early now, but it was unheard of in those days.
In 1962, the Yankees and Giants had to wait through three postponements to play Game 6, as the remnants of Typhoon Freda pounded San Francisco. The Yankees grew so weary of being sequestered in their hotel rooms, some of them said they might as well have been in Alcatraz. Back then, the prison was still open for business.
On the third day, the sun came out, but Candlestick Park resembled a swimming pool too closely, and the decision was made to wait one more day. So the Yankees and Giants both decided to work out at tiny Del Webb Park in Modesto, 80 miles away. The place only had 2,500 seats. Word got out around Modesto that both World Series teams would be in town, and an estimated 16,000 people showed up, trying to get in to watch.
The Yankees ended up winning the Series. But Modesto won, too.
In 1975, the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox were engaged in a riveting World Series that came to a halt when a nor’easter rolled over New England. Game 6 was postponed Saturday, and then Sunday, and then Monday, even though the weather had improved. Some accused baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn of wanting to avoid a relatively new TV ratings thoroughbred called NFL Monday Night Football.
Meantime, the Reds grew weary of sitting around their hotel and sought an indoor facility for a workout. Lots of colleges to choose from in the Boston area. Harvard, for instance. “I think Harvard would be a little over my head,” manager Sparky Anderson famously said.
He decided on Tufts University, where the Big Red Machine could hit drives into fishnets hung from the ceiling. Only one problem. Just where, exactly, is Tufts? The team bus driver would certainly know. Except he didn’t.
The bus went this way and that way, as if the Reds had signed up for a Gray Line tour of Massachusetts. Anderson grew irate enough that he finally ordered the driver to pull over, and walked into the gas station himself to ask directions.
The Reds finally found Tufts, with Anderson standing by the driver, telling him when to turn left and when to turn right.
While many observers worried that the long delay had sucked the drama out of a compelling World Series, when the two teams finally returned to Fenway, they played an epic Game 6. It ended with Carlton Fisk’s immortal home run in the 12th inning. The Reds won Game 7 the next night on Joe Morgan’s single in the ninth.
Omaha should be so lucky to get such a finish. Once it stops raining.