There’s already a fair amount of kvetching — if the MPR newsroom is any indication — about the possibility of rain for this afternoon’s first Twins game at Target Field. You wanted outdoor baseball, Minnesota. This is a fact of life of outdoor baseball. Didn’t they tell you that?
I never developed the hatred for the Metrodome that most people did, perhaps because my physical fitness regimen consisted of a steady diet of wind sprints through pouring rain to get inside to watch a ballgame.
MinnPost’s Jay Weiner has dug up the statistics on how often a game might be postponed in Minnesota.
Of course, weather conditions are unpredictable, but according to data developed by the team way back in 1996, during the 21 seasons the Twins played outdoors in Bloomington’s Metropolitan Stadium, there were a total of 82 games postponed because of rain, snow, cold, or “wet grounds,” for an average of about four games per season
More often that not, however, the problem with rain isn’t that the game might be postponed, it’s that it might be played.
Which brings up the subject of umbrellas at baseball stadiums. Please. Leave them home. The rain that doesn’t fall on your head, is directed to the laps of people in front of, behind, and on each side of you. And you can’t see through umbrellas.
But rain is good for real baseball fans. Rain etches memories. I’ve been to hundreds of games in my life, but the most memorable ones are the ones that had some combination of rain or postponements.
Here are three:
-1- It’s 1976 and I’m in the bleachers at Fenway. It’s pouring and the Cleveland Indians (my favorite team) are in town. After three hours of steady rain, the Red Sox invited all the fans in the bleachers under the grandstand. But I stay, standing in the rain behind the visitor’s bullpen, the only person in the bleachers. Because I’m a true fan, I will not abandon my duty to show support for my team. After a bit, Indians’ pitcher Tom Hilgendorf emerges and throws a ball to the top of the bullpen, an easy reach for me. “Did he throw that to me?” I think to myself. I decide he did not intend for me to have a baseball. It was still sitting there when the game was officially postponed an hour later. I had self-esteem issues, which is why “catch a baseball at a ballgame” is still on my Bucket List.
-2- It’s 1985, and a gorgeous evening in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, home of the Pittsfield Cubs of the Eastern League. As the sun begins to set, the game is delayed. By sun. There are only two pro baseball parks in America where the sun sets directly behind the pitcher. Wahconah Park is one of them.
Each evening, the games are halted for about 20 minutes while everyone watches the sun set.
-3- It’s 1988 and I’m living in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, a two-hour drive from Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are playing the Orioles in a middle-of-the-week “getaway day” game. A mile from the stadium, the radio announces the game has been postponed because of the threat of rain. Both teams had flights to catch to get to their next city and the team was afraid any rain delay would cause a problem with their travel schedule. We head for the Bronx Zoo instead. It stays sunny all afternoon. Every Sunday morning since, I have wrestled with this question: If God is so great, why are there the New York Yankees?