Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baseball's Soggy Spring

Rick Dempsey entertains fans during a rain delay.
Baseball has endured a spring of rainouts. There were four more today and the number of games postponed has already eclipsed the total for 2010. For fans that miss out on games it's disappointing. For teams, it's at least inconvenient for the players and also could mean lost revenue for the front office.

Rainouts became more of a problem for baseball when teams started to sell a large percentage of the tickets available for each game. If fans wanted to use their rain checks at another game, there weren't enough seats available. More teams started playing split-admission doubleheaders. That puts pressure on pitching staffs. In the days when playing two on Sunday was common, starters went deeper into games and bullpens were not chewed up as quickly.

I've sat through a lot of rainouts over the last four decades. Some were entertaining. Most seemed to last too long. Especially tough to endure were the long delays before the game started that resulted in a postponement. It always made me wonder why they waited. Probably to sell more beer and brats.

I do remember seeing (well, not so much seeing) a game delayed by fog at Milwaukee County Stadium. We were sitting on the Mezzanine level (comparable to luxury suites) behind home plate. The fog got so bad the outfielders looked like a mirage. Finally, the game was delayed. Then came the thunder, lightning and torrential rain. The four of us decided there was no way they'd continue. Hours later, I was channel surfing and found the game. It ended after 1 a.m.

Sometimes, there's action on the field during rain delays. Rick Dempsey, a catcher for the Baltimore Orioles,  was famous for his goofy pantomime of a ball game. He'd hit and then run and slide on the rain-soaked tarp, sending plumes of water skyward. He even was billed once for tearing the tarp. After that, he was careful to remove his spikes.

Robin Ventura had a similar routine in which he imitated Mike Piazza, his teammate on the New York Mets.

But those are rare highlights. Mostly, rain delays are spent trying to stay dry and find a spot that's not too crowded. And just hoping the game will start.

1 comment:

  1. It is a mystery to me, that in this day and age where athletes are suppose to be in better physical condition than ever before, why pitchers can not pitch complete games? Baseball phrase I dislike the most (next to "designated hitter")... "quality start".

    On the topic of rain, I defer to Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: A good friend of mine used to say, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.


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