Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008: first World Series game suspended

A city that has waited a quarter-century for a major professional sports championship will have to wait even longer. The fifth game of the World Series was suspended in the middle of the sixth inning at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, with the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays tied, 2-2.

The Phillies, who lead the series by three games to one, were 10 outs from clinching a title in a driving rain. But the Rays tied the score in the top of the sixth, and before the bottom of the inning, the tarp was finally pulled over the infield.

The game was suspended at 11:10 p.m., after a 30-minute delay, making it the first World Series game to start and not last at least nine innings. The game was scheduled to be resumed Tuesday at 8 p.m., picking up where it left off on Monday.

Commissioner Bud Selig said that under no circumstances would the Phillies have won the game — and the Series — before the completion of nine innings. He also did not want the game or the Series decided in dangerous playing conditions, even though the game had started and the forecast calls for rain — and even snow — until Thursday.

“I would not have allowed a World Series to end this way,” Selig said.

The Phillies did not want to win the championship with a five-inning victory, either. “I truly think that would have been the worst World Series win in the face of baseball,” said Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who threw just 75 pitches over six innings. “I would not pride myself on being a world champion with a called game.”

Selig met before the game with umpires and team execs. He blamed a faulty forecast for the decision to play the game. “We were told about 7:45 that there’d only be about a tenth of an inch of rain between then and midnight or after,” Selig said. “So everybody in the room wanted to play. Given the weather forecast that we had — and I had monitored it over and over again — it was a decision that we made. I made it with some significant trepidation, but had the forecast held, we’d have been OK.”

There is precedent for teams waiting days to play a World Series game. The famed Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, won on a homer by Boston’s Carlton Fisk against Cincinnati, was played after three days of rainouts at Fenway Park.

Some players wore caps with thermal earflaps. Hitters stopped in the middle of their at-bat to dry off their bat handle. The Rays’ pitching coach, Jim Hickey, brought a tongue depressor to the mound for Kazmir to clean his spikes with.

The grounds crew worked vigorously in the middle innings, spreading fresh dirt — called Diamond Dust — around an infield that was more like a reflecting pool. (info & photo from the NY Times)


Anonymous said...

Not here to defend Selig at all, but did he really have a choice??

Michael N. Marcus said...

I have little interest in baseball, but it sounds like the right decision to me.