Archive for Friday, October 27, 2006

Cold Series no concern for baseball

October 27, 2006

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— Mickey Rivers may have said it best years ago before a Rangers game in early April at Milwaukee's old County Stadium was postponed because of rain and cold. "It's so cold out there," the Mick said, shivering, "I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walkin'."

That's when you know it's too cold for baseball.

It was too cold and wet for baseball Wednesday night. It just took Major League Baseball almost two hours to finally admit that. MLB wanted the game played. Badly.

Why? Because this is the bed baseball has made. This is what it must sleep in.

This is what that nasty little bedfellow baseball has snuggled up to has decreed. Prime-time games. Late October. Come snow or high water.

Television has spoken.

Ah, but thanks to television, the game has grown rich beyond its wildest dreams. It's a $5 billion industry. Who cares if it's a little wet, a little rainy?

And so St. Louis fans, as dedicated and hardy a fandom as exists in major league baseball, huddled under whatever shelter they could find, waiting through an almost two-hour delay for a game they may have paid hundreds of dollars to see, all for a chance to sit in a puddle of water on a freezing cold seat and shiver.

Why? Because they love their Cardinals. Because it's the World Series. Because this is what they are required to do in order to support their team in what was once the greatest sporting event in the world.

We have all this tradition and memories that we attach to the World Series, and it's all myth now. Trees changing colors on glorious October afternoons, sneaking a transistor radio into school or maybe even getting your mom to call you in sick for Game 7.

Billy Bob Thornton remembers. A lifelong Cardinals fan, the Oscar winner slipped into our auxiliary press box accommodations - aka the Stan Musial Suite - to warm up during the delay. He remembers the 1964 Series against the Yankees, with Mel Stottlemyre on the mound. He remembers 1967 against Jim Lonborg and the Red Sox, and, of course, 1968 against Mickey Lolich and the Tigers.

"I'm showing my age," he said, "but those were great times, great days."

Exactly. Great "days," not nights.

Don Larsen threw his perfect game in 1956 on Oct. 8. Bill Mazeroski hit his game-winning Game 7 home run on Oct. 13.

This Series has a great chance to be the second ever to creep past the ghosts and goblins and into November.

Wednesday night was ludicrous. It was ghastly outside - 41 degrees and a heavy mist, which had been falling virtually all day - and unfit for ice fishing, much less a baseball game.

But baseball officials were desperate to get the game in, no matter how marginal the weather, because the forecast was even worse. One postponement they can live with because they forfeit the built-in travel day; two would create logistical problems as the teams and an army of media and officials scramble to change flight and hotel reservations.

So it didn't matter that the players would be risking serious injury or that the fans would be absolutely miserable. This is what stretching the playoffs into late October and playing night games has wrought.

It's not baseball in weather like this. It's survival of the fittest.

Anytime cold-weather cities wind up in the Series, this is what baseball faces at this time of year.

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