The debut of the SkyDome's retractable roof was like a dispatch from the future of baseball
These days, retractable roofs are pretty commonplace, found at ballparks everywhere from Miami to Milwaukee to Seattle. But when the Blue Jays broke ground on the SkyDome (now known as Rogers Centre) in 1986, it was completely unheard of, like something out of a science-fiction movie.
When Toronto first made use of it in the middle of a game -- against the Brewers on June 7, 1989, just days after the stadium opened -- it blew the baseball world's mind.
Construction on the SkyDome took nearly three years, and when it was finally built, it was the crown jewel of the multipurpose stadium movement and the envy of the Major Leagues -- complete with everything from a 70-room hotel to a jaw-dropping view of the CN Tower next door.
Then there was the roof: the first fully retractable motorized roof ever, promising the ability to let fans bask in the sun one minute and shield them from rain the next. And because the Baseball Gods are not without a sense of humor, it didn't take long for Toronto to have to put it to the test.
The team knew that rain could be in the forecast when it began play against the Brewers on the night of June 7, just four days after the park's debut. But the roof remained open, in the hopes that they'd still be able to get the game in while enjoying a balmy summer night.
That wasn't the case: In the bottom of the fifth inning, the skies opened, and after a quick phone call to get a radar reading, home-plate umpire Rich Garcia made the call.
The reaction from those in attendance is almost quaint in hindsight, but at the time this was a truly momentous occasion. "It is threatening," Blue Jays broadcaster Don Chevrier said eagerly, "and you'll be able to see the SkyDome close."
As soon as the roof began to lurch, the crowd erupted, and they remained that way for much of the next few minutes as it continued closing. Garcia tried to resume play while the roof did its thing, but the final sliver of sky happened to fall right near home plate, so play was eventually suspended -- allowing fans to stand up and gawk at what was happening overhead.
And when the moment arrived, it was like the Jays had just clinched a spot in the postseason:
The game picked back up, and the home team eventually went on to win, 4-2 -- the first time in MLB history that a game began outdoors but ended indoors.
"What if perhaps they build new stadiums 100 years from now, what will they be like?" Chevrier's partner, Tony Kubek, asked. "I don't know," Chevrier replied. "But our children, or at least their children, will think that these are the old ones. Think about that."
Rogers Centre is now the seventh-oldest ballpark in the Majors, and just one of six with a retractable roof.