Mother Nature wreaks havoc in foggy Chicago
If you couldn't watch the ballgames in Chicago on Monday night, don't worry. Reds manager Dusty Baker was standing on the top step of the dugout of Wrigley Field and didn't have the foggiest idea what was going on, either.
The Windy City became Fog City on Monday, with both big league games affected by a thick sheet of fog. The White Sox bout with the Blue Jays was delayed for an hour and 10 minutes before Chicago's 10-6 win, and the Cubs and Reds fought through the haze in a 6-2 Cincinnati victory.
"I don't think I've ever seen the fog come in like that here," said Baker, who played many games at Wrigley Field as a member of the Dodgers, managed the Giants from 1993 to 2002, led the Cubs from 2003 and 2006, and has been with the Reds since 2008.
"I've seen the fog come in like that at Candlestick Park [in San Francisco], and they'd blow the foghorns so ships could see in the night. But that was pretty weird. I didn't know if they were going to continue the game, because when that ball went up to [left fielder Xavier Paul] in the first inning, we all lost it."
Things were even hairier on the South Side, where few could even see Adam Dunn's third-inning home run. Later in the frame, home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson called a conference among his crew, and they decided to halt the game.
"It was impressive to see how foggy it can get," said White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, who grew up in Puerto Rico and admitted that he had never seen anything quite like what he experienced on Monday night. "It's something new. It was fun."
It was not quite as fun for Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who took the loss.
"The first inning was great, I was warming up, it was a beautiful day, and then out of the blue, it rolled in on top of the lights, and that was that," Dickey said. "When they called the game I couldn't even see Jose [Bautista] standing in the outfield."
At Wrigley, batters had trouble picking up the baseball from 60 feet and six inches away.
"When I went up for the first at-bat, I saw the ball at the last moment," Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro said. "Everybody said the same. You could only see a little bit of white coming to home plate. It wasn't easy."
Somehow Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips seemed to disagree -- at least with his play. Phillips hit a grand slam in the first inning, snared a scorching line drive off the bat of Castro with a well-timed leap and added a single to end up with a career-high six RBIs.
"The fog, it was coming in and out," Phillips said. "For me to hit the ball the way I did today, I think the fog wasn't [there] when I was up to bat. Maybe it was when everyone else was up to bat."
It isn't quite the Bay Area, but Chicago has a bit of history with sporting events and fog.
In 2003 the White Sox and A's played a game that was delayed twice by fog for a total of 45 minutes. Left-hander Mark Buehrle started for Chicago that night and was on hand to witness Monday's affair from the top step of Toronto's dugout.
The most famous fog-delayed sporting event in America occurred in Chicago on New Year's Eve 1988, when the Bears and Eagles played what is referred to around Chicago simply as the "Fog Bowl."
After a relatively normal first quarter, an unusually warm day caused the fog to roll in from Lake Michigan, blocking the field of play from both spectators and broadcasters. The Bears won the game, 20-12, though there isn't much on-screen evidence to prove it.
"It was a shame, because it really hurt us more than it hurt the Bears," former Eagles receiver Mike Quick told The Times of Trenton (N.J.) on the 20th anniversary of the game. "We were a passing team. We had Randall [Cunningham] at quarterback, and we liked to throw the ball downfield. Our strategy was to throw the ball all day. We knew we could beat them that way.
"With the fog, if I ran 10 yards and turned back, I couldn't see [Cunningham]. So I know he couldn't see me. It really took us out of our game. You really couldn't see anything unless it was right on you. The Bears were a running team then, so it didn't affect them nearly as much."
And how about the plight of Tom Durkin, the announcer at New York's thoroughbred racetracks, when fog blanketed the Aqueduct oval on April 3, 2009, just in time for his call of the sixth race? By the time one could hear the gates open and the hoofbeats pounding the dirt, the fog was so thick that the horses were invisible. Not the best situation for a race caller, but at least Durkin had a sense of humor.
"That is absolutely beautiful," Durkin said when he realized that the horses had to actually be in motion. "Horses in flight down the backstretch in full competition. Nothing more beautiful, as you can see."
Then, when the quarter-mile time was posted on the screen: "Ooh, they're going fast, too. Twenty-one and [1/5 seconds] for the opening quarter-mile. Wish I could see it!"
Baseball's most recent serious bout with fog came in Boston on May 19, 2011. The Red Sox beat the Tigers, 1-0, after a 26-minute weather delay that was party related to fog but more so because of a heavy rain.
The weather highlight from that night came shortly thereafter with two outs in the eighth, when Boston left fielder Mike Cameron made an important catch on a Miguel Cabrera popup that he initially lost in the fog. Boston would win the game on an RBI double in the bottom of the frame by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Perhaps the most famous fog-affected game in MLB history occurred during Game 7 of the 1925 World Series. After a rainout the day before, the Pirates came from behind to defeat the reigning champion Washington Senators, 9-7, in a game notorious for its weather conditions and the umpires' refusal to stop play.
The outfielders reportedly weren't visible from the press box, and Senators right fielder Goose Goslin claimed that Kiki Cuyler's series-winning two-run double actually landed foul, but the umpires couldn't see the baseball and deemed it fair.
Monday's games may not have carried as much clout as that historic 1925 affair, but there was little doubt they were affected by that all-knowing yet fickle baseball fan, Mother Nature.
"You used to see it at Candlestick Park and Oakland," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, it couldn't get any worse, otherwise you would have had it stop. It was borderline as it was."