NE DAY it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain . . . and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.''
Forrest Gump, describing Vietnam rain
It began during Rays batting practice, a fine mist with the texture used to moisten indoor plants wilting from low humidity.
Then it increased - in dribs and drabs, so to speak - to what I fondly call "Chub Feeney Rain." It is rain substantial enough to cause umbrellas to pop open in the stands. Chub Feeney rain was what fell in swirling curtains during the anti-climactic Game 4 of the 1977 National League Championship Series - the night after the civic trauma of Black Friday. A sycophant held an umbrella over National League president Chub Feeney, who bravely soldiered on while the post-Tommy John surgery Tommy John outpitched Steve Carlton. Lefty's stand-tall-and-fall delivery was ill-suited to the slick mound conditions, while John used the smoke and mirrors he later passed down to Jamie Moyer.
The region was too deep in shock to realize the Dodgers won the pennant - and even if the Phillies had won, they still would have needed a Game 5 victory.
Here, last night, it was somewhere between mist and Chub Feeney rain when the ground crew actually hosed down the infield in a show that seemed to be the Lords of Major League Baseball saying, "Monday Night Football our butts. We're playing this game come hell or high water, so to speak."
And play they did. Or at least they got in five and a half disgrace-tainted innings. It was in the low 40s when Cole Hamels delivered his first pitch to Rays leadoff hitter Akinori Iwamura. A keening wind hammered at his well-stretched back.
Before the game went totally to watery hell, Shane Victorino ripped a bases-loaded single in the first for a 2-0 lead off lefthander Scott Kazmir. Rays first baseman Carlos Pena arose from his profound lumber slumber with a fourth-inning double off the fence in right high enough to bring rain - were it not already raining. Fellow slumper Evan Longoria sliced the Phils' lead in half with a single to left that raised a rooster tail of spray aquaplaning to Pat Burrell.
And by the bottom of the inning and with the KPHL Doppler radar showing that South Philly was on the edge of a curtain of moderate rain - stinging rain, thanks to the blustery wind pushing it - half the crowd was waving rally towels, half was drying their faces with them. Not even Forrest Gump himself would play in that kind of weather.
Kazmir walked Ryan Howard and Burrell, then left with a pitch count of 103. Longoria stood uncomfortably in a growing puddle behind third base. The basepaths were turning into glop. The mound was a skating rink. An army of ground-crew ants scurried out with bags of quick-dry clay and tried to stem Mother Nature's onslaught.
Phillies fan and climatologist extraordinary Joe Bastardi had fired off an angry 6:30 p.m. update to his blog on AccuWeather's professional site under the headline: "Cancel the Game Tonight."
Bastardi wrote there was no way in hell or Sea World the rain would let up. Indeed, a rapidly developing coastal storm off the Mid-Atlantic States had slowed the progress of a massive upper low funneling cold air across the Great Lakes. Result: The worst weather fiasco in World Series history and another stain on the boobs who run the cash-obsessed national pastime.
Bastardi's take: "Cancel the game tonight, and even tomorrow, and then play this when it's warmer, less windy and there is not precip in the air. It's the World Series, for goodness sakes . . . "
Tell that to the used-car salesman running baseball and a Fox network paranoid over the prospect of being forced to play a Friday night makeup game, when America is off watching high school football in thousands of towns.
With two outs in the sixth, a trained seal named Hamels was pitching while surrounded by an infield closer to an Everglade than major league. And when
Pena splashed a single to left, B.J. Upton belly-surfed across the plate with the tying run.
The game had splashed totally out of control.
At 10 p.m., Bastardi was foaming at the mouth. The hurricane and winter-storm expert led an update with this headline:
"Stupid Is As Stupid Does:
"I am a Phillies fan and I hope they win. But why are they playing this game tonight? It stinks for both teams, stinks
for the fans and as the rain explodes [around] them, it doesn't prove anything. I want to see my team win, but the championship of this sport should be played in better conditions. It's coming down so hard, it looks like it's snowing now . . . "
MLB president, COO and flak-catcher Bob DuPuy had to know that by the late- afternoon updates of a rapidly deteriorating situation involving bad weather to the west, east and south, chances of getting the game played without serious interruption were down to slim and none.
If I knew it and flashed a midafternoon heads up to my office along with a GFS Rapid Update depiction that showed the entire region under a soaking rain that would grow heavier as the night ran past midnight, why didn't MLB's jokers know it?
Selig said that as of 6:30 p.m. only a tenth of an inch of rain was forecast to fall between game time and midnight. About the same time that Bastardi called for a cancellation.
At 6:30 p.m., rain was falling without a break from the Carolinas through Central Pennsylvania at an intensity and coverage that was rapidly expanding.
And why did a crew of umpires that has performed at a rookie-league level throughout the Series wait until the Rays tied it, 2-2, in the top of the sixth to order the ground crew to cover the partially submerged infield?
Selig said the game will be resumed "whenever appropriate" to guarantee safety and fair competition. "We're not going to resume until we have decent weather conditions," the commissioner said. "We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here."
A Perfect Storm has put Game 5 into the most bizarre hold since the 10-day earthquake postponement in 1989. Too bad the imperfect men running Major League Baseball performed like landlubbers trying to sail an America's Cup yacht in a hurricane.
Bud, you're no Chub Feeney. *
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