On Monday night, Dad and I went to see the Astros play the Cubs at Wrigley. There was little offense, with only two runs scored and few scoring chances. The pitching was fair, but not dominant. No exciting defensive plays were made. Lou Pinella didn’t even get into an argument.
And it was the most memorable game I’ve ever been to.
I was negligent in checking the time of the game, so we didn’t realize that ESPN moved the start time to 6:00, an hour earlier than we expected. Fortunately, we were planning to show up early, so we only missed half an hour, but in that time, one of the two runs was scored, as the Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. A bit disappointed, we settled into our seats in the upper deck along side Cubs fans dressed up for 70’s night. The Astros tacked on a run in the 4th via a walk with the bases loaded. Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t solve the riddle that was Houston pitcher Brian Moehler, but we figured it was only a matter of time.
That time never came though. In the top of the sixth, the sky darkened and flashed from lightning in the distance. It started to rain lightly. Within a couple minutes though, the rain intensified while the time between the thunder and lightning decreased. The umpires called for the groundscrew to put the tarp on the field. Fans in the expensive seats ran to the concourse, while the die-hards in the bleachers refused to give up their prime general admission seats. Eventually, with the lightning strikes becoming more frequent, security cleared the bleachers and lower deck entirely. People in the upper deck looked around with dry satisfaction. That is, until the wind picked up, making no seat safe from the water. Pools of water built up on the warning track both in the outfield and behind home plate. A waterfall sprouted on top of the press box and showered the seats below. In addition to ambulance and fire engine sirens, tornado warning sirens rang out for more than half an hour.
We finally moved from our seats toward the press box to stay a little drier. Some other fans were getting restless, as two ran on the field to use the giant impromptu slip and slide. In addition to his water sliding, one of these took 70’s night very seriously, as he was dressed in an impeccable Elvis costume. The crowd loved the performance, but security didn’t, chasing him down and roughing him up.
After about two hours, the rain relented enough to let the grounds keepers work on the field. After clearing out the drains from debris, the water on the warning track dissipated. The water on the tarp was dumped into left field and squeegeed into the new outfield drainage system. At 10:20, 2 hours and 45 minutes after the stoppage, the game resumed.
With less than half the attendance remaining, Dad and I moved to the front section of the upper deck. Strangely, the atmosphere felt more intimate somehow with so few people in the crowd. It felt like you could have a conversation with anyone in the park, whether in the stands, on the field, or in the press box.
Our new location also put us in prime position for foul balls from left handed batters. I didn’t have a glove with me, so I decided that if a ball came our way, I’d try to catch it in my hat. Sure enough, with Kosuke Fukudome at the plate in the 7th inning, he slashed a foul ball toward our section. I grabbed my hat off my head. It was coming right toward me. I lined it up. And missed it. Even in a pinch, a hat is no substitute for a glove.
(FYI, the ball landed under my seat. I tossed it to a kid that was sitting a few rows behind us. The nearby fans gave me some applause for the generosity, and that made up for the indignity of missing the catch.)
It was getting late, but the game was moving along quickly. A few distant lightning strikes lit up the sky occasionally. Then in the bottom of the eighth, there was a crash that seemed just outside the stadium. Astros first baseman Lance Berkman ran three-quarters of the way to the dugout. After a pause, where everyone on the field appeared to just look at each other without knowing what to do, the field was cleared again. Even though there was only lightning, the tarp went back on the field. It turned out to be a smart decision, because within a few minutes, the rain was back, even more severe than before. Everyone in the stadium was forced down to the concourse. Again, it was a good decision, because the lightning was also more severe. The ramps from the upper deck became rivers. Any small leak in the old ballpark was revealed.
We waited patiently on the concourse. Partly, we wanted to see the end of the game, but probably more realistically, we weren’t going to leave the dry Wrigley concourse for a walk through the downpour. It turned out that we had seen the end of the game, as after another 40 minutes, the game was called.
We walked outside, and the rain stopped.
So to review, the official time of the game was 2:19 (thirty minutes of which we didn’t see), and the unofficial time of rain delays was 3:25. It was awesome.