Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ah,The (Shivering) Summer Game

ST. LOUIS - The turf was soggier than a dishrag. The fans were dressed as if they were about to float on the boat rides that sail beneath Niagara Falls. For three straight hours.

Welcome to the rain-soaked 102d World Series, in which inclement weather continues to stalk the Fall Classic from Detroit to St. Louis and now poses a very real threat of pushing it into November.

The unrelenting rain from a cold front that stalled over St. Louis and the new Busch Stadium, forcing the postponement of Game 4 last night, is not projected to leave the St. Louis area soon.

When the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals will get to play the two games needed to complete the Series' leg in the National League venue is not known. The forecast for today and tomorrow here is bad.

"They're going to be dicey," Jimmie Lee Solomon, vice president of Major League Baseball operations, said of the two days. "There is about a 70 percent chance of rain [today]... . Friday's forecast is pretty bad, also. We could get a soaking as much as 2, 21/2 inches, they say."

Game 4 is rescheduled for tonight at 8:27, with the Tigers' Jeremy Bonderman pitching against Jeff Suppan of the Cards.

In essence, baseball's schedule is as much a mess as the weather blanketing this Mississippi River city. Since baseball has no idea when the fourth and fifth games will be completed, there is no way to determine the future of Games 6 and 7, if needed. They originally were scheduled to be played Saturday and Sunday in Detroit.

Before baseball conceded the issue on Game 4 after a fruitless 1-hour, 51-minute delay last night, players were bracing for the worst. Like life in bullpens without propane heaters and little shelter other than the parkas on their backs.

"An 18-inch electrical heater, 12 guys with their hands over it, like we're sitting about singing around a barrel on the side of the street," Tigers reliever Todd Jones lamented.

Such weather is not surprising. Not in October in cities where fall happens. Ask the Cardinals, who have now been rained out of three games - once in New York and twice at home - since the playoffs began.

Still, no one in uniform had anything but disdain for any reference to a neutral warm-weather championship site, no matter how much rain was falling all over the Fall Classic.

"I would never go for that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think it would be a crying shame to take something like this away from the fans of St. Louis or the fans of Detroit."

St. Louis reliever Brad Thompson agreed. "The fans have been here all year long," he said. "You would never want to take this away from them.
"It's an advantage for them. It's an advantage for us, too, when you're home and your fans are cheering for you. So I would never want to go to a neutral spot."

So the sport deals with nights like the last, with its bone-chilling soakers and mist that the hound of the Baskervilles would have loved.

"I thought there was global warming going on, but apparently not," Jones said. But hey, Jones reminded, "It's the World Series, it's the Cardinals. If you have to do it frozen, you do it."

Where the fans at Comerica bundled in their seats in expectation of a rainy Game 1, Cardinals fans retreated to every nook and cranny they could find during the long delay.

That, too, the players had tried to prepare for.

"You just block it out: If we play, great, if we don't... we'll just figure it out," the Cardinals' Scott Spiezio said in the late afternoon. "We'll play when we can, all the way until spring training if we have to, then take a week off," he added with a laugh.

"I need an electric blanket," Jones said. "And anyone over the age of 25 should get to loosen up in the tunnel."

Ah, the summer game, happily played in October wherever the league championships are won, no matter the weather in which the pennants have to fly.