Game 5 of World Series Is Suspended Because of Rain
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 27 -- An hour before the first pitch of Game 5 of the World Series, a grim-faced Major League Baseball official leaned against a wall outside the press box at Citizens Bank Park. "Bud," the official said, "is a basket case."
That's because Commissioner Bud Selig already knew what everyone else was about to find out: The weather for Monday night's game, a potential World Series clincher for the Philadelphia Phillies, was going to be dicey at best, horrible at worst.
But the decision was made to start Game 5 on time anyway, primarily because the forecast for Tuesday night, if anything, looked even worse. Of the handful of possible outcomes that stemmed from that decision, what actually occurred Monday night may have been the best-case.
In the 104th World Series in history, baseball got its first suspended game. Game 5 was halted with the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays tied at 2, and the Phillies -- one win away from clinching their first championship in 28 years -- preparing to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
It is slated to be re-started Tuesday at 8:29 p.m., weather permitting -- but some baseball officials already were speaking of the possibility of a Wednesday resumption, because of the weather. Tuesday was previously scheduled as a travel day; Wednesday is to be Game 6 in St. Petersburg, Fla., if necessary.
"We obviously monitored the weather all day," Selig said after the game was suspended at about 11:10 p.m. "We were told about 7:45 [p.m.] that it would only be a tenth of an inch of rain between then and midnight or thereafter. . . . I had a nagging fear because these forecasts have changed so much."
In a sense, then, it was Carlos Peña who saved MLB's hide. In playing conditions that already were awful and deteriorating rapidly, the Rays' veteran first baseman singled to left field off Phillies ace Cole Hamels in the top of the sixth inning, scoring B.J. Upton from second base.
That run tied the game, allowing MLB to suspend the game until another day. Had the Phillies retained the lead, Selig was faced with the choice to either continue playing, no matter how bad conditions became, or create a new, ultra-liberal interpretation of the phrase "rain delay" so that it would include delays of 24 or even 48 hours. The World Series has never seen a rain-shortened game in its history -- let alone a rain-shortened clinching game -- and baseball officials were determined, above all else, to avoid that.
"Putting everything else aside, it's my judgment," Selig said. "This is not a way to end a World Series. . . . I would not have allowed a World Series to end this way."
Asked what would have happened had the Rays not tied the game, Selig said: "We would have gone into a rain delay, and that rain delay would have lasted until, weather permitting, we could resume the game. And that might be a day or two or three or whatever. . . . We'll stay here if we have to celebrate Thanksgiving here."
Baseball was also saved by a new rule, instituted in 2007, that changed the cut-off point for weather stoppages. Prior to 2007, a suspended game resumed at the point of the last fully concluded inning; in this case, the Rays' run in the top of the sixth would have been wiped out, since the inning was not played to completion.
Selig said the game was allowed to begin on time only because MLB's forecast -- from three different weather services, which he would not name -- indicated conditions should be playable. Still, after consulting the grounds crew, the umpires, and the general managers and managers of both teams, the ultimate call to play ball was Selig's.