Imagine. Comeing sidearm, Kent Tekulve whips a high, hard snowball under Ken Singleton's chin. Earl Weaver is furious. He puts on his skis. Out of the Baltimore igloo, a dozen fine huskies tow Earl to home plate. Earl is jawing with the umpire. Now he kicks snow on the umpire's boots. And here comes Don Stanhouse riding a St. Bernard to rescue his skipper. "This," Stanhouse says "is an abominalbe snow, man."
Today's snowfall in Baltimore is the earliest in Charm City's history. They say it snowed in Washington on Oct. 5, 1892. The World Series has captivated us for decades, with memories of crisp fall days with baseball as glorious as the turning leaves. That, of course, was before the Lords of Baseball knelt at the alter of greed and said, "Montreal in October? They'll never win a pennant."
Tuesday of this week, it snowed in Montreal, where the beloved Expos are on vacation, for, as Baseball knew, they did not win a pennant. They missed by the enormous margin of two games. Montreal's low temperature the day before had been 32.
"It is nice today," a woman in the Expo publicity office said. "The snow has turned to rain."
And the temperature?
"Nice, too. Only a little below freezing."
It was inevitable that the World Series should encounter snow, for instead of the first week in October, the Fall Classic now can reach into the third week. when East Coast weather is practicing for wintertime. Sports fans put up with a bunch of stuff. Basketball in June, football on ice at Chirstman, baseball in a blizzard -- all because the games have stretched schedules to a point the other side of common sense.
"A blizzard," said Pat Santarone. "It was snowing like hell."
Santarone, 50, the Orioles' groundskeeper for 11 seasons, arrived at 7 o'clock. As his father, Val, had been before him, Santarone has been a baseball groundskeeper for 27 years. Game One of the World Series had been rained out, and this morning Santarone arrived at work in a snowstorm.
His first thought?
"Go get another job somewhere," he said. "Find another line of work. I'm a halfway intelligent guy. Why don't I find a job where I don't have to go crazy?" ,tUnder the ordinary circumstances of a regular-season game, Santarone said he would have looked at the field (great pools of water stood at five or six spots) and then looked at the sky (snow drifting straight down). And then he would have told everybody to go home, no game tonight.
"But this is not an ordinary game." Santarone said about 1:30 this afternoon. "In an ordinary game, there is a tomorrow. For this, there is no tomorrow."
With millions of dollars of televisions money given to baseball, with the TV people anxious to pump up prime-time ratings in a ratings-survey period, the World Series and league playoff games go on as if there is, in fact, no tomorrow for shaving cream commericals. The Dodgers beat the Phillies two years ago in a rainstorm that only Noah and Bowie Kuhn would have endured without complaint. Too many postponements in this Series and ABC-TV might replace it with Archie Bunker throwing high, hard ones at Mork.
So this morning, knowing there is no tomorrow, Pat Santarone sat in his office under the bleachers down the third base line. His office walls are full of pictures of Brooks Robinson and Hand Bauer, Boog Powell and Memorial Stadium. A hundred feet away, Lake Baltimore grew between the foul lines.
With no sun and no wind and a 27-degree temperature, about the best a groundskeeper can do with outfield lakes is hope they freeze over so the players can wear double-runner skates.
About 10 a.m., Major William Donald Schaefer sent his chief of public services, Marco Palughi, to the ballpark with instructions to help Santarone any way he could.
Palughi suggested pumping the water off the field. For the next seven hours, Santarone would oversee the pumping operation. Using four "portable Submersible Centrifugal" pumps, to quote the labels on the little things normally used to pump an inch of water out of a house basement, Santarone's men moved water from the field.
"The ground's got a helluva lot of water on it," Santarone said on his office phone, answering a radio reporter's question at 1 o'clock, "but we're pumping it off right now. If it doesn't rain any more, we're going to play ball here."
Kuhn, the baseball commissioner, had walked on the field at 11 a.m. Coming to a growing pond an inch or two deep, he walked into it.
"He was impressesd with how firm the field was," Santarone said.
The field was firm. It also was so wet that every step on the outfield turf caused water to splash around the edges of a foot. Anyone moving at more than a walking pace -- say an $800,000, 225-pound outfielder named Dave Parker -- would have a hard time staying upright after a sudden stop. Any baseball that rolled on the outfield grass would come up slick.
"We haven't ever started a game with this muchwater on the field," Santarone said. "But we have played with this much, like after a thunderstorm that stops play.
"Hey, some of these guys are making $400,000 a year.
"I'd go out in snow for that. A little less than $400,000, even. We'll play ball tonight if it doesnt rain anymore."
With his red umbrella, Santarone drew a line in the mud at his feet, the better to channel the water toward the little pump pumping like crazy for the glory of Baltimore. His job is made more difficult by the Colts, who playing football on the same field, ripped it up Sunday. Two of today's ponds stood invalleys where the football teams have their benches on the sidelines -- which, translated to baseball, comes out, behing the second baseman and behind the shortstop.
Speaking of the Colts, they play here again Sunday. Bob Wirz, assistant to Kuhn, said there would be no Series game here that day, no matter what happens with the weather. Though it reportedly takes 36 hours to get the field ready for football, Wirz said a Series game could be played here Saturday.
"We're going to play two games before Sunday," Kuhn said.
At 2:26 this afternoon, Pat Santarone shouted, "Looket there."
A strange, spherical object was visible through gray clouds.
"Chrissakes, it's hurting my eyes," the groundskeeper said. "Come on, sun!" . . .
And 2 1/2 hours later, Kuhn again walked on the Memorial Stadium turf. Lake Baltimore was gone. Men with towels mopped up the remains. They threw down a drying compound to cover the mud.
"Playing conditions are perfectly adequate," Kuhn said. "It's not ideal, but we'll get by.