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Lessons learned during 2008 World Series rain debacle influencing 2022 weather decisions

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The weather was miserable, a wretched combination of soul-draining cold and rain that seemed like it would never end. The water-logged clouds hung low over Philadelphia, at a height that made it feel almost possible to reach up and touch them. The gray did not move. 

For two of the most important days of the 2008 baseball calendar, the nor’easter enveloped eastern Pennsylvania in sadness. I was in town to cover the World Series between the Rays and Phillies, and I did not leave my hotel for more hours than I care to count, except for a couple quick walks across the parking lot to get food.

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The way those two days in Philly — it definitely was not sunny — played out had an influence on how MLB would make weather-related decisions in the future, including the 2022 World Series.

Back in 2008, there was no possible way baseball could have been played during the nor’easter, and the powers-that-be knew it, which is why they’d tried so hard to play when they could. Game 5 of the World Series was set for an 8:30 p.m. ET start on Oct. 27 — the Phillies led the series, 3-1, and were looking to wrap it up at home — and rain was in the forecast. 

Those looking at models with optimism saw that the rain might be light enough to play, at least until much later on the evening of the 27th. Everyone looking at the forecast knew baseball would not be played on Oct. 28, which is why playing on the 27th was so important. 

The game started in a light rain, and the Phillies snagged an early 2-0 lead on a two-RBI single by Shane Victorino. Tampa Bay scored one run in the fourth inning to cut the lead in half, and the rain was picking up in its intensity. The temperatures were dropping, down into the lower 40s, heading toward the 30s.

The Rays scored once in the top of the sixth — after the game was, officially, long enough to be considered official — and the rain and cold continued to intensify. The field was a disaster, and the game was stopped.

Here’s Victorino, in this fantastic oral history of that day from the Philadelphia Inquirer: “It was one of the coldest times in my career. I think it was the bottom of the fifth. It was the coldest. I remember being in the outfield and I didn’t have sleeves on that night, and I was like, ‘Man, it’s miserable.’ I looked at my arms and it was starting to, like, freeze on my arms. I remember looking at the field and thinking if any ball is hit here, it’s not going to go nowhere. It’s going to basically stop in the infield.”

At that point in baseball history, the game could have ended. There was no rule saying World Series games had to run all nine innings. But commissioner Bud Selig, who was there and had made the final decision to begin play, wasn’t about to allow that to happen. He decided the game would be suspended and resumed when the rain stopped. Early the next day, MLB announced that play would resume on the 29th. 

That was a very good decision on Selig’s part, and he helped make that a rule that offseason, when it became official that every single World Series game must be at least nine innings long, and finished in the stadium where it started. 

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When play finally resumed on the 29th, the Phillies scored in the bottom of the sixth to go back up, 3-2, but the Rays tied it again in the top of the seventh. An RBI single in the bottom of the seventh put the Phillies up for good, and closer Brad Lidge wrapped up the World Series title with a scoreless ninth inning. 

The Phillies were World Series champs, and how MLB would deal with weather-related issues in the future would never be quite the same. Now, the question isn’t so much “can we start this game?” but “can we finish this game if it starts?” It helps in 2022 that the weather forecast for the next day looks better — rain in the morning, but it should be done by 2 p.m. at the latest. 

It’s all very much a sense of deja vu in Philadelphia, which probably makes Phillies fans happy. They’ll take a little rain delay in exchange for another World Series title. 


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