When weather was a gamechanger at the World Series

In Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, a perfect storm of weather conditions swayed the gameplay and outcome of the ole ball game.

"Is this heaven?" asked "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, as he stood in an illuminated baseball diamond on a clear summer night. 

But unlike the paradise Jackson found in that "Field of Dreams", the "heaven" most of us experience in baseball parks can at times be far less pristine, especially during the World Series. 

As teams battle it out for the championship, they have to take into account an additional contender, the weather, and how it has swayed outcomes in the ole ball game.

Weather run afoul

"Weather can play a big impact in how the game is decided," said Jeremy Feador, the Team Historian for the Cleveland Indians (soon to be Cleveland Guardians).

With the 162-game baseball season spanning three of Mother Nature’s seasons – spring, summer and fall – games are subject to whatever kinds of weather Mother Nature throws at them.

"Most of the time, maybe from May to the end of September, [the weather] is pretty consistent, either hot or not so cold."

"But then we get to October." 

That’s when the playoffs begin and then eventually culminate with only two teams left standing. These two, champions of their respective leagues, then battle it out for the ultimate championship in the World Series. 

Unlike the Super Bowl, which only involves one game and the location of the game is determined years in advance, the World Series consists of up to seven games and the location of each game is determined by the season records of the teams advancing to the championship.

According to Feador, because of this rule and because baseball teams come from a diversity of ballparks and climates, "all bets are off."

If one of the final two teams has a dome as their home stadium, then some of the seven games in the World Series will be played in the climate-controlled environment of that dome. 

Naturally, if one of those teams has an open-air stadium located in an area with inclement October weather, then some of the World Series games will be vulnerable to those weather conditions. 

The World Series game that was arguably most affected by inclement weather conditions took place in an open-air stadium of the City of Brotherly Love.

The perfect storm

"It's Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies held at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly," said Matt Albertson, Co-Chair for the Connie Mack-Dick Allen chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Temperatures have dropped into the 40s and the wind swirls throughout the stadium at 70 miles per hour. 

Tampa Bay steps up to bat. 

"Akinori Iwamura, Tampa Bay shortstop, drives the ball to deep left field, but it's knocked down by the wind."

In the fourth inning, it begins to rain. 

"Carlos Peña hits a ball to right fielder Jason Werth," said Albertson. "Jason Werth looks up and his glove just misses the ball."

"Did the rain affect him looking up at the ball? Probably." 

By the top of the sixth inning, so much rain has fallen that second base has become a pool of water and the home plate is submerged. 

All the players on the field are soaked to the bone at this point, and the low temperatures begin to take a toll on them.

"Cole Hamels noted years later that he lost the feel for a couple of his breaking balls," said Albertson. "He lost the feel for his curveball, and he also lost the feel for his changeup."

"If the Rays had figured out that Cole Hamels was only able to throw a fastball at this point in the game, they could have really honed in on that and done some damage."

Misses and miscues abounded, exacerbated by the unforgiving weather.

At the bottom of the sixth inning, the weather conditions eventually led to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to suspend the continuation of the game by a day, leaving the score tied at 2-2. 

However, the unfavorable weather persisted, causing the resumption of the game to be suspended by an additional day.

Once the weather cleared up and the game finally resumed, the Phillies went on to defeat the Rays 4-3.

"A lot of players noted later that it was the worst weather they ever played in their entire careers," said Albertson.

For Albertson, the game was "arguably the worst World Series weather game ever."

A rainy Philly legacy

As extraordinary as the weather was during Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, it seems only fitting that such a superlative of "worst World Series weather game" was earned in Philadelphia. 

According to Baseball Reference, the city earned another superlative in Game 4 of the 1911 World Series between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics – the first professional team to sign the real "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. 

Heavy rains hammered Philadelphia, delaying the game by seven days. This became the longest delay in World Series history. 

Paradise found

Despite the unfavorable weather conditions and outcomes of some baseball games, they are often not enough to dampen the spirits of baseball fans. 

"Ballparks are always such a great place to be," said Feador. "You create those memories that as you get older, you want to bring your family or your significant other, and you know about the sights and sounds and the feelings of being at the ballpark."

From having a beer and a hotdog to waiting in anticipation for fireworks to making a connection with your favorite team – these are all sensory experiences that make a deep impression into the minds and hearts of baseball fans.

So, is this heaven?

For many folks – no matter how harsh the rain, how severe the cold or how strong the wind – the answer is a resounding "Yes".

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