World Series has been battling rain delays for over a century

Written by: Craig Muder

The players, team personnel, families and fans all went home disappointed when inclement weather forced the postponement of Game 3 of the 2022 World Series in Philadelphia.

But 111 years ago, the City of Brotherly Love hosted a stretch of six unplayable days – postponing that World Series for nearly a week and leaving the sporting nation waiting for the conclusion of a Fall Classic that seemed to have no end.

The 1911 World Series featured a rematch of the 1905 pairing of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics, which some consider to be the first modern World Series. The 1903 matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston was a best-of-nine affair that sprung up organically during that season but was not followed by a second World Series in 1904 when Giants manager John McGraw refused to field his National League champions against Boston, which repeated as American League winners.

But a year later, a best-of-seven World Series matchup was formalized – and the Giants defeated the Athletics in five games as Christy Mathewson threw three shutouts, a record that has never been matched.

Mathewson was still the Giants’ ace in 1911, and McGraw and Connie Mack were still the managers of their respective teams. But the Giants had not returned to the World Series since 1905 while the Athletics had defeated the Cubs in five games in 1910.

McGraw, however, reminded the A’s of his team’s win six years earlier by outfitting his team in new black jerseys – just as he did in 1905. A jersey worn by the Giants’ Red Murray in that World Series is a part of the Hall of Fame’s collection.

The Giants won Game 1 behind Mathewson, but the A’s captured Games 2 and 3 – beating Mathewson in the latter game 3-2 in 11 innings after Frank Baker tied the game at 1-1 with one out in the ninth with a blast to right field, his second homer in two games.

Forever more, the Athletics’ third baseman would be known as “Home Run” Baker.

But for six days after Baker’s heroics, the rain would not stop in Philadelphia. With the opposing teams so close geographically, the World Series alternated games between the Polo Grounds and Shibe Park – and some suggested that Game 4 should be moved to New York City in an attempt to play the game.

But with weather forecasts still a nascent artform, Baseball’s National Commission elected to wait out the weather.

“This rest from Tuesday will surely have restored Mathewson’s strength and he will undoubtedly pitch in Philadelphia Monday if it is played,” Ty Cobb wrote in a syndicated newspaper column that ran on Sunday, Oct. 22, in papers throughout the country. “After last Tuesday, Matty was unfit for duty for at least three days, and during that time the Athletics would probably have won the series.”

The weather finally broke on Oct. 24, and Mathewson and Athletics ace Charles Bender faced off in Game 4 as they did in Game 1. This time, Bender beat Mathewson 4-2. And though the Giants won Game 5 at the Polo Grounds 4-3 in 10 innings, the A’s wrapped up the title a day later with a 13-2 victory in Game 6.

Subsequent years have seen other long delays due to rain, such as the four-day gap between Games 5 and 6 in 1962 (one for travel and three for rain in San Francisco as the Giants faced the Yankees) and another four-day wait after Game 5 in 1975 (as foul weather set the stage for the classic Game 6 between the Reds and the Red Sox in Boston).

World Series rainouts have occurred with regularity over the years. But for decades, baseball operated under the unwritten rule that Fall Classic contests – unlike those in the regular season – would always be played to a nine-inning (or more) completion. As a result, games were sometimes delayed – even if they were past the five-inning mark that signals an official game – before resuming that same day.

But in 2008, that rule was put to the test when Game 5 in Philadelphia saw the Rays tie the game at two in the top of the sixth before rain made conditions unplayable. After consulting with meteorologists and officials, Commissioner Bud Selig decided to stop the game and resume it the next day at the point where the delay had happened.

The Phillies went on to win the game 4-3 when Pedro Feliz’s seventh-inning RBI single proved to be the difference. But many criticized MLB’s decision to start Game 5 the previous day with heavy rain in the forecast. In subsequent seasons, officials have tended to side with caution whenever inclement weather is possible – protecting pitchers from potentially wasting themselves in games that get delayed.

“I was upset with some of the things that went on,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told the Philadelphia Inquirer after Game 5 was halted. “But I definitely agreed with everything that happened, and I also agreed that the game definitely had to be stopped. The conditions were definitely unplayable.”

The Philadelphia weather in 2008 produced two unique artifacts now part of the Hall of Fame collection: Caps with earflaps worn by Rays manager Joe Maddon and the Phillies Eric Bruntlett – who scored the winning run on Feliz’s hit in Game 5.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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