The Sodfather confirmed Wednesday what most of us in Chicago already assumed.
This has been our worst spring ever. Period.
Roger Bossard, the head groundskeeper of the Chicago White Sox, didn’t need numbers to back up his claim. He has millions of eyewitnesses.
Bossard said Sox manager Tony La Russa recently asked him if he’s ever remembered worse conditions during a Chicago spring.
The answer was a resolute “no.”
“There have been times where I had to push some snow off the field or had to melt an inch here or there, but I’ve never seen a constant like this,” Bossard said.
“This is my 56th year (as Sox groundskeeper). Never seen it like this. It’s horrible and it’s not just the Sox and Cubs. It’s the golf courses and everybody is just suffering. The plant isn’t growing the way it’s supposed to. The weather pattern is brutal. It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen.”
And it’s not just the rain, the cold and the 23 mph wind, all of which made the Sox’s 3-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field a matter of survival of the fittest. Bossard said it’s also the absence of sun that’s hurting his grass and plants.
“The turf people, we’ve been suffering,” he said. “There is just no sunshine. There are 17 positive ultraviolet rays that come from sunshine that affect plant growth and we haven’t been getting any of them. Well, obviously some, or it wouldn’t grow at all.”
La Russa said Tuesday night was among the five or 10 “toughest” playing conditions of his managerial career, which includes 5,282 regular-season games. He didn’t specify whether he also was counting playoffs or his minor-league career or starting out in the Dominican Republic winter league, where Sox owner Bill Veeck dispatched scout Jerry Krause to find out whether La Russa was a keeper.
Suffice it to say that’s a lot of games. In his 61st season, La Russa can probably lay claim to the title of bad baseball weather expert.
So the question is: Why in the world did last night’s game have to be played?
MLB made the ultimate decision, according to sources, after consultation with both teams. The playing surface at Wrigley Field was deemed fine at the start of the game, and the mist was light enough to play through without fear of player injury. Once the game started, it was in the umpires’ hands.
Neither team wanted a doubleheader Wednesday, which makes for a very long day and eats up the bullpen. It would’ve been a split doubleheader, making it even longer. Both teams have a scheduled day off Thursday. But after Wednesday’s game, the Sox will have played 15 games in 15 days, dating back to April 20 with a doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians after back-to-back postponements. They needed a break before a road trip to Boston.
The Cubs can be a bit sensitive when it comes to decisions around canceling games after some memorable wrong calls over the years, including the “no-rain rainout” against the San Francisco Giants in 1999 and a Milwaukee Brewers game in 2017 that was prematurely canceled on what turned out to be a fine day. Brewers manager Craig Counsell said it was the first time “we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout.”
Then there was an Atlanta Braves game in 2018 that was so miserable players worried about getting pneumonia. The Braves also blew an eight-run lead, which may have factored into the complaints.
The Sox have had their share of bad weather calls over the decades as well.
After a night game was postponed early on April 26, 1996, California Angels reliever Lee Smith suggested the postponement was made because Chicagoans wanted to watch Michael Jordan and the Bulls in a playoff game against the Miami Heat.
“I think they figured out that if they played, you and I would’ve been the only ones to show up,” Smith said.
The most infamous wrong call was perhaps the 7 ½ hour rain delay before a 9 p.m. cancellation on Aug. 12, 1990, at old Comiskey Park. But at least Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf showed sympathy for fans who waited out the long delay. The Tribune game account reported: “At 8:15 p.m., the Sox offered free food and soft drinks to the remaining fans. At that point, the press box emptied quickly.”
Bossard recalled that the National Weather Service kept insisting “a window was coming.” The window, however, was closed.
“And we fell for it,” he said of the 1990 incident. “The Weather Service, they have eight scopes. I have two. And it’s their business and all clubs rely on them.”
Relying on accurate weather predictions, while also trying to accommodate players who treasure their off days and fans who already bought tickets and made the trip to the ballpark, is often a no-win situation for team executives and MLB honchos. Because someone will wind up unhappy.
But after it’s over, fans can say they survived a brutal night at the ballpark.
Sox fans in the Wrigley stands waved a giant ”L” flag after Tuesday’s win, reminiscent of the “Mike Caruso Game” in 1999, a classic City Series win for the Sox on another rainy day.
“It’s funny,” Bossard said. “When you get the ‘W,’ everything is all right.”