Baseball Games in Cold Weather are a Cleveland Tradition
Vince Guerrieri | On 11, Apr 2018
Cold weather during sporting events is one of the risks you run in Cleveland.
It’s a regular occurrence in football (witness Red Right 88 at Cleveland Stadium, and the game the Browns beat the Bills in a blizzard in 2007) as well as in baseball, from the infamous Snow-pening Day for the Indians against the Mariners in 2007, prompting the team to actually move games to Milwaukee, to Game 4 of the 1997 World Series, which remains the coldest Fall Classic game ever played.
And it was the same last weekend as the Indians opened against Royals, reaching a milestone of the coldest game ever played at Jacobs/Progressive Field, with temperatures hovering at freezing, 32 degrees. But really, it’s been a tradition throughout team history.
The Indians – then known as the Naps – opened the 1907 season at League Park on April 19, late enough that the game would be warm, right? Nope. Game time temperature for that opener was 36 degrees, and the front page of the next day’s Plain Dealer said “Frosty Fingers Lose First Game,” laying the blame on Harry Bay, whose frozen fingers weren’t able to catch a fly ball from Germany Schaefer. The error let in the only two runs of the game. Otherwise, the account said, “the Naps and Tigers might have battled to nightfall without a decision.”
Attendance for that game was 10,808 – a tremendous crowd for the days of the first League Park, but the kind that would be dwarfed a generation later at Cleveland Stadium, which by the end of its existence could count on sizeable crowds only for the opener.
In 1982, a snowstorm blew through the Midwest and Northeast in the first week of April, dumping 18 inches of snow on Cleveland Stadium and canceling home openers for the Yankees, Tigers, White Sox, Brewers, Indians, Phillies, and Pirates. The team ended up spending $15,000 to haul away 500 tons of snow to play the opener four days later. Game time temperature was 38 degrees – with a 17-degree wind chill.
“Considering the way the Tribe performed in its 8-3 loss to Texas, it probably wasn’t worth the expense and effort,” wrote Terry Pluto the next day. But a crowd of 62,443 turned out to see the Indians whiff on Charlie Hough’s knuckleball.
But it’s not just the cold that players have to worry about. Witness Joba Chamberlain fending off midges in the 2007 American League Division Series. And in May 1986, a game against the Red Sox was actually canceled because of fog rolling in off Lake Erie, prompting Oil Can Boyd to say, “That’s what happens when you build a ballpark on the ocean.”