Monday, 31 October 2011


From July 1992 BUM Report, written from notes scribbled on a wet scorecard during a rain delay to fill 16 column inches, about 20 minutes before press time  ...

I was born almost within throwing distance of Nat Bailey Stadium (of course it was named Capilano Stadium back then) and spent the first decade of my life growing up in the left field bleachers. Yes, there were bleachers there back then, made entirely of wood, cost a quarter to get in, and the place was alive with every kid from the neighbourhood.

Since then, I have attended somewhere in the vicinity of 900 ball games at Nat Bailey as well as another 150 pro games in other parks across North America, not only at each of the 26 major league stadiums but several other minor league parks including the entire Pacific Coast and California Leagues. (There were only 26 teams at the time this was originally published, as well as 12 PCL teams and another dozen in the Cal League).

Over the years I have cultivated and accumulated a great number of ball fan buddies and we often swap some of our favourite ball park memories. Most people expect me to dredge up old memories from Cap Stadium involving George Bamberger or Brooks Robinson or Spider Jorgenson or some such nonsense.

Or they want me to reminisce about the teams of the 60s when Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and John 'Blue Moon' Odom played here before going on to bigger things with the Oakland As, winning those five AL titles and three World Series titles in a row in the early 70s.

Those that know me better expect a humourous antecdote about Max Patkin or the antics of the Bleacher BUMS or want me to retell the story of the game in 1990 when Jeff 'Idiot Boy' Schaefer lost his cool and wanted to come up and start a fight in the bleachers with some of the BUMS.

But none of these are included on my list of favourite baseball memories; they're not even close. My fancies are tickled by simpler things. Of all the possibilities, I appreciate rain delays the most.

Did he say rain delays?

Yup. I thoroughly enjoy a good rain delay, but any kind of game delay will do in a pinch, whether it be a snow storm in Calgary or Montreal, a mosquito delay in Cleveland or a wind delay at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

So, what in Hell is so special about a rain delay? A rain delay affords a perfect opportunity for wandering the stadium, discovering new sight lines, swapping lies with other fans and debating the nuances, the mysteries and the lighter side of baseball.

A good example of this would be last month's afternoon doubleheader rainout at Nat Bailey Stadium, where 2500 diehard ball fans were huddled under the roof and waited for the umpires to decide whether or not to start the game. (Or, closer to the truth, waiting for word from the concession that all the food was now sold, so send the fans home).

Once the rains began, the diligent army of groundskeepers and security guards entertained the crowd with their speedy and efficient covering of the field with the big blue tarps. It was truly a thing of awe, like watching one of those precision drill teams in action, and when the tarp was down and the infield was safely covered, the crowd let out a roar of approval. It sent shivers down my spine.

For Big Jim, a long time ball fan whom I was chatting with, the tarp laying brought to is mind the classic TV clip of a Baltimore rain delay in the early 80s when catcher Rick Dempsey came out and entertained the fans by doing his Babe Ruth 'called shot' impersonation, culminating in his circling the bases and then sliding face first into the puddle at home plate.

This triggered memories of my first trip to Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, where there was a 45 minute thunderstorm delay and nobody could leave the stadium because of flooding in the parking lot. And there I was, a fool tourist, wearing nothering more than shorts and a ball cap, in deep agreement with a total stranger that no matter how much or how often it poured, its blasphemous to put a roof over a ball yard.

Within moments of reliving those memories, Jim and I flashed on the same inspired idea -- a sliding contest -- and entertained ourselves trying to determine which Cs player would be likely candidate for the event. Paco Martin? Maybe. Chris Cron? Perhaps. We immediately agreed on the fun-loving Ron Coomer. And for sure, Jerry 'Stewman' Willard if he was still here.

Later, roaming the stadium I ran into Cardinal fan Dan Walker Gibson (named after Cardinal outfielder Walker Cooper) and we swapped stores about other game delays we had witnessed.

My offering was a hurricane delay at a Ranger game in Arlington where I shook hands, collected an autograph and had my picture taken with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. Minutes later my girlfriend Corinne had her autograph request snubbed by her long-time favourite player Cal Ripken who who was doing nothing but standing alone watching the rain at the time. Corinne immediately flushed Cal Ripken from her favourite player list.

Dan vaguely remembered another delay in that same stadium when a baby armadillo burrowed to the surface in centre field during a game and had to be chased off the field.

But both of these stories were topped by Ed King's skunk delay in St. Louis, where volunteers to catch and remove the culprit were scarce (for obvious reasons) until one brave groundskeeper chased the critter for 10 minutes, finally managing to trap it under a white bucket then flipped the bucket, skunk and all, and carried it out of the stadium on the end of a long stick.

Of course there are other kinds of game delays, such as the San Francisco earthquake delay during the World Series, or the volcano delay in Spokane when Mt St. Helens erupted and the game was finally called due to lack of visibility caused by ash and other debris in the air.

But I like rain delays the best. Maybe because they're elusive, sort of like a Nolan Ryan no nitter; you can't really plan for one, you just have to be there when it happens.

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