Wrigley Field fails nature’s #IceBucketChallenge

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Th calm before the storm Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. (R. Lincoln Harris)

The Cubs and Giants opened a series last night at Wrigley Field. There were a few scattered clouds in the sky before game time, but overall, it felt like a beautiful night for a ball game. After completing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge outside the ballpark before the game, and taking in a few innings of Chicago’s hottest baseball team — the Jackie Robinson West team, playing in the Little League World Series — I decided to head in the general direction of the ballpark.

I should point out that I had no interest in actually attending the game. Being in the vicinity of the ballpark, and soaking up the sights, smells and sounds that come with it, was more than enough for me. The Giants have a lot to play for in the playoff chase, and they have a devoted fan base, so the stage was set for an intriguing night of baseball.

After meandering around the exterior of the park in a counter-clockwise path, and stopping at the McDonald’s on Clark Street to take a few pictures of the clouds hanging overhead, I made my way to the firehouse at Waveland and Kenmore streets. As the fire engine went out to answer a call, I snapped a picture with my cellphone camera, hoping to capture an idyllic night at the ballpark.

I then walked back to my super-secret free parking zone a little bit north of the park, got into my car, and turned on the radio to listen to the game. I had nowhere to be really, and it was a classic summer night on the North Side of Chicago. Life was very good, indeed.

But the rains blew in in a hurry. I began driving home just as the rains were beginning, and the streets seemed to be on the verge of flooding instantly. The storm came in fast and it came in hard. But after about seven or eight minutes, it began to ease up. After 12 minutes or so, the rain stopped. It was a freaky storm, to be sure, but at least it didn’t hang around for too long. It was nature’s equivalent of the ice bucket challenge: Intense but brief. Frankly, it’s too bad it happened just after the game had become official.

The grounds crew at Wrigley Field was caught off guard, to say the least. They weren’t able to achieve full coverage of the infield playing area with their manual tarp rolling system, and parts of the infield were completely waterlogged by the ferocious storm. The follies of the evening were set to music on YouTube (see below), and as much as the sounds of Yakety Sax are always good for a laugh, the efforts to return the field to playable conditions were no laughing matter.

Over four and a half hours went by after the rains came, and the grounds crew — or if you’re a Giants fan, maybe it’s ground screw — failed to cover the field sufficiently. All the chemical drying agents the Cubs applied to the infield surface failed to work their magic, and the game was delayed into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Since the delay came in the middle of the fifth inning, it was an official game per baseball rules. The Cubs were holding a 2-0 lead — on the basis of an Anthony Rizzo home run in the first inning — and were eventually awarded the victory when the game was finally called off. It’s a tainted win, because the grounds crew did not get the job done as the rains were coming down. And the loss makes it harder for the Giants to catch the Dodgers in the NL West, and might also have implications in their quest for a wild-card berth. With that in mind, the Giants certainly wanted the game to resume.

But the game was called in the early morning hours of Wednesday, and the Giants and their fans are none too happy about it, either. What action the league will take, if any, remains to be seen. It’s a blow to the Giants’ playoff hopes, and something that cost the team in the standings.

What some on Twitter are now calling #Tarpgate is an embarrassment to the Cubs franchise, and feels like an ill-gotten gain that the Cubs really don’t need. This Cubs fan wishes he could treat the game like an opposing home run and throw it back.

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