By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) On Monday, Mother Nature blew 30-degree wind chills down the spines of White Sox fans at U.S. Cellular Field. Out in Pittsburgh, she dropped 35-degree game time temps on the Cubs and Pirates. And up in Minneapolis, Tigers ace Justin Verlander wasn’t the only thing freezing batters during Minnesota’s coldest home opener in 50 years.
Yes, on Opening Day it was more bundle up than batter up in some of baseball’s northern cities. And that begs the question, should we even be playing games in chilly locales during the first week of the season?
Or should MLB just give those cities the cold shoulder?
“No one likes playing in the cold,” Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said before Monday’s game at Target Field, where 17 mph gusts dropped game-time wind chills into the low 20s.
Heck, even the Vikings don’t play in that weather.
Like Dozier said, no one really likes playing baseball in the cold. And no one likes watching in the cold, either – except, I suppose, those shirtless yahoos that show up at Soldier Field each season. But they’re probably still hospitalized from frostbite by the time baseball season rolls around.
As for myself, I absolutely love watching baseball games in person. But I absolutely loathe freezing during them. Enough so that I’ve learned the hard way to be very leery about buying tickets for any Cubs games at Wrigley Field during April, when the weather often still feels like February.
On Monday, U.S. Cellular Field played host to winter and Kansas City when the White Sox hosted one of their coldest home openers in team history. The 40-degree high (at O’Hare, mind you) was just two slim degrees above the record of 38 set on April 18, 1907, when the Sox welcomed the St. Louis Browns to town while the wind chill was even lower at just 30 degrees.
Always a hardy bunch, many White Sox fans said the weather didn’t bother them that much with 55-year-old Ken Sako, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Oh no, this is a beautiful day. We’ve had some that were just nasty. This is pleasant.”
But I’m guessing he wouldn’t have minded a 50-degree day, either.
Granted, Monday’s sunshine – and the White Sox’s victory – surely helped warm the souls of many of a fan on such a brisk day. But I’m guessing that the shivering die-hards in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis weren’t feeling quite so toasty after battling the cold only to see their teams lose to the Cubs and Tigers.
Now, of course, no one can control the weather. But with 30 ballparks to choose from, many of them in warm weather or temperature-controlled climates, Major League Baseball absolutely can try to avoid bad weather for a week.
In Minneapolis, for example, MLB had put the Twins on the road to start each of the club’s first three seasons at open-air Target Field, but decided to tempt fate this year by scheduling Minnesota at home.
Monday’s bitterly cold weather in the Twin Cities ended up not being tempting at all, prompting Verlander to say, “When I was warming up in the sun, I was like, “I could have come out in short sleeves. This isn’t that bad. As soon as the shade set in, it was a totally different ball game. It was miserable.”
Imagine how the hitters and their stinging hands felt.
Or the fans, who didn’t have a warm clubhouse to slip into.
In 2007 in Cleveland, the Indians were forced to stage their official home opener indoors in Milwaukee after they were repeatedly snowed out at home. This year, MLB was wise enough to put the Tribe on the road for today’s season opener inside the enclosed comfort of Toronto’s Rogers Centre. I can’t imagine that fans in Cleveland – where today’s forecast calls for a high of 37 with possible snow – are too upset about that.
As much as I like the idea of Chicago being part of baseball’s Opening Day festivities, the notion of MLB scheduling a later home start for both the Cubs and White Sox each year definitely does have its appeal.
In fact, you could say, it’s something that I could warm up to.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.