“DIARY OF A WINNER”
THE CURSE OF
THE BAMBINO, PART 9
May 27, 1986 ... You can have those foggy days in London town. It's much thicker in Cleveland.
At least that's what the crowd of 6,661 thought last night at the Lake Erie Palace, also known as Municipal Stadium, when the skies shrouded the field in the fifth and sixth innings.
But the weather was lovely for the Red Sox, who wound up with a 2- 0, fog- curtailed victory over the Indians in a setting more suited for an episode of "The Twilight Zone" than major league baseball. As a result, Boston expanded its lead in the American League East to two games over the idle Yankees.
Before the decision was made to call the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, it had been delayed twice by fog -- the first time for eight minutes, the second for 1 hour 35 minutes.
The victory -- Boston's third straight and 15th in 19 games -- went to Mike Brown (2-1), who hurled five scoreless innings. Steve Crawford, who came in with two Indians on base and retired two batters before play was called, was credited with his first save. Run-scoring singles by Bill Buckner and Jim Rice in the first inning provided the offense on what began as a crystal-clear night turned into an Evening in Casablanca by the fifth. Fog oozed in, and by the sixth, Red Sox outfielders were complaining they couldn't see the ball.
The game first was delayed with one out in the sixth, the fog having turned from a weather element into a baseball controversy. It was obvious from the warm-ups that the outfielders were having trouble seeing the ball. Dwight Evans lost a couple of tosses in the fog.
After Tony Bernazard walked, the fog was finally acknowledged by third base umpire Larry Barnett, and what followed was a series of events from which only the Keystone Cops were missing.
First the umpires convened, and then the managers got involved. Pretty soon, Bobby Bonds, the Cleveland first base coach, emerged with a fungo bat to test the effects of the fog. Bonds hit two fungoes to right field, with the umpires standing next to Evans to see if they could locate the balls. Evans caught one but didn't even see the second, which sailed into the stands. By now, the fog was thick enough to require a spoon and the field was full of amateur weathermen. Despite a chant from the crowd -- "Let's play ball" -- time was called at 9:25.
Eight minutes later, the umps decided the fog had lightened up, and play was resumed. Briefly.
Brown gave up a single to Julio Franco and was replaced by Crawford. The Indians failed on a sacrifice attempt, and Joe Carter struck out. When Mel Hall flied to center and Tony Armas disappeared while making a catch against the wall, the umpires called time at 9:45. Finally, at 11:20, they decided that was it for the proceedings.
No one wanted the game to start more than Brown, who hadn't worked since May 19th. The Red Sox gave him early support against Cleveland's Neal Heaton.
The Sox got a break when Marty Barrett reached on an error by shortstop Franco leading off the game. Wade Boggs then walked, and Buckner singled to right, scoring Barrett and moving Boggs to third. Rice muscled a fastball over the second baseman's head for a single, scoring Boggs. Rice tried for second on the play and was thrown out. Heaton escaped further trouble with two groundouts. Don Baylor grounded to third, and Buckner was caught trying to score on a quick throw by Brook Jacoby. Evans grounded to second, ending the inning.
In the first two innings, Brown kept the Indians in check with ground balls. Bernazard singled with one out in the first but was wiped out in a double play. Carter singled and stole second in the second, only to watch Brown mow down three straight batters.
In the third, Brown had to endure another potential Indian uprising. Brett Butler beat out a bunt with two out and moved to third on a single by Bernazard. But Brown got Franco to ground into a forceout.
At the start of the fifth, the arrival of the fog served as the perfect background for Red Sox bats, which after the first had become strangely silent. Heaton gave up a single to Boggs in the third with one out, but got the next two batters on fly balls. Rey Quinones singled with one out in the top of the fifth but was picked off first by Heaton.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brown gave up a two-out single to Otis Nixon, and by the time he got Butler to ground to first, unassisted, the outfielders were seemingly invisible.
Catcher Rich Gedman is not expected to rejoin the club until this weekend in Minnesota. He is in Worcester, where a wake for his father, who died Sunday. Dave Stapleton and Mike Stenhouse will continue to serve as backup catchers behind Marc Sullivan.
Don Baylor had an eight-game hitting streak snapped in the fog-shortened game. In his previous 12 games, Baylor had hit at a .395 clip (17 for 43) as he raised his average from .193 to .247. He hit four homers, drove in 12 runs and collected 29 total bases during his eight-game streak.
Relief pitcher Sammy Stewart has not allowed an earned run since Opening Day, a period of seven appearances and 18 1/3 innings.