Thursday, July 12, 2007

our all-star game is fogged out

Imagine having a homerun derby and not being able to see where the ball landed. In fact, imagine not even being able to see if it was a homerun or not. This was the case at the 2007 Eastern League All-Star game, hosted at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut, where I play on a nightly basis.
The stadium is built on a mountaintop. One wouldn’t think it would be subject to fog. On the contrary, fog rolls in as sure as a summer storm, and with the same swiftness.
Being an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, perhaps this was done with purpose. San Francisco, site of the 2007 MLB All-Star game, has its own problems with fog, but the big league game proceeded without Mother Nature’s intervention. The Eastern League All-Star game wasn’t so lucky.
With a packed house on hand to see the game, no one wanted to halt the action. According to my roommate, Geno Espineli, it was necessary. “Guys were hitting balls and you had no idea where they were landing. In the homerun derby (prior to the game), you couldn’t even see if it was a homerun or not. Even the fielders couldn’t see them,” stated Espineli, a participant in the game.
With the disappearing ball trick so prominent, the action was called during the third inning after outfielder John Bowker was almost hit with a fly ball. This came as a disappointment to Espineli. Espineli was on the mound to relieve Kevin Mulvey, but the game was called before he was able to throw his first pitch.
“It would’ve been my first All-Star game since high school,” said Espineli.
Disappointing for Espineli, and the fans, to be sure, but we all still recognize him as an all-star.

In light of the fog-out, I attempted to do a little research on fog and baseball. I came up with surprisingly little, but here are some of baseball’s foggiest moments, not all explicitly dealing with fog:

-June 6, 1957- Game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs becomes the first MLB fog-out.

-May 20, 1960- Game in Milwaukee postponed due to fog

2006- Giants’ catcher Mike Matheny spends most of the year on the DL due to a different type of fog, this being a cognitive fog resulting from a series of concussions. The injury brings awareness to the repeated impact of foul balls violently ricocheting off a catcher’s mask, and the cumulative damage they can cause. Matheny has since retired and every player in the Giant’s organization is required to take a battery of cognitive testing as a result.

2004- Bill James publishes his “Underestimating the fog” article, in which he re-thinks some of his more radical positions on things such as clutch hitting. While not stating that clutch hitting actually exist, he states that current quantitative tools may simply not allow one to accurately perceive it.

There apparently are not a lot of true foggy moments in baseball lore. If someone comes across something, feel free to send it my way. In the meantime, the Defenders will be back out at Dodd Stadium tonight, trying to play in the fog.