The rain delay at Wrigley Field before Friday's 8-1 Cubs win over the Diamondbacks timed out at three hours and 40 minutes. That's unofficially the longest pre-game rain delay in Wrigley Field history. I say this because before 1988, when lights were installed, for rain that hard and that long, they simply would have called off the game. Since 1988, I can recall some day games that started at 4 p.m. -- a 2½ hour or so delay -- but nothing this long, and certainly no night games that were delayed as long as Friday's.
It was worth it. Before the game recap, here's a brief chronology of the delay.
1 p.m.: Grounds crew puts tarp on field, even though it's not raining. Radars show two very large storms ready to blow through.
1:30 p.m.: First wave of rain comes through; about 20 minutes later they cleared the stands due to lightning.
2 p.m.: It stops raining; fans below the bleachers begin chanting, "Back! Back! Back!", but almost immediately, it starts raining again.
2:20 p.m.: Rain is falling sideways, in sheets; loud thunder is heard, along with more lightning. Some people leave the ballpark during this delay, not to return, getting soaked in the process.
2:50 p.m.: Rain stops; when we came back to the seats, this scene awaited, the left field line and bullpen totally flooded. Anthony Rizzo decided to to take a barefoot walk through it, maybe not the best of ideas.
5 p.m.: First pitch. Though it had not rained for almost two hours, it did take that long to get the field drained and playable.
When the game finally did begin, Alfonso Soriano took over. He hit two doubles and two home runs; the first homer was a titanic blast that started bouncing down Kenmore Avenue where it was picked up by one of the traffic aides who work the area. I don't know if he gave it up to one of the ballhawks who were begging for the ball; perhaps ballhawk can fill in the details.
Soriano drove in five runs and we can only hope that scouts from other teams were having a look at him today and got right on the phone to their general managers and said, "Go get this guy!"
Meanwhile, Paul Maholm had a bit of a shaky first inning, giving up a run with hits to the first two batters, but a nicely turned double play seemed to right his ship; he struck out Jason Kubel to end the inning, and for the remaining six innings Maholm was in the game, he allowed just four harmless hits and a walk. It was his third consecutive good-to-excellent start, and he lowered his season ERA from 4.57 to 4.33. He's a perfectly good 3/4 starter; the Cubs have a lot of those. Now to get some top-of-rotation guys.
Rizzo, after putting his socks and shoes back on (seriously, dude, don't walk through floodwater barefoot), went 2-for-4; Geovany Soto hit a ringing double and was 1-for-3 overall. It would be nice if Soto got hot; maybe he, too, could be traded. Darwin Barney also had a pair of hits.
About 5:50 it started raining again, and rained for about an hour while they continued playing; it rained fairly hard for part of that time, but there was no way they were going to stop play unless there was severe weather. A loud clap of thunder happened during this time; unlike a similar situation in Texas last Sunday, everyone stayed on the field.
It was impossible to get a good handle on the crowd size due to the rain. An announced crowd of 36,878 wasn't anywhere near that. Probably about 29,000 came into the ballpark at some point during the day; maybe 20,000 were in the seats at first pitch, and about 5,000 stuck around to the end of a fairly quick two hour, 37 minute game.
They saw the Cubs improve to 9-4 since Rizzo's recall (obviously, it's not all him, but this team seems energized since Rizzo came up from Iowa), and 10-4 including the first game of the Mets series just before the Rizzo era began. They're playing better as an entire team. It's good to see, even if ultimately meaningless until deals can be made to put an overall better club on the field.
Meanwhile, more scattered thunderstorms are expected around the area for Saturday's game. A reminder: original schedules list this as a 3:05 game, but tomorrow's first pitch will be at 12:05. The game preview will post on Saturday at 10 a.m.