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Remembering the Cubs’ 2018 winter baseball: December in April

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It’s been fairly mild in Chicago this December. April was worse.

Javy Baez and Jose Quintana play with snowballs at Wrigley Field on April 9, 2018
TNS via Getty Images

This December has been one of the warmer ones in recent Chicago history. High temperatures have been mainly in the 40s and there has been only three-tenths of an inch of snow recorded at O’Hare Airport, the official Chicago reporting station.

On the other hand, April:

April ranked as the fourth-coldest on record in Chicago and second in Rockford. For both cities, it was the most bitter April since 1907.

A frigid air mass settled over much of the Midwest and Northeast, making for a bone-chilling start to the Major League Baseball season.

The cold and snow contributed to 28 games being postponed that month — an all-time high. There were 10 days on which temperatures were 40 degrees or lower, tied for the second-most on record. For MLB at large, there were 35 games played in April when temperatures at first pitch were 40 or lower, compared with only two for all of 2017, according to MLB.

On April 9, the date of the Chicago Cubs’ home opener, the city received about 2 inches of snow. The game was postponed, so instead of baseball, a lighthearted snowball fight ensued between Cubs players at Wrigley Field.

That’s the snowball fight you see at the top of this post, and now let’s pick up the rest of the story from April 9, the day the Cubs were supposed to open the 2018 home season at Wrigley Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here’s what I wrote after I returned from Wrigley that day, nearly frozen solid:

The Cubs tried very hard to play Monday’s opener — at first pushing the starting time back an hour to 2:20 CT, but eventually, had to postpone the game

The snow has mostly stopped in the Chicago area at this point, but as you can see by the photo in the @Cubs tweet, the field likely couldn’t have been cleared to make it safe for play, so the Cubs likely made the right call. A few hundred fans were waiting around various entrances to Wrigley Field when the game was called. I can report to you that it was quite cold and breezy, not good baseball conditions even if they could have cleared the field.

Oddly, the White Sox home game that same afternoon was played without delay or snowfall, though reportedly only 974 people showed up on the South Side to see the Sox lose to the Rays 5-4. 10,377 was the number of tickets sold. It stopped snowing on the South Side long enough for them to play, but never stopped in the area around Wrigley Field.

The snowed-out Cubs opener was played the next afternoon, April 10 — an open date left deliberately for that purpose — and the Cubs lost 8-5. Game-time weather conditions:

43° F, Wind 5mph from Left to Right, Cloudy, No Precipitation.

The weather for the Cubs’ 13-5 win over the Pirates April 11 wasn’t any better:

46° F, Wind 8mph from Right to Left, Overcast, No Precipitation.

For the final game of the series against the Pirates April 12, the weather started out well:

74° F, Wind 14mph out to Rightfield, Sunny, No Precipitation.

Those conditions didn’t last too long, though:

Kyle Schwarber led off the fourth:

That ball went into a wind that had just shifted from blowing out (that did help Polanco’s first homer) to blowing in at about the same clip, maybe 15 miles per hour. The temperature dropped from 74 into the mid 50s.

And that (mid 50s) would be as warm as it would get the rest of the homestand.

We had a Friday the 13th in April, and the weather turned back to frigid for the Cubs/Braves game that afternoon:

42° F, Wind 17mph in from Leftfield, Overcast, No Precipitation.

Brrrr. It’s been warmer than that on nine different days this December.

But the pièce de résistance was the April 14 game, played in what Joe Maddon — who managed Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, which was suspended in pouring rain — said were the worst conditions he’d ever seen for a game. Here’s what I wrote about the weather that afternoon:

Mike Bojanowski and I agree that these were probably the most awful weather conditions the Cubs had ever started a game at Wrigley Field, with no delay, and with the intention of playing through whatever occurred, unless there had been a torrential downpour. There have been colder game-time temperatures, though 38 nears the top of the list. The wind was howling in at 24 miles per hour off Lake Michigan, with higher gusts.

The Cubs made it worth sticking it out till the end of that game, coming back from an eight-run deficit to win 14-10.

One of the reasons that game was played in those conditions is that the forecast for April 15 wasn’t any better, and that game was postponed before the Wrigley gates even opened.

The Braves left town and the Cardinals arrived, but there was still no baseball at Wrigley Field the next day, April 16. Again, the game was called before the Wrigley gates even opened:

The Cubs and Braves played a game Saturday under conditions that probably should have postponed it.

Conditions were worse Sunday, so they called the game and will make that up May 14.

It snowed about an inch on the North Side of Chicago overnight into early Monday morning and temperatures are still in the low 30s, with a few flurries still falling.

What month is this, anyway? January?

The Cubs announced early Monday afternoon that Monday night’s scheduled game against the Cardinals is postponed:

The Cubs finally played baseball against the Cardinals, Tuesday, April 17, on a night not fit for baseball:

35° F, Wind 10mph in from Rightfield, Night, No Precipitation.

The Cubs lost the game 5-3, and then the weather turned bad again the next day, April 18:

And now you know what it would be like if the Cubs had a homestand in early or mid December.

Nine scheduled games. Four postponements, including Wednesday afternoon:

Two of the four postponements will have been made up by the time the team leaves town after Wednesday’s game is made up Thursday, that one, and the home opener, which was played the next day.

This April weather is truly unprecedented. According to Tom Skilling’s weather blog at the Tribune, this month’s average temperature ranks as the second-coldest ever to date in April, and no one alive remembers the previous time, in 1881. That average will probably get a bit better next week, as a pattern change makes it a bit warmer in the Midwest.

Weather conditions for the Thursday afternoon makeup game were a bit better, but still with the temperature way below normal for late April:

47° F, Wind 11mph from Left to Right, Sunny, No Precipitation.

The average high for April 19 in Chicago is 61.

So, to recap: Nine scheduled games. Four postponements, two of which were made up during the homestand, so seven total games were played, three Cubs wins and four defeats. Only one of those games, on April 12, had a game-time temperature above 47, and even then, temps dropped from 74 at game time into the 50s in the middle innings.

As I wrote back in April, this gave everyone a good idea of what baseball at Wrigley Field would be like if they scheduled a homestand in December, only December 2018 has in many ways been nicer than April 2018 was.

The Cubs have 12 home games scheduled in April 2019, including three against teams outside the N.L. Central who will be making their only Wrigley visits at that time: Angels (April 12-14), Diamondbacks (April 19-21) and Dodgers (April 23-25). April 2018 set all kinds of records for cold and snow in Chicago. Let’s hope April 2019 is more benign.