Worst Weather Conditions in Sports History
Last month the Green Bay Packers hosted the hottest game ever at their Lambeau Field home. At kickoff, the temperature was a toasty 89 degrees–pretty darn hot for northern Wisconsin, but far from the extremes that other cities experience and certainly not a weather event that left fans and players crying for mercy. However, there have been a few games across professional sports that’ve pushed the limits of what participants could take. Here are some of the worst weather experiences that teams and spectators have had to deal with while enjoying their favorite sports. Thanks, Mother Nature.
The Earthquake Series
1989 World Series
In the 1989 World Series, the Oakland Athletics took on their cross-bay rivals the San Francisco Giants. About 30 minutes prior to first pitch at Candlestick Park, the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake struck just 90 miles away, devastating the area and terrifying thousands of fans who had already gotten to the stadium (as well as those still on the way). Of course the game was delayed as 63 people were killed and some 3,800 more were injured.
With all of the media attention focused on the area thanks to the games, this was the first major earthquake broadcast on live television. This led to significant advances in earthquake study and preparedness. As for the World Series, it was delayed 10 days for the cleanup and first responders were featured heavily, throwing out the first pitch and receiving recognition from the teams and the league.
The Fog Bowl
1988 NFC Divisional Playoff Game
On New Year’s Eve 1988, the Philadelphia Eagles visited Soldier Field in Chicago for a divisional playoff game. Unfortunately for them, so did fog so thick it would’ve made Yukon Cornelius blush. Players, fans and officials were unable to see more than about 10 yards in front of themselves when they were lucky–effectively taking the long passing game out of the equation–though Randall Cunningham was able to rack up 407 yards by using a dink-and-dunk strategy. It wasn’t enough, as the Bears were actually a good team in those days and were able to win it, 20-10.
The NFL monitored conditions at the game to see whether postponement was justified, but it was never seriously considered as the fog wasn’t deemed a safety hazard like extreme cold, wind or lightning would be. Nowadays with concerns over concussions and the long-term effect of repeatedly being struck we have to wonder whether the same conclusion would be reached, as running full speed into giant armored men while blind is probably not great for the ol’ noggin.
Toronto Blue Jays @ Texas Rangers
August 26, 1988
The three hottest games on record for the MLB all occurred when the Texas Rangers were hosting. The worst of all was when the Jays came to town for a night game and the temperature was a nasty 109℉. A NIGHT GAME. While no major health issues are on record, running around in that nasty Texas sun with all of the humidity that comes along with it must have been enough to make players rethink their career choice. Honorable mention goes to another game only three weeks earlier, on August 8, as well as a June 28, 1980 game, both of which boasted temperatures of up to 108℉.
It should also be mentioned that a much earlier game in New York in 1918 claimed to have been played in 110℉ heat, but that seems unlikely given that the record high in The Big Apple is only 106℉. Despite the questionable record-keeping from those days, it must have been a real scorcher since the day was seemingly burned into people’s brains (wink).
The Ice Bowl
1967 NFL Championship Game
When discussing weather games in the NFL, invariably the infamous “Ice Bowl” of 1967 will come up. For this one, we have to go back to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, as the Dallas Cowboys did that New Year’s Eve. The game-time temperature was a frigid -15℉, with a wind chill of -48℉, though with the modern way we figure wind chill it was more like -36℉. Making matters worse, the field’s heating system had malfunctioned and the field turned into a rock hard frozen slab which got worse as the sun dipped below the edges of the stadium walls.
Instruments stuck to the University of Wisconsin band’s lips as did the whistles to the referees’ — following one referee ripping his off after the opening kickoff and bleeding they had to forgo the tools and call the plays by shouting. One fan died of exposure as the temperatures continued to drop, at one point reaching a nasty -70℉ (-54℉ by modern standards) and players openly wept due to the conditions. The league has since implemented safety rules to protect players and fans alike to prevent another such outing, but nobody will ever forget the original Ice Bowl.
(Cropped image courtesy of NOAA Photo Library via Flickr.)