Has a Major League Baseball game ever been cancelled due to excessive heat? That question was posed in this space a few days back, and because we believe no questions should go unanwered, we convened the YFSF Blue Ribbon Historical Task Force to investigate the matter. You could not ask for a more authoratative committee: Mark Lamster (author of Spalding’s World Tour), Peter Morris (author of A Game of Inches), John Thorn (editor of Total Baseball), and Frank Vaccaro (SABR’s Dean of All Things Schedule Related).
The answer comes from the most eminent Mr. Vaccaro, who writes:
There was one game in MLB history that was cancelled for “heat”—I should say “cancelled for heat” and then reported as such in the national media”: July 16, 1936, Brooklyn at Cincinnati. The move was made by Cincinnati’s Lee MacPhail….I suspect that if 3,000 fans were on hand the game would not have been cancelled. I think MLB had a “quick trigger” when it came to cancelling games during the Depression because playing a double-header at a later date saved money, i.e., ballpark employees…were paid for “one day’s pay” for a double-header.
In the late Depression and then again in WWII frequent double-headers became part of the schedule or were often mutually agreed upon between teams before the season started.
That covers heat. But panelist Morris notes that the sun’s rays also forced a game stoppage way back in May 1893, when a Cincinnati-Boston game was called in the 14th when those beams were pointed directly in the batters’ eyes. Along similar lines, notes Thorn, but on a minor league level, games at Pittsfield’s historic Waconah Park have long been forced to suspend action for 20 minutes at sundown to prevent the blinding of hitters.
YFSF extends its thanks to the BRHTF.