If you were one of the 17,362 on Saturday or 14,240 on Sunday who braved the elements to watch the Cleveland Indians play something resembling baseball, congratulations, you’re a part of history! I’m not talking about historically weak offense, but historically cold weather.
Those of us watching on television heard Matt Underwood mention the temperature multiple times, as Sunday’s game was the coldest game in Progressive Field history. In fact, it tied April 7, 1979, for the coldest game in Cleveland (on record). Of course, Clevelanders are no stranger to cold, and strange, unseasonable weather has been the norm across the US this “spring.” It’s too wet in the south, too dry in the west, too cold in the north, and a little bit of everything here in the Midwest. In the month of April alone, Cleveland has seen a 33-degree spread in temperatures as well as fog, rain, snow, and thunderstorms.
Wild variations in weather — and playing through it — is part of the fun of baseball. I would not trade a minute of freezing my butt off in the nosebleeds at game two of the 2016 World Series (when game temperature was a balmy 43). But October baseball is a little different than April baseball, and the first home stand of the 2018 season pretty rough.
With that in mind, from the comfort of my desk chair and with a cup of hot tea on hand, I took a look at the coldest games in Cleveland since 1950. (Note: Baseball-Reference’s Play Index was used for this, and does not have data earlier than 1950. For more info on weather data see The Hardball Times.)
April 8, 2016, Cleveland 2, Kansas City 1 — high 34, low 28, 9 mph NNW
You probably remember this one. If not, here’s our recap.
April 7, 1979, Cleveland 3, Boston 0 — high 34, low 27, wind 12 mph NW
With game temperature coming in right at freezing, this one reigns as the coldest game in Cleveland since data were consistently tracked. It came a day after the Tribe fell 7-1 on Opening Day to Dennis Eckersley. A drop in temperature of 28 degrees compared with Opening Day, in this frigid contest it was Rick Waits’ turn to try a Bob Feller impression. Waits sprinkled a few walks here and there, but held the Sox hitless until the sixth, when Jerry Remy lined a single to left. The Indians’ bats must have been affected by the cold as well, because Bobby Bonds’ single in the bottom half of the sixth marked the team’s first hit. Fortunately, Waits allowed no more hits and finished off the game, getting the win thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Horace Speed followed by a Duane Kuiper double in the eighth.
The one-hit, complete game shutout by Waits looks even more impressive in hindsight, as Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice have been elected to the Hall of Fame and Dwight Evans has a reasonable case for election (better JAWS score than Vlad Guerrero).
April 5, 1996, Cleveland 1, Toronto 7 — high 36, low 29, wind 17 mph N
This one was a lot less exciting than Waits’ one-hitter, as the cold did not seem to affect the Jays’ bats. Orel Hershiser gave up a single and walked the bases full in the first inning, eventually letting two runs across, which the Indians would never make up. For the Indians, Sandy Alomar would pop a couple doubles and an eighth-inning home run by Julio Franco would plate the only run of the game, but there was little else of note going on for the home side.
April 7, 1996, Cleveland 8, Toronto 3 — High 32, low 28, wind 10 mph NW
The weather for this contest was the same as the second entry on this list, but the Indians’ bats were much hotter. Ten hits, including 3-for-3 with a triple and home run from Manny Ramirez, powered the Tribe past the Jays. It was the visitors who struck first, with Dennis Martinez loading the bases and plunking Shawn Green to drive in the first run, followed by a run-scoring double play to go ahead 2-0. Ramirez’s triple and a Kenny Lofton sac fly in the 3rd got Cleveland on the board and a 4th inning single from Franco tied the game. Back-to-back home runs from Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle put the Indians ahead for good in the sixth.
April 7, 2016, Cleveland 0, Kansas City 1 -- high 35, low 28, wind 15 mph NW
The less said about this one, the better. Read our recap here.
April 14, 1971, Cleveland 0, Baltimore 3 — no additional data available
In the oldest game on our list, Sudden Sam McDowell was was outdueled by Mike Cuellar, who threw a complete game shutout. This game was the second, and first loss, of a string of six winless starts for McDowell to start the ‘71 campaign. He would make his sixth All-Star appearance that year, his last in Cleveland, but finish with just a 13-17 record as the Tribe sunk to an abysmal 60-102.
April 9, 1978, Cleveland 4, Kansas City 5 — high 45, low 31, wind 12 mph ENE
An eighth-inning rally featuring RBI singles from Larvell Blanks and Buddy Bell as well as a bases-loaded walk by Paul Dade brought the Indians within a run. The rally would fall short, though, as did many rallies between 1960 and 1993, when the Tribe posted just six seasons above .500.
April 8, 2003, Cleveland 3, Chicago (AL) 5 — high 37, low 32, wind 13 mph NE
This game was memorable not only for its temperature, but for going to extras. Former Indian Bartolo Colon had allowed a pair of runs to give the Indians a lead before Jose Santiago blew it for the hosts in the seventh, giving up an RBI double to another former Indian, Sandy Alomar, and an RBI single to D’Angelo Jiminez. Omar Vizquel would tie things up again in the bottom of the 7th with an RBI double plating Casey Blake. But an RBI single from Jose Valentin and a sac fly by Frank Thomas off Chad Paronto would give the visitors a win.
April 2, 2008, Cleveland 7, Chicago (AL) 2 — high 37, low 33, wind 11 mph NNE
Despite the chill, this was a pretty straight-forward Tribe win: a Grady Sizemore bases-loaded RBI single got the ball rolling, then he and Asdrubal Cabrera added a few more RBI and the Indians won. Perhaps most notable about this game is Jim Thome, Nick Swisher, and Juan Uribe each played against the Indians and the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez) got the win and was relieved by guys such as Masahide Kobayashi and Jorge Julio — both of whom would make spectacular #randomjerseysightings.
April 5, 2016, Cleveland 2, Boston 6 — high 35, low 27, wind 13 mph NNE
A game in recent memory! And also the only Opening Day on the list! Unfortunately, that’s all to get excited about here. David Price held the Tribe to five hits over six innings and the Sox bullpen was spotless. Corey Kluber had an uncharacteristically poor outing, with four earned runs over 5.1 innings. Of interest is that Trevor Bauer pitched the ninth inning of this one. Even though this one stunk, that season was okay.
April 11, 1982, Cleveland 13, Texas 1 — high 37, low 33, wind 15 mph W
The Indians weren’t much to talk about in the 1980s, but in ‘82 the Rangers were a trash heap and the hosts took advantage. Len Barker tossed a complete game, giving up just one run on a home run by Jim Sundberg. The Indians rallied for two, four, six, and one run in innings three, four, five, and eight, respectively. Toby Harrah was 3-for-4 with four RBI, Bake McBride had a pair of doubles, and Jerry Dybzinski and Jack Perconte each had a pair of RBI.
April 3, 1996, Cleveland 1, New York (AL) 5 — high 56, low 32, wind 14 mph E
Particularly remarkable about this game is the fact that at one point in the day it was in the mid-50s. If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour and whatnot. As for the game, the Yanks and Indians traded runs in the second inning of this frigid game before Andy Pettite shut it down for New York. Oh and some guy named Derek Jeter was 3-for-3 with a walk in his 18th career game.
April 7, 1994, Cleveland 6, Seattle 2 — high 38, low 32, wind 21 mph NNE
With some heavy winds blowing out, Albert Belle doubled home Vizquel in the 1st inning of this one and the hosts rallied for a three-run third inning to put it out of reach. Hall of Famer Jack Morris (Jay Jaffe has the definitive take on his worthiness in the Cooperstown Casebook) won the game for Cleveland, so he should probably use a Tribe hat on his plaque.
April 9, 2003, Cleveland 5, Chicago (AL) 2 — high 36, low 32, wind 17 mph NE
A day later and degree warmer than number six on the list, this game was fueled by a 2-for-3 performance from should-have-been Indians great Brandon Phillips, complete with two runs scored and a home run. Karim Garcia singled in Milton Bradley and Vizquel to start the scoring in the first and both Bradley and Vizquel later added sac flies to pad the margin.
April 8, 1978, Cleveland 8, Kansas City 5 — high 37, low 32, wind 15 mph NNE
Surely there were some stinging hands in this one, because both teams made some loud contact by the lake. The Tribe scored three runs in succession in the first on contact from Willie Horton, Larvell Blanks, and Buddy Bell, but then the Royal tied the game in the top of the second with two-run home runs from Freddie Patek and Hal McRae. Ron Pruitt and Paul Dade led of the home half of the second with bombs and Andre Thornton blasted his own home run in the 5th to see Cleveland to victory.
The Tribe has compiled an 8-7 record in these games, the coldest in Cleveland in the last 60-plus years. Clear evidence of home field advantage, if you ask me. However, it would be great for all parties involved if the temperature would get back to more typical baseball weather, and if the Tribe’s bats would heat up, too.