'79 Orioles recall one of the coldest World Series games

How cold will it be Saturday night, when the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants meet in the Motor City for Game 3 of the World Series?

Forty-three degrees, with temperatures dipping into the upper 30s by game's end, predicts meteorologist Jim Madaus, of CBS 62 in Detroit.


"The [football] Lions have it better," Madaus said. "They play indoors."

The 1979 Orioles had it worse. It was a wintry 41 degrees at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 10 as they played host to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the World Series — and downright frosty some 3 hours and 18 minutes later, after what was then the longest night game in the history of the Fall Classic.


Fall? It had snowed overnight, taking Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' starting pitcher, by surprise.

"When I looked out the window and saw snow on the lawn, I thought I had slept three months," Flanagan said then. "I looked in the mirror to see if I had a white beard, and wondered who had won the World Series."

Flakes lingered until noon at the ballpark. Much of the announced crowd of 53,735 settled in as if for a Colts game, armed with blankets, Arctic coats and steaming jugs of coffee. Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer arrived wearing a knit hat and woolen gloves; Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes wore a parka.

Wild Bill Hagy led Orioles cheers in his bright orange T-shirt, worn overtop a black sweatshirt that he'd borrowed from the team. Beer? Forget it. At concession stands, hot drinks outsold booze by nearly three to one.

On nearby Greenmount Ave., Sunny's Surplus exhausted its stock of thermal underwear. Where people donned their longjohns isn't known.

Earl Weaver

"It was awful cold," Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke remembered. "We didn't have the ear muffs and cold-weather head gear that players have now. But, back then, a lot of us had long hair — so we did have some protection, didn't we?"

The elements played havoc with players' hands. Each team made three errors.


"It wasn't a baseball game, it was an endurance contest," Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey recalled. "Whoever lasted the longest, in that weather, won."

In the first inning, the Pirates botched three sure double-plays, triggering a five-run spree that the Orioles rode to a 5-4 victory.

"My feet were cold, my hands were numb and I was shivering," Pittsburgh second baseman Phil Garner complained after booting a play. "I didn't even feel the ball when it went in my glove ... and it squirted out of my hand like a bar of soap."

Other Pirates griped as well.

"I caught [a fly ball] by Ken Singleton, but my hands were so cold, I didn't know it," outfielder Dave Parker said.

"I had a hard time gripping the ball," said starting pitcher Bruce Kison, who didn't last one inning. "It slipped out of my hand, and I couldn't get into the feel of things. You need to get the juices going to pitch well, and the cold stopped me from doing that."


The home team hardly raised a stink.

"I'm used to pitching in the cold weather," said Flanagan, a 23-game winner who went the distance. "I did it all the time as a kid growing up in New Hampshire."

Coach Frank Robinson made light of the weather.

"They always said that it would be a cold day in hell before the Orioles got in another World Series," he said before the game.

After the game, in the warmth of the clubhouse, Weaver put it best.

"Nobody likes playing baseball when it's 30 degrees," the manager said. "But when you win, it doesn't bother you too much."