KEIZER, Oregon—Leave it to minor league baseball to turn a once in a lifetime occurrence into a promotion. Leave it to someone like me to spend time seeing a once a lifetime occurrence at a place like a ball park. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes hosted an eclipse party today, and even got a game in.
The story goes that owners of the Short Season Northwest League team requested ahome date for August 21, 2017 two years ago. Other teams and league officials were puzzled by the idea, because Monday home games don't usually draw very well. But the baseball owners are also astronomy fans, and knew that the first total solar eclipse in North America in 99 years was coming, and that Oregon's capital city was right in its path.
To add the minor league flair for the dramatic, not only did the Volcanoes schedule a home game, but they would start the game at 9:30 in the morning, try to get an inning in, and then delay the game for the solar show—the first 'eclipse delay' in baseball history.
With minor revisions, the playbook was executed to a tee. Over five thousand tickets were pre-sold, gates opened at 5am, and there were no day of game tickets available. A $35 ticket got you into the stadium, and a complimentary set of safety glasses. For an extra ten bucks, breakfast was served (which wasn't the greatest, but even cold pancakes and biscuits and gravy isn't bad at a ball park). They even invited members of NASA, who made presentations between 6 and 9am, and also pointed out a few astronomical facts between innings.
The eclipse, from beginning to end, lasted just over two hours, but the part where everything went completely dark, only took two minutes. The game was scheduled to begin at 9:30am, but because of traffic, the opponents, the nearby Hillsboro Hops, were a few minutes late. The rescheduled time was 9:45, but the game didn't actually get underway until about 9:55.
Totality happened at 10:17, and wasn't going to wait for an inning to conclude. The Hops scored four runs in the top of the first, and at the end of half-an-inning, it was 10:04. The game was halted, and as darkness approached, the place went completely quiet. The players sat on the field in front of their dugouts and soaked it all in. It was getting darker, and colder.
Fans had been keeping an eye on the game, but were also checking the sun's progress through their safety glasses. We saw a little bite out of the upper right corner by the moon's shadow. The moon would slide to the left and down, and, as scheduled, completely covered the sun at 10:17. The stars came out, a phenomenon called Bailey's Beads appeared as waves on the ground and a diamond ring-type effect next to the sun. The crowd responded with oohs and ahhs, but not like a fireworks show. Most of the two minutes was in silence, and the crowd was awestruck.
And then, it was over. Totality reverted to 99 percent again, and eventually down to zero, but it was like a movie. Once the lights came back on, the show was over. They didn't resume the game for another half an hour to allow the players to warm up again, and during that time, you could still see most of the sun missing if you looked up and through your glasses. Few did.
The announced crowd of 5297 was the largest non Fourth of July crowd in the 20-year history of the stadium, but, as you might expect, not everyone stayed. Once the sun reappeared, it took over. With a morning game, and no overhang, there was almost no shade. Also, even in the half-inning before the delay, the rout was on. Hillsboro won it 9-5, although the hometown Volcanoes loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth.
Likely no one will remember the score, including the players, but they will remember where they were the day of the total eclipse across America. The Volcanoes called it 'Total Eclipse of the Park', and while the Bonnie Tyler song was never played (which was fine with me), they knew how to put on a show. They even knew to plan it two years in advance.
Cool idea: In addition to the national anthem, the ceremonial first pitch, and the presentation of the game ball to the pitcher, the Volcanoes also feature the ceremonial 'running of the bases' before the game starts. A youngster does a lap around the diamond to the cheer of the crowd. Kinda neat.
Rogues win GWL: Since we're in Oregon, congrats to the Medford Rogues. They had the best record in the Great West League's inaugural regular season last year, but lost 1-0 in the third game of a best-of-three championship series. This year, the Rogues needed the minimum two games to take the title, once again to their neighbors on the other side of the Siskiyous. Medford needed three games in the first round to defeat the Portland Pickles, and the Heat needed three to beat the Lincoln Potters. The Rogues defeated Chico 5-3 last Friday night (August 11) in Chico, and clinched the championship at home the next night with a 7-2 victory.
A Motown Oh My!: Saturday's Dodgers-Detroit Tigers was on FS1, and many non-Michigan viewers were surprised that the play-by-play voice we heard was that of Dick Enberg. FS1 carried the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast nationally, and it had long been pre-arranged that Enberg would fill in this weekend for regular (and, like Enberg, former Angels broadcaster) Mario Impemba. Enberg retired after last season. He did Padres games since 2009 and also one game for the Tigers last season. Enberg is a Michigan native.
Giants eliminated: The San Francisco Giants' season couldn't quite last until the eclipse arrived. They were eliminated from National League West contention with their loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. They were officially finished on August 20, with 42 days left in the season. Incidentally, to come full circle, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are an affiliate of the Giants. The Volcanoes aren't having the greatest season either, but they certainly know how to turn the lights out, or in this case, the sun.
This and that: Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart got a lot of mention and airplay in recent days, but nothing was said of a pretty good Police song. Invisible Sun would have been far more appropriate... If someone moves to this little town, and never intends to leave, do they become Keizer Permanente? (Kaiser Permanente—the health care company—actually sponsored the safety glasses giveaway.)
Yesterday, August 20, marked 15 years since my cousin Korey lost her husband. He would be so proud of everyone and everything, especially his three daughters Mikenna, Taryn, and Rhiannon. Oddly, and maybe fittingly, I spent that nightIN 2002 broadcasting a baseball game, with some of my grieving cousins in attendance, trying to provide a night of distraction. We miss you Steve.
My lame cell photo taken through the protective solar glasses. Unfortunately you can't
zoom in any closer, and steadily holding the glasses up to the lens is really difficult.
A photo by a professional photographer (Cameron DaSilva from ABC News). If you
check the internet, you'll see I'm not the only one whose cell photos were worthless.
Traffic headed north out of Salem. I took this picture at 4:30, about 5 1/2 hours after
the eclipse ended. Traffic headed south was good (at least from this point).
I hate selfies! And this is why. I can never not take a dorky photo, so why not this at my
dorkiest. However, I did have a good, and certainly memorable, time.