San Francisco Giants

Rain floats memories of when ’62 World Series came to Modesto

A crowd of more than 5,000 filled Modesto's Del Webb Field on October 14, 1962 as the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees spent 90 minutes each practicing between the rain-delayed 6th and 7th games of the World Series. The once-in-a-lifetime event featured eight future Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle from the Yankees; Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry from the Giants. Photograph by Forrest G. Jackson, Jr.
A crowd of more than 5,000 filled Modesto's Del Webb Field on October 14, 1962 as the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees spent 90 minutes each practicing between the rain-delayed 6th and 7th games of the World Series. The once-in-a-lifetime event featured eight future Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle from the Yankees; Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry from the Giants. Photograph by Forrest G. Jackson, Jr. Modesto Bee

It rained in San Francisco overnight Friday, with the streets damp and slippery Saturday morning as Giants’ fans awoke to a rare World Series deficit.

While there was no chance Game 4 was going to be delayed or postponed, baseball fans needed things to talk about. More than one local radio caller prayed for the deluge that would have allowed Madison Bumgarner to pitch one game ahead of his scheduled turn.

But it also brought back memories of a much simpler time, when baseball diamonds were graded and planted instead of engineered and plumbed, when a half-inch of rain defeated the game’s ultimate weather-cheater of the time – the tarp – and guaranteed a rainout.

And for veteran San Francisco fans, it brought back memories of 1962 – the year the World Series came to Modesto.

The storm that hit the West Coast in October 1962 was nothing to laugh about. It was proclaimed the wettest, wildest weather event to hit the region since 1904, causing 35 deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage when the median price of a home in California was $15,100.

The storm’s impact on the World Series was every bit as dramatic. The Giants were playing the New York Yankees, with the Series opening Oct. 4 at Candlestick Park. There was one rainout when the Series moved to Yankee Stadium for Games 3-5. Game 6, with the Yankees holding a 3-2 lead, was scheduled for Oct. 11 at Candlestick Park.

As 49ers fans know, the playing surface at Candlestick Park does not drain well, even at 13 feet above sea level. It didn’t drain well for the final seasons of its NFL service, and certainly was not hi-tech in 1962.

It rained for three days, stranding the Yankees in their hotel until the sun finally burst through on Oct. 14. Even then, Candlestick Park was unplayable, and the players were complaining about getting rusty.

Both teams loaded into buses and headed for Modesto’s tiny Del Webb Field for workouts.

Modesto Bee accounts of the workouts claimed that 5,000 fans crammed into the stadium, but at its pre-1997 best that ballpark seated only 2,100 and could shoehorn another 1,000 or so into its limited standing room. Perhaps those crowd counts included a few thousand folks lurking around the parking lot, craning for glimpses of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

The scene was epic, even historic, for baseball fans in Modesto. But no one had it worse than the clubhouse managers, whose job included relocating all their teams’ equipment to Del Webb Field.

“It was tough, because we worked out for several days down there because it wouldn’t stop raining,” said Giants’ clubhouse manager Mike Murphy. “We got everything packed up and off to Modesto, but there wasn’t near as much stuff as we’d have to load up today, with all of today’s equipment.”

So it begged the question. While AT&T Park is equipped to handle epic rain without disrupting play, in the event of multiple days of rainouts, would it be possible for the teams to repeat history and relocate to Modesto for a few days?

Murphy took about a nanosecond to respond.

“No,” he said. “We’d have to pack up the whole clubhouse – with all the equipment the trainers have these days. Heck, we’d have to pack barbells.”

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. His blog is at www.modbee.com/

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