boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

After rain dance, Red Sox make it official

The Celtics’ 16 world championship banners were hung on the Green Monster for what was supposed to be a day to honor the franchise and the late Red Auerbach, including Bill Russell throwing out the first pitch. But as the rain continued to fall, the banners were taken down.
The Celtics’ 16 world championship banners were hung on the Green Monster for what was supposed to be a day to honor the franchise and the late Red Auerbach, including Bill Russell throwing out the first pitch. But as the rain continued to fall, the banners were taken down. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

About an hour before yesterday's scheduled 4:05 first pitch, the most famous cackle in Boston sports history filled the Red Sox dugout.

It was just coincidence -- no one in that moment had asked NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell what he thought of the Sox' chances of playing baseball. But considering Russell, who was being escorted around by Sox executive vice president Dr. Charles Steinberg, was at that moment observing rain, sleet, and hail blowing sideways across the diamond, while keeping his feet dry by not stepping into 2 inches of water on the dugout floor, that celebrated laugh would have been an appropriate answer.

An official announcement that the game against the Seattle Mariners had been postponed because of inclement weather was posted on the video scoreboard at 4:21 p.m., sending the few hearty souls sitting in the stands and the hundreds of fans huddled in the concourse homeward. Beginning at least 20 minutes earlier, word had circulated through the park -- to policemen, ushers, security personnel, concessionaires, and players -- the game had been called.

Fans who had not yet entered the park were being turned away at the gate, and players were pulling out of the Sox parking lot before ticket holders were informed of the postponement, as well as the announcement that the game had been rescheduled for 7:05 p.m. May 3, previously an offday for both teams. The Sox open a series against the Twins in Minnesota the next day, and the Mariners are coming east from Seattle to play the Yankees in a weekend series beginning May 4.

Fans holding tickets for yesterday's game can use those ticket stubs May 3. For other alternatives, they are advised to call 877-RedSox9.

Why the lag time before the postponement was announced?

"We needed time to get [Major League Baseball's] approval, players association approval, approval from Seattle, a press release issued, the ticket office informed -- there's a checklist of about 50 things we have to go through," said Mike Dee, the team's chief operating officer.

Just before 1 p.m., with rain having already reached the Fens, the Sox issued a press release announcing the gates would be open at the regularly scheduled time -- two hours before first pitch -- but delays were anticipated. The decision whether to play, the release said, was in the hands of MLB and the umpire crew chief -- in this case, Jerry Crawford -- because it is Seattle's only scheduled visit.

That was not accurate. The decision was for the Red Sox to make. According to Mike Port, MLB's vice president in charge of umpiring, the MLB directive governing such situations stipulates that the decision is the province of MLB and the crew chief only if a team's last visit occurs after July 12. Before that date, Port said, the home team has the right to make the decision to start or call off a game; once it has started, then the decision to delay or postpone reverts to the umpire crew chief.

Until last season, the cutoff date had been June 1.

Port, who was aware of the press release, said he called Dee at 2:45 p.m. to make sure he understood that it was the Sox' call to make.

Port also spoke with Crawford. "At that point, no one had been in touch with Jerry," Port said.

Red Sox vice president of media relations John Blake acknowledged there was some misunderstanding among Red Sox officials. "But we never felt that this was a decision we felt we could arbitrarily make. Because the Mariners had already had four games postponed, we did feel Major League Baseball did have a say in this."

Tuesday night, because of the poor forecast, there had been some discussion with MLB officials, Blake said, about calling off yesterday's game two days in advance and playing a day-night doubleheader Wednesday, but that idea was abandoned.

"We would not have [postponed yesterday's] game as soon as we did," Blake said, "without having a viable alternative [May 3] that MLB, the players association, and the Mariners all signed off on."

The five postponements for the Mariners equal the number of games they've played. They were snowed out of a four-game series last weekend in Cleveland. Sox manager Terry Francona, meanwhile, reshuffled his pitching rotation, while warning that predicted bad weather this weekend could further affect his plans.

As of now, Francona said, Tim Wakefield, who would have pitched yesterday, will go tonight against the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a four-game series. He will be followed by Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett. Julian Tavarez, the No. 5 starter originally scheduled to pitch tonight, will now draw the Patriots Day 10 a.m. assignment, bumping back Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will pitch Tuesday night in Toronto.

"We know there's more weather," Francona said. "We're trying to give guys a day they can shoot for, to give them some semblance of order."

Tim Kelley, the chief meteorologist for New England Cable News, said a major storm system could hit by early afternoon Sunday and continue into the next day. "Wind-whipped rain that could be mixed with snow," he said. "It could be here early Sunday afternoon. There's a slight chance there will be an eye of the storm. It might be snowing in Maine and raining in Connecticut or vice versa, with a hole in the storm in the Boston area."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES