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Minnesota's Little Helper
2003-07-27 01:01
by Mike Carminati

A former Metrodome superintendent claims to have attempted to aid the Twins in close, late-inning games by, to quote Trading Places, giving them "the winds something awful." Says said ex-Schneider disciple Dick Ericson:

"If they (the Twins) were down two runs and you're still hoping for them to have the advantage, you'd want to be blowing all the air out and up as much as you can."

One such wind-aided dinger was Kirby Puckett's game-winner in the eleventh inning of the sixth game of the 1991 World Series. But he calls his machinations "your home-field advantage. Every stadium has got one." Yeah, maybe in the Cold-War era Soviet Union. At least he claims to have done it on his own without any instructions from the Twins.

Like everything that has transpired in baseball since Abner Doubleday apocryphally invented the game, Bobby Valentine, the famous Bobby V, know about it years ago: "I became very suspicious, maybe paranoid. They had such an uncanny way of winning." Just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean people aren't against you (Frank Burns).

A professor of fluid dynamics had previously run two separate tests in the Metrodome. One found that balls traveled an average of three feet farther when aided by antics like Ericson's. Then the second found no effect. So your guess is as good as his and you didn't have to take any Quantum Physics classes to formulate yours.

I consulted the Bible, Robert K. Adair's The Physics of Baseball, and found that Adair (p. 17) indicates that a batted ball with an initial velocity of 110 miles per hour will travel something like 20-30 feet farther if aided by a 10 MPH wind. Adair goes on to discuss the effects of wind on the pitcher, something not tested by the fluid dynamics professor. Adair found that fastball pitchers were not affected by wind in the faces but curveball pitchers will find their ball approaching the plate more slowly (though Adair says that it's negligible except for slower curves, p. 43).

I guess there's not much that MLB can do about the past, but they can ensure that it is not happening today. It seems to fly in the face of fair play. Consider the following rule:

The manager of the home team shall present to the umpire in chief and the opposing manager any ground rules he thinks necessary covering the overflow of spectators upon the playing field, batted or thrown balls into such overflow, or any other contingencies. If these rules are acceptable to the opposing manager they shall be legal. If these rules are unacceptable to the opposing manager, the umpire in chief shall make and enforce any special ground rules he thinks are made necessary by ground conditions, which shall not conflict with the official playing rules.

"Our ground rule is that we get help in the late innings of a close ballgame by having our long flies blown over the wall for a round-tripper, OK?" I don't think it would fly.

Then again the Mets have done so much sucking of late but they have yet to be reprimanded.

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