2013: A Chiefs Odyssey – #11

Welcome back to “2013: A Chiefs Odyssey” – a countdown of our 12 most memorable moments of Syracuse’s 2013 season. Today’s selection, strangely enough, has nothing to do with what happened on the field…unless you count the falling of rain drops onto the thick white tarp.

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#11: Prayers Answered

The 1948 Boston Braves featured a terrific one-two punch at the top of their rotation – Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (15-12, 3.71 ERA) and league wins leader Johnny Sain (24-15, 2.60). They’re not much known for those particular numbers, though – they’re known in baseball lore by a famous poem, written by Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern:

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

That’s Spahn on the left, with Sain on the right.

The poem (which, by the way, completely neglected the contributions of Bill Voiselle [13-13, 3.63] and Vern Bickford [11-5, 3.27]) has been condensed throughout the ages to “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”, which is the format in which most of us have heard it. And if you’re a believer in delayed gratification, those prayers from 1948 Boston Braves fans were answered in the 2013 International League. And the 2013 Syracuse Chiefs may not consider themselves fans of delayed gratification.

As detailed on Thursday, the Chiefs’ bats raced out to a scorching start with an 11-2 win at Lehigh Valley. And the high scores kept piling in. 11-0. 8-6. 8-1. 8-2 (in five innings). Syracuse was pacing the International League – and just about all of baseball – with a whopping 50 runs in its first six games of the season – an average of more than eight runs per contest. The Chiefs’ offense was white-hot, a fire seemingly too voluminous to contain for any I.L. pitcher.

And then the rains came.

Luckily, most of us were ready.

Tuesday, April 9th – rain-shortened after five innings. Wednesday, April 10th – rained out at Buffalo. Thursday, April 11th – a scheduled off day (it rained anyway). Friday, April 12th – rained out vs. Lehigh Valley.

By the time the Chiefs got back on the field – Saturday, April 13th, vs. Lehigh Valley – they hadn’t stood in against live pitching in just over 90 hours. They were promptly shut out by the IronPigs, scored three runs or fewer in five consecutive games and went just 4-18 over the 22 games immediately following the three-and-a-half days off.

Is it too much of a drastic leap to associate the Chiefs’ failure to score runs with the rain? Perhaps – after all, other I.L. North teams missed equal time thanks to the drab and gloomy weather. But it’s one of the great “what if” moments in a season with “what ifs” aplenty. In our final interview with Tony Beasley, Syracuse’s manager didn’t dismiss the possibility, noting the difficulty of staying fresh without live pitching. Would we be talking about the I.L.-champion Chiefs with a sunnier season? Probably not – but I can’t help but wonder how April would have ended up with a little more Spahn and Sain.

——

Weather permitting, we’ll have #10 on the countdown tomorrow. Until then, tell us your favorite moments in the comments below, or drop an email to kbrown@syracusechiefs.com, and maybe they’ll pop up…

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