April 24, 2013

The Coldest Major League Baseball Game in History?

Some records are so important, so notable,  that even though they didn't occur in the Northwest they deserve mention in this blog.  This is such a record.

On Tuesday, it is highly probable that the coldest major league baseball game in history was played in Denver.   A home game of the Colorado Rockies against Atlanta, the first pitch temperature was 23F, smashing the old record of 28F.

Temperature record keeping from major-league baseball only goes back to 1991, so why am I fairly confident that this is the record that extends back to baseball's early days?   The reason is the location.

Denver is the highest altitude baseball stadium by far: 5183 ft (they don't call Denver the Mile-High City for nothing).  The next highest are Arizona (1080) and Atlanta (1050 ft).    Far lower and much warmer locations.  Higher generally means colder.   Furthermore, being on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, Denver is vulnerable to surges of cold air from the north.   Guess what happened on Tuesday?  Here is the proof:  a surface chart that clearly shows a tongue of high pressure and cold air moving southward down the western side of the high plains.

The result were a large number of daily records in the region, both for minimum and maximum temperatures (see graphics FROM THE U.S. GOVERNMENT below for the proof, blue dots indicate record low).

Record low minimum temperatures

Record low maximum temperatures.

Now here is the good part.  Denver was an expansion team that played its first season in 1993.   Thus, considering its unique meteorological location and altitude, it is quite possible that the 23F would have been the coldest temperature on record for all major league games at any location.  Yes, you might argue about Minnesota, but keep in mind that the baseball season usually starts around April 1, and the all-time record low daily maximum temperature in Minneapolis  for April was 22F in 1896.

The cold air produced all kinds of unusual sights at the game.  Ground fog swirled around the pitcher!  Snow was seen in the outfield (see below).

And snowmen were found in the stands.

With such cold air, the air would have been very dense, working against the long ball.   Perhaps in a future blog I will take on the controversy of cold temperatures at Safeco Field in Seattle...but that will have to wait until another day.

Before another game in Denver


  1. We won't fault you since you are a weather "god" here in the Northwest, but I believe you meant the Colorado Rookies baseball team (not the Broncos football team). It was a good attempt at sport knowledge though, again we don't expect you to know ANYTHING about baseball. :)

  2. I am not sure whether FGW is serious or is taking a jab at the Rockies. If the former, people in the Pacific Northwest should be very careful about mocking another city's baseball team - it's not like our own has exactly played stellar baseball in recent memory! Besides, wars have broken out over lesser insults than that...

    Cliff, I don't know how closely you follow the game; but so far this season there have been an unusually high number of postponed matches due to bad weather. Since they moved the start of the season up some years ago, early season baseball has gotten more dicey in general. It was only a couple seasons ago that the Mariners had an entire series with Cleveland postponed due to snow.

  3. Fun posting. Years ago I participated in a baseball game in Barrow, AK, that made the Rockies game look like Florida. -10 F, and the field was rock solid with 18 inches on snow on the surface. We used an orange ball so we could see it in the snow. Great fun!

  4. I was one of the few in attendance at this game - I will never forget it, not only due to the record-breaking cold temps, but also due to the lack of fans! They announced over 19,000 paid attendance, but that must have referred to the number of tickets they sold to the previous nights' snowed-out game (which this was a makeup for). At first pitch there were a few hundred people at most, and by the end no more than a couple thousand. It reminded me of Braves games in the 80's in Fulton County Stadium.

    I calculated the moist air density using a surface pressure of 850 mb and a temp of -5 C, and it turns out to be ~1.12 kg/m^3. At sea level on a 95 F day, the moist air density is ~1.13 kg/m^3, so the cold air nearly cancelled Denver's thin air effect. The Braves' 4 runs were all thanks the long ball, so the relatively dense air didn't seem to bother them too much.

  5. This brings back memories of the latest-ever snow I experienced in the lowlands in Eugene, Oregon on April 20, 2008. About 1/4 to 1/2" accumulation in the morning near the downtown, and up to 2" in the higher south hills. THAT was plain crazy.

    Unfortunately I missed the big March 21, 2012 snowstorm since I no longer lived there....

  6. For what it's worth, Minneapolis has also been very cold this year, with lows around 21 degrees on April 21st. Now that the Twins have an outdoor stadium, they could still give Denver a run for its money.

  7. I wouldn't discard Minnesota too quickly. The temperatures this month have gotten down to lows of around 20 and on March 20th the lows was 5 degrees! Now that they have an outdoor stadium, they might be able to compete with Denver for coldest game: http://weatherspark.com/history/30956/2013/Minneapolis-Minnesota-United-States

  8. Old thread, but you didn't realize that the Toronto Blue Jay's did not play at an indoor facility until 1989. Their 1st game was played in the snow in 1977. So there is a good chance that with Canada's weather, because Canada is colder than Denver, that the Blue Jays played in a colder game.

  9. Canada is colder than Denver? Very broad and incorrect statement. The whole west coast is warmer, all around the great lakes is warmer and much of the east coast is warmer. And yes Toronto is warmer than Denver. Do you know that Canada is the second largest country in the world and covers 9 climate zones? Vancouver Island has the same climate zone as Northern California with a typical low that barely breaks freezing every year. Palm trees grow very easily there and in Vancouver city.


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