If you’re a baseball fan, then you’re familiar with a great concept known as “Rain Delay Theater”. Unfortunately, Wikipedia and even trusty baseball resources have left me all wet looking for a definition. I’m left to create one. When baseball games are delayed by rain, groundskeepers roll out the tarp, the fans run for cover or bust out the umbrellas, and the players all tuck safely inside the comfort of their clubhouse or dugout. Local TV stations broadcasting the game, however, are left scrambling for material. After all, they were planning on airing a baseball game. And until it stops raining and the tarp comes off the field, there’s no baseball. There’s our definition: Rain Delay Theater is the programming that local television stations air during rain delays at baseball games.
Things have changed a bit through the years. For instance, I watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals on Fox Sports Midwest. Whenever there’s a rain delay, they have pre-produced re-caps of the previous season (or seasons) or highlights from great games in the past. Occasionally, they’ll show pre-recorded interviews with baseball personalities. But it hasn’t always been that way. I grew up watching the Milwaukee Brewers. Whenever WMSN (Fox 47) was forced into Rain Delay Theater, they opted to show the syndicated shows in their normal broadcast cycle. When I was 10 through 14 years old, there were a LOT of rain delays because I watched a lot of baseball. I wound up getting exposed to a lot of classic TV shows before Nick at Nite was even a synapse in some producer’s head. Here are eight that I watched while waiting for Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and Gumby Gantner to come back out to ply their craft on the diamond:
The Andy Griffith Show
Sheriff Taylor’s homespun wisdom would make rain delays fly right by, even if I did want to beat the crap out of little Opie for demeaning children everywhere. Seeing Barney Fife (a.k.a. Don Knotts) made me confront my own mortality, because I had otherwise only known him as the guy from Three’s Company and all of those Tim Conway buddy movies from the 70’s. Seeing Knotts in Mayberry made me realize that there was a life and a natural aging process. “Dammit”, I thought at age 10, “I’m going to get old some day.”
I Dream of Jeannie
The first time I ever saw it, my reaction to the show’s intro was “What the hell is this?”, with a cartoon blonde genie bopping around to goofy 60’s music on a beach somewhere close to Cape Canaveral. When you get right down to it, it was the perfect 60’s show because it blended space travel, a hokey plot, and a blonde beauty with the type of looks that would later be spoofed with Austin Powers’ fembots.
Leave it to Beaver
As hokey as 60’s TV could be, the 50’s take the cake. Gee, Wally, rain delays sure are swell. Yeesh, there was even a character named Lumpy. Whenever it’d come on, it gave me an excuse to turn, look at my parents, and ask “Is this really what you watched when you were my age?” with the most nonplussed look imaginable on my face.
The Beverly Hillbillies
This show had extra humor for me because- I have to confess- my parents grew up, basically, where the Clampetts lived before they moved to Beverly Hills. Family trips would entail a jaunt down to Ozark country where I’d go into stores and be confronted by real life Grannies and Jeds and Jethros.
The Munsters had to be the most appealing show ever to little kids. There were two vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, and a little werewolf boy. It was a sitcom that was more or less about the classic Universal Studios monsters. As Apu from The Simpsons would later point out, it was really ridiculous that a vampire and a Frankenstein would give birth to a werewolf. When I was 10, I didn’t care.
I’d bet a lot of money that watching this show is part of the reason I prefer blondes. I’ve never met a magical one with a wiggly nose, though.
The Odd Couple
It’s a concept even a kid could understand. Two horribly mismatched guys are roommates. Hilarity ensues. As much as I loved Fred Sanford, Oscar Madison was the guy I could really relate to. He was a slob who loved writing and baseball. Ahem…
Sanford and Son
I specifically remember watching a Brewer game with a friend during a rain delay. As soon as the iconic intro came on, I looked at my friend and said “Awesome! Sanford and Son is coming on, you big dummy!”. I”m not sure if it’s really great or really odd that I thought so highly of Fred Sanford/Redd Foxx when I was younger.