- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Once again, the Indianapolis 500 didn’t finish what it started. Three years ago, Mother Nature and the Prince of Darkness joined forces to reduce the race to 450 miles; Sunday, a steady downpour shortened it to 415. How can the IRL look at itself in the rearview mirror if the Indy 500, its main attraction, keeps getting turned into a Reader’s Digest condensed novel?

I mean, what’s next, the 19 hours, 55 minutes of Le Mans?

Think about it: Major sports events have been contested — and completed — in arctic cold, blinding fog, thunder and lightning … everything but two feet of volcanic ash. And yet 85 miles had to be trimmed from the Indianapolis 500 because the speedway’s owners never heard, apparently, of the electric light bulb. If they had, Dario Franchitti and his pursuers could have raced on into the night — into the next morning, even — until a proper winner was determined.

Instead, another Indy 500 — the seventh, by my count — has been added to the list of Sporting Events That, For Some Silly Reason, Weren’t Seen Through To Their Conclusions. Some of the others:

• 2005 — The opener of the Japan Series is called after seven innings because of dense fog. “Final” score: Chiba Lotte Marines 10, Hanshin Tigers 1. “I have never seen a fog out,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine says. “I have seen snow outs, and once in the minors we had a [game ended because of a] sand storm.”

• 2002 — A power outage causes the Wisconsin-UNLV football game to be halted with 7:41 left. The Badgers are declared the winners, 27-7.

• 2000 — Unrelenting rain forces cancellation of the final round of the BellSouth Classic. In a one-hole playoff to determine the champion, Phil Mickelson beats Gary Nicklaus with a birdie on the par-3 16th. It’s the closest Jack Nicklaus’ son has come to winning on the PGA Tour.

• 1976 — The annual game between the NFL champions and the College All-Stars at Soldier Field, a preseason staple since 1934, dies a watery death with 1:22 remaining in the third quarter and the Steelers on top 24-0. While Commissioner Pete Rozelle decides whether to continue the contest in the sopping wet conditions, fans storm the field and tear down the goal posts.

That settles it for him. An NFL team never plays a college team again.

• 1965 — The Kansas-Texas Tech football game ends abruptly with 14 minutes to play — and host Tech leading 26-7 — when a tornado touches down near the stadium. It had been storming all night. By the time the tornado sirens sounded, according to the AP, “only a few thousand [of the original crowd of 33,000] were rushing to get out of the stands.” Radio announcer Kern Tips’ hurried last words: “This concludes our broadcast.”

• 1952 — The National League All-Stars edge the American Leaguers 3-2 in a game limited to five innings by heavy showers. “The end of the game left the big crowd [at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park] wondering whether it had been cheated out of a history-making spectacle,” the United Press reported. “The magnificent little left-hander, Bobby Shantz of the hometown Athletics, struck out three of the toughest hitters in the business — Whitey Lockman, Jackie Robinson and Stan [the Man] Musial — [in a row] in the fifth inning.” (Shantz was thus deprived of a chance of breaking Carl Hubbell’s All-Star mark of five consecutive K’s.)

• 1950 — The course for the NCAA rowing championships is shortened from three miles to two after a flash flood fills the Ohio River with debris. University of Washington crews dominate at the lesser distance, sweeping the varsity, junior varsity and freshman races.

And finally, let’s not forget …

• 1935 — With the White Sox trouncing the Tigers, 14-2, on the last day of the major league season, the two teams agree to cease hostilities in the middle of the sixth so visiting Detroit can catch its train home. The shortened finale is still noteworthy, though: In the second inning, Tigers starter Elden Auker yields a record 10 singles.

Three days later, the Tigers, winners of the AL pennant, play host to the Cubs in the World Series opener. They prevail in six games.

Dario Franchitti, meanwhile, gets to go home to Ashley Judd — which is almost the same as winning the World Series, I suppose. One of these years, maybe, he’ll get to win an entire Indianapolis 500.

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