Blizzard Of 2011: Chicago's Weathered Some Interesting Sports Events

Workers clear snow from the field before Minnesota Vikings play the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Minnesota. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Think you've lived through some of Chicago's worst weather ever this week? Relive some of Chicago's most interesting sports events that were affected by the weather.

If you've finally put your shovel away or your snowblower's run out of gas at last, huddle up around the fire and we'll tell you of a slew of Chicago sports events that were played in unusual weather conditions, mostly cold, but with high heat, humidity, thunderstorms and fog also represented.

None were played amid a 20-inch blizzard, the likes of which we've had just three times in recorded history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), John Wooden and their undefeated UCLA Bruins took the train into town to play at a packed Chicago Stadium on Jan. 28, 1967, just one day after our all-time record-breaking 23-inch snowfall concluded.

Following are the unusual weather in which Chicago's teams have played or have otherwise affected the outcomes of events:

Chicago Bears: By virtue of playing outdoors as winter approaches and settles in, the Monsters of the Midway have the traditionally most inclement environment in which to play.

  • The precursor of the NFL title game against the Portsmouth Spartans was moved indoors due to icy conditions at Wrigley Field, the hastily-built field at old Chicago Stadium only 80 yards long on Dec. 18, 1932. Amid the residue of a circus that had just vacated the Stadium, the Bears won 9-0.
  • The "Sneaker Game" at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 30, 1956. The New York Giants, realizing the field was ice covered, showed up in sneakers while the Bears wore traditional cleats for the NFL title game. The Giants had firm footing in amassing 34 first-half point in their 47-7 rout.
  • The Bears' last NFL title in Wrigley Field was claimed in 9-degree weather over the Giants in a 14-10 victory on Dec. 29, 1963.
  • Amid a snowstorm at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on Dec. 18, 1977, Bob Thomas -- now an Illinois Supreme Court justice -- booted a 28-yard overtime field goal to give the Bears a 12-9 win and their first playoff berth since the '63 title game.
  • The ultimate matching of "Bear Weather" and powerful teams enabled the Super Bowl-bound Bears to plow through the playoffs over the Giants and Los Angeles Rams by a combined 45-0 score on Jan. 5 and 12, 1986. The icy winds helped Giants punter Sean Landeta whiff on a punt that was returned by Shaun Gayle for a TD while late-game snow showers was an appropriate setting for the NFC title victory over the Rams.
  • The "Fog Bowl" on New Year's Eve 1988 at Soldier Field proved players did not have to see clearly -- visibility was reduced to 10- to 20-yards --  to ram their way to a win. The fog rolled off Lake Michigan into Soldier Field in the second quarter, and despite Randall Cunningham's 407-yard passing day, the Bears beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-12. But on a clear but zero-wind chill day  in the same stadium on Jan. 8, 1989, the 49ers put an end to the stereotype of Bears weather as Joe Montana was 17-for-27 passing for 288 yards and three TDs as the San Francisco 49ers booked a trip to the Super Bowl at the expense of their hosts by a 28-3 margin.
  • Weather appropriate for Halloween: A monsoon drenched Soldier Field on Oct. 31, 1994, and halftime ceremonies to retire Dick Butkus' and Gale Sayers' numbers. The key player who flicked off the moisture was Bears killer Brett Favre in the 33-6 Green Bay Packers'  romp.

College All-Star Game: Unrelated to the Bears at this point, the four-decade-long College All-Star Game came to a soggy conclusion at Soldier Field on July 23, 1976. The game, conceived by Arch Ward, the Chicago Tribune sports editor who also began baseball's All-Star Game, matched the NFL champions vs. top collegians just entering pro football. The '76 game, matching the Pittsburgh Steelers against the college kids, began in a heavy rain. After the rain let up for awhile, the heavens opened up with thunder and lightning in the third quarter with the Steelers ahead 24-0. The game was stopped and then cancelled even though the rain eventually ceased. Fans ran onto the field amid the cloudbursts and knocked down both goal posts.

Chicago Blackhawks: One would think an indoor sport like hockey wouldn't be affected by the weather outside. Well, the Hawks' best chance for a Stanley Cup between 1961 and 2010 evaporated amid the heat and humidity of the old Chicago Stadium on May 18, 1971. With the temperature in the humid 80s outside and the Stadium not yet air-conditioned, the sultry conditions caused fog to shroud much of the ace in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup FInals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Hawks led 2-0 midway through the second period when Jacques Lemaire let loose a blast from near the red line at center ice. Chicago goalie Tony Esposito did not have the greatest view of the shot amid the murky surroundings, and it went in. The fluke goal changed the momentum, and a pair of Henri Richard goals completed the Habs' rally for a 3-2 victory.

Chicago White Sox: They must have a bit of the Bears in them. Three of their most unusual games took place in frigid conditions.

  • On April 16, 1940, Cleveland's Bob Feller pitched the first Opening Day no-hitter in history over the White Sox at old Comiskey Park in near-freezing temperatures.
  • On April 5, 1974, the Sox lost to Nolan Ryan and the California Angels 8-2, but the biggest distraction were fans risking frostbite in unusual areas amid the 34-degree chill. A streaker jumped out of the stands and cavorted in the left-field corner, while other daring and/or intoxicated fans did assorted strip-teases in the stands.
  • On Oct. 23, 2005, Scott Podsednik slugged one of the most dramatic homers in Sox history with a game-ending ninth-inning blast to right field off the Houston Astros' Chad Qualls in a 7-6 victory in Game 2 of the World Series amid a cold, steady drizzle.

Chicago Cubs: The only thing "hot" about the North Siders was the weather at Wrigley Field given their championship drought. A couple of interesting examples:

  • On July 4, 1977, with the Clark and Addison thermometer pushing 100 degrees in the first game of a doubleheader, outfielder-first baseman Larry Biittner was summoned to pitch in the eighth inning of a Montreal Expos' blowout of the Cubs. Lefty Biittner fanned three Expos, but also gave up six runs on five hits, including three homers, in 1 1/3 innings in the 19-3 pasting, and got warned for throwing at a hitter's head when one of his "curveballs" flew behind Montreal's Del Unser.
  • On July 13, 1995, Chicago's hottest day in two generations, the gametime temperature at 7:05 p.m. was 103 degrees with a heat-humidity index of 120. But the show must go on. The WGN crew packed 81-year-old Harry Caray's neck in ice towels so he could do his typical shtick, while six Cubs pitchers didn't stick around long enough to sweat puddles in an 11-5 Cincinnati Reds' victory. The perspiration was pouring off this columnist in waterfalls almost onto my old Radio Shack TRS-80 (nicknamed the "Trash 80") laptop after racing back up the ramps (the left-field elevator would not be installed 'till the following season) to file his game story on deadline.

After that torrid memory, did I want to go out in the invigorating cold the other day to shovel nearly two feet of snow?

No. A thousand times, no.

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